I’ve never written a proper memoir (I’m much too young and ordinary to write one unless it were about kitchen mishaps); but as I look at my stories, I realize a part of my life has been used in each of them.
Every cute toddler, every insecure Christian girl who must grow in her faith, every picnic, every birthday, every church service… It’s all happened to me in some way or another and just needs a slight bit of re-imagining for the setting and characters I’m using at the moment.
I read an article the other day about finding inspiration from other works by building off elements of the story and making them our own. (Fairy-tale retellings are my favorite example of this.) How much more realistic and grounded our stories would be if we used our own lives as the basis!
Take your favorite memory of receiving a doll for your sixth birthday and turn yourself into a Dickens character who was orphaned the week before. The setting, the character, and even the doll will be completely unrecognizable from the original; but the joy over the gift is the same–probably even stronger.
Sometimes a story takes us so far from our own experiences that research is needed. (I’ve had to look up how to make flaming arrows and what fainting feels like.) But humans are the same, and the seeds of story are to be found in every life.