The Leap

This is an essay I wrote in a workshop 13 years ago at the beginning of my foray into life stories. More than a completed assignment, it was a conversation with myself. Last night, my Memoir Circle embraced its message as a challenge to dig deeper in writing. Its thoughts apply to anyone attempting to craft a memoir for themselves or another person/couple. It occurs to me that there are parallel distinctions between living and thriving, writing and authoring and autobiography and memoir that, if explored, will offer some perspective. To live is to survive day to day, hour by hour, letting events happen and reacting as needed, worrying that some will be painful and longing for pleasant things of the past. To thrive is to seize each moment, confident that whatever...

Not Your Family’s Story . . . Your Own

Some people urgently want to write for posterity. Often frustrated by delays and procrastination, they are nonetheless compelled to commit their family’s history to permanent media. Often (and better than by committee!) they work alone, poring over or siphoning through reams of photos, letters, wills, genealogical records and other shoebox contents to capture information that is not available from the living. Why? Because they are dedicated to preserving what will be lost if they don’t. Assembling a family history is a gargantuan task. The omniscient narrator hoping to do it justice spends hours and years to document the deceased while he/she becomes no better known to his/her loved ones than before. My point? Your Story is a culmination of your family’s story....

Where Does your Story Start?

If you’re writing so that others will read about your life, chances are that you shouldn’t begin with “I was born on December 14, 1954.” Now if that date were December 7, 1941 or September 11, 2001, the suggestion may differ, because those days are special for very compelling reasons. The point is that your life’s merit probably didn’t begin with your birth, unless it was somehow traumatic or miraculous. The way to begin a life story is with an event and reflection upon it that gives the rest of your life an angle, as we say in journalism, or a point. An excellent memoir or life story has a rhythm, flow and plot much like a movie. Its creation involves analyzing a life and seeing a struggle faced, a continuous message or an...

HOW TO STAY YOUNG

A client shared this with me, and I found it so helpful and true that I tweaked it a bit and am passing it on.   HOW TO STAY YOUNG 1. Try everything twice. One woman wrote her own tombstone’s epitaph: “Tried everything twice; loved it both times!” 2. Keep only cheerful friends.  The grouches pull you down. (Keep this in mind if you are one of those grouches!) 3. Keep learning:  Learn more about the computer, crafts and gardening; whatever interests you. ‘An idle mind is the devil’s workshop.’ And the devil’s name is Alzheimer’s! 4. Enjoy the simple things. 5. Laugh often, long and loud. Laugh until you gasp for breath. And if you have a friend who makes you laugh, spend lots and lots of time with him/her. 6. Tears...

“Similes and Metaphors”

Yesterday, I met with nine residents at Wyndemere, a retirement facility, to begin a six-week Story Hours workshop. At the end of the day’s session, George, a retired attorney, handed me his copy of The Story of A Lifetime, a keepsake book half-way completed in neat pencil penmanship. He said, “I’m not finished with this, but please help me make it an interesting story with similes and metaphors rather than just a bunch of facts. I’d like to give it to my children and grandchildren.” How touching and true! That beautiful book may otherwise collect dust on a shelf or disappear when its pencil can no longer be read. I’ll be helping to see that George’s story lives and inspires. In answer to my introductory discussion question, “Why Write?” the four men...

Why We Write

The following newspaper article tells of Canadian high school students meeting with seniors over five weeks to capture their stories in a biography album. http://www.insidehalton.com/news-story/3413171-woss-students-pen-memoirs-for-seniors-in-bio-project/ It’s appropriate that the young people in this program are encouraged to listen to heretofore strangers with early stage Alzheimer’s, and then to help them record their memories. If only every family would do the same, there would be no need for last-minute, stressful obituaries; regrets about being too busy to visit or wondering about questions never asked when they could have been. We write with and for our loved ones before it’s too late because the next generation will be just like the prior one. It will see...