Sharing Your Story

Have you ever thought about writing a memoir as a way to share your memories in a more permanent and lasting fashion?  You may not think your life has been interesting enough for such an endeavor, but everyone has a story to tell—whether you’ve lived an exciting life filled with adventure, experienced great hardships or had a very ordinary existence.  While all of us share similar desires to find happiness and success, the path taken to reach those goals makes each story unique.  Even if looking back on certain memories is painful, it can have a healing effect by giving you a sense of closure or a new perspective.  Sharing your story can also decrease feelings of isolation, help develop or renew interests, and improve cognitive skills.

People often consider writing a memoir for their family, but you can share your story with anyone you think could benefit from what you’ve experienced.  Learning about someone’s life can open your eyes to see the world in a new way, and sharing your story with younger generations might be the only way they will experience some things.  Just think about how different your world view is from a child who’s never known life without computers and the internet!  Learning about past generations helps us all to appreciate how we fit into the tapestry of human history.

If you find yourself intimidated by where to start, keep in mind that a memoir is a collection of events or memories from your life.  Unlike a biography, which is one’s entire life story, a memoir is not meant to record every event from the beginning.  A good way to start writing a memoir is to make a list of the most memorable moments in your life—those you feel really shaped or changed you in some way.  You could also start by categorizing your life into different time periods or ‘chapters’ to find the stories you most want to tell.

When you start writing don’t worry about finding the perfect words, just focus on capturing your ideas.  Getting stuck on the exact words in the beginning of the writing process might make it difficult to convey the feelings and memories you want to share.  You can always fine tune the language later.  If writing is new to you, start with a few hundred words a day or dedicate a set amount of time to write each day.  The longer you practice the easier it will become.  Another thing to remember is not to focus on who your audience will be.  Doing so may prevent you from being honest and your story may not seem authentic.

Once you’ve written your memoirs, share them by printing or even having them bound, make an audio recording or build a website to post your stories to.   There are a variety of options for building free sites with easy to use, do-it-yourself tools.  Sharing your stories with family members could deepen your relationships by revealing parts of your life from before they came into the picture.  You might help someone understand themselves better by letting them know more about you.  Want to share with a larger audience or hear stories from others?  StoryCorps (http://storycorps.org) is a resource that preserves stories and oral history at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.  Your story could be exactly what someone needs to hear to encourage them on their own journey.  As we move into cooler months and spend more time inside, this could be the perfect opportunity to start planning or writing your memoirs.