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How to Write Your Memoir

Senior woman writing

Are you an avid storyteller? Maybe you have a passion for genealogy. Or perhaps you’ve achieved great accomplishments in your life or career and wish to share the secrets of your success. Any of these are excellent reasons to grab a pen (or keyboard) and begin capturing the experiences that define your life.

A memoir is an incredible legacy to leave those who have the privilege of knowing you in life and beyond. No matter your reason or purpose, learning how to write a memoir and share your story is a gift your loved ones are sure to cherish.

 

What Makes for a Good Memoir?

The hallmark of a good memoir is the flavor and character you add by reflecting on and giving meaning to the impactful life events that have shaped your beliefs and perspective. Unlike an autobiography, which is a chronological life story, a memoir offers wisdom and insight based on thoughtful consideration of your memories.

 

How Writing a Memoir Benefits You

Many older adults find their retirement years to be a time of reflection and contemplation about the life they’ve lived. Putting those thoughts to paper can be a therapeutic exercise that helps you make sense of a lifetime of moments that define you.

 From a more practical standpoint, learning how to write a memoir is a significant undertaking that can give you purpose and fill idle time with a productive task that gives you a sense of pride and accomplishment.

 What’s more, the process of collecting your thoughts and transferring them into a written narrative challenges your brain, which can play a role in keeping your language and cognitive skills sharp.

 

Tips for Getting Started

Many memoir authors have never written a book, but you don’t have to be a trained writer to successfully compose a memoir. In fact, there’s no specific set of instructions for how to write a memoir; rather, let your own creativity guide the writing process.

Ignore the technical details. You may find getting started is the hardest part of  learning how to write a memoir. One way to overcome this hurdle is to keep your early attention on the memories and stories you want to tell. You can worry later about crafting a captivating introduction and weaving all the pieces together. To begin, let the story you want to tell lead you.

Establish a theme. When you look back over your life, what stands out most? It might be a lesson you learned, a pivotal moment, or an experience that had a profound impact. Remember, the goal of a memoir is to explore a specific event—or related series of events—and the meaning you attach to those moments in time. For many people, the first memory or experience that rises to the top as you reflect on your life is the seed that you can nurture into a full-grown story.

Give yourself a nudge. If you find you have so many thoughts and ideas that you’re having trouble articulating them all, writing prompts can serve as useful memoir writing exercises for seniors. They reveal how to write a memoir by guiding you to answer specific questions and begin forming cohesive content. Capture the minute details of your life so you can give readers a clear picture of who you were and the world you lived in.

You might have a photo or keepsakes you can use as a focal point to begin jotting down your recollections and thoughts. What did you look like? Who were your friends? What did you enjoy doing? How did the political and social climate affect you? Did particular conversations leave a lasting impression? Is there a moment you’ve often wished you could go back and do over?

Make it relatable. As you begin to string together the pieces of your story, keep in mind that the most successful prose shows rather than tells. Rather than saying, “It was a dark, cold night,” describe the environment so the reader feels as though they’re there beside you. At the same time, avoid the temptation to ramble and edit yourself to keep only the details that are pertinent to your story.

Be realistic. Especially if you’ve never written a significant work before, the task of creating your memoir will take some time. Commit to making steady progress, but avoid letting it consume you. Be sure to take time to enjoy the moments you’re living now (but consider carrying a notepad so you can jot down notes whenever inspiration strikes!).

 

Find Inspiration and Encouragement

Before you begin writing, check out resources that can help guide and inspire you, like the regular writing workshops offered at Winchester Gardens. These sessions are just some of the enriching activities that encourage residents to explore their creativity and engage with like-minded peers. Arrange a visit to learn more about our stunning campus and award-winning wellness programming that helps ensure every resident is reaching their full potential.