People tell me all the time that the biggest challenge they have to writing memoirs is they don’t know where to start. Whether you want to write your own memoirs, or you want to preserve the stories of someone else’s life, starting now, even in small ways, means that at least some of the richness of your family’s history is sustained for generations to come.
Here are three easy ways to preserve the stories of your family, and maybe even start some new family traditions.
1. Make a list. Along with your lists for shopping and weekly to-do’s, make a list of memories. Take a few minutes, maybe while enjoying a cup of tea in a break from weekend errands, pick a topic related to this season or place and jot down specific recollections of people, events, experiences, feelings and moments – memories that you hold, both good and bad. Is there one in particular that you realize would be meaningful to your family this year or this month or this week? Maybe you can tell that story next time you gather. And save your list in your Memoirs file – it’s a start!
2. Write a letter to your children or grandchildren. Share two or three examples of lessons you learned in your life – tell the story about how you learned the lesson, and why you hope they will learn from you. You might describe the house and neighborhood where you, or your children grew up, especially if it was very different from anything they know. Or tell them a couple of your favorite holiday memories or the traditions in your family. Tell them things that they don’t know, and won’t ever know, unless you share them.
3. Record and transcribe key conversations. This technique can be used formally or informally. Ask your clever granddaughter to interview you. Maybe invite her to lunch once a month as a new tradition, specifically to record your reminiscences. If you’re trying to capture stories of someone else, make a date to interview them and record their memories. Or, if you know Gramps will tell some great stories at a family gathering, be prepared to record then.
The process is simple. With a voice recording app on a smart phone or iPad, (I use Voice Record HD on my iPhone with great results), just turn on the app, put the phone in front of Gramps, and let him talk. When he’s done, you’ve got a digital audio file. If you want to get the stories down on paper, email the file to a transcription service. I use www.speechpad.com which is fast, accurate and costs about $1-$2/minute. Within a few days you’ll receive a Word document by email with the full transcript of the stories, ready for editing.
Capturing and preserving the anecdotes, traditions, hopes, dreams and beliefs of older family members does take some attention and a little effort, but every story preserved, every memory captured adds richness and meaning to the lives of everyone in the family. The gift of memories is precious, and priceless.
Memoir Writing Made Easy
Are you interested in writing your memoir, but don’t know where to start?
Our Memoir Writing Made Easy course is a step-by-step guide to help you generate story ideas and write with a style you can be proud of. Plus you can work at your own pace, whenever and wherever you want! The course is written for non-writers. Topics include: setting yourself up for writing success, writing styles and formats, editing, legal issues, publishing ideas and lots more!
Visit our Memoir Writing Made Easy webpage to learn more!