While many people at some point contemplate writing a memoir, many are dissuaded by a perceived lack of writing ability, or the assertion that their stories are not interesting enough. However, taking the time to write down stories from your past is well worth the time and effort, whether the end result is a publishable memoir, or a collection of memories to share with your friends and family. You don’t have to be a literary giant to produce something that will allow your history to endure in a valuable way.
Do It For Your Brain
There are many cognitive and emotional benefits to turning memories into a narrative. Accessing old memories revives neural pathways, which may have a protective effect on memory and cognition. Writing narrative activates many parts of the brain, including visual, language and emotional centers. Writing memories into a narrative provides the opportunity to see things through more focussed lens, which can help in the reframing and processing of trauma and grief.
Your Stories Matter
Your memories can provide a valuable snapshot in time. Stories don’t have to involve a dramatic moment to be interesting. Details that may seem insignificant can provide a rich level of insight into an era, event or family history, for example:
- Descriptions of relatives and their personalities
- Landmarks, addresses, building features
- Daily routines, traditions
- What you wore, played with or drove
- Where you learned, played and observed
For ease of organization, revision and eventual sharing, writing on a computer is preferable. If typing is too difficult, there are many word processing programs, such as Dragon, that include talk-to-text capabilities. Alternatively, consider asking someone, such as a younger relative, to scribe for you.
Start and maintain a running list of topics you wish to write about. As you write, you may recall other anecdotes worth recording. Make it easy to jot these ideas down in a place that’s easy to access, and with enough detail that you will clearly remember the story you wanted to tell.
Keeping On Task
Although there are many apps and programs available to guide you through the process of writing and organizing stories, be wary of programs that come with hefty download or membership fees. Many writers use Scrivener or Google Docs to organize and share their projects. However, good word processing software is all you really need, along with a way of organizing your stories that works for you.
As your project evolves, you may gain some clarity about how you wish to tie your stories together. Creating a separate file for each story can make it easier for you to re-order them and build connections between them later. Give your files names that easily remind you of the contents.
Set aside time and goals for your writing that are realistic and set you up for success. For example, allocate two one-hour blocks per week for writing. You can always write more and longer, but making those times sacred will keep you on task when you may otherwise be uninclined to sit and write.
Sharing Your Stories
While you may wish to keep your stories private, there are many ways you can share your stories with as narrow, or as broad an audience as you wish. Blogs are easy to set up and maintain, and many, such as WordPress and Blogger, allow you to control who can access the material. It is also easy to self-publish electronic or physical bound books through companies such as Blurb.
If you need practical support to facilitate your writing project, Retire At Home’s Companion Care Service can match a companion to your needs. For more information about our Companion Care Service, or any of our other support services, please contact us for a free in-home consultation.