Your memories should be preserved! It is important that you do this because you are a very special person. There is no-one else in the world quite like you, and there never will be. Think about that for a minute – it’s an awesome thought. Even if you are an identical twin you are still not exactly like your sibling, in your looks, or your thoughts, or the essential ‘you’, and your story will be different from his/hers. You are unique, and rare things are always precious.
So I have already given you one very good reason why you should record the story of your life. Let’s think about some others.
Would you not be thrilled to find an old document written by your own parents or grandparents relating to events of their childhood or early life? I am sure you would read it with great interest. For one thing it would be a very good social history record. Some of your parents and grandparents will have lived through world wars, will remember times when there were very few cars on the roads, even though most small towns had a railway station. Many will have left school at only twelve years old in order that they might supplement the family income.
Some of you who are reading this will remember such events as seeing a television for the first time, watching the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, ration books which carried on during the austere post war years. You may remember what you were doing when you heard that John F. Kennedy was assassinated, or when Diana, Princess of Wales was tragically killed in a car accident in France. What about the introduction of decimalisation? Did you learn the complicated sterling ‘pounds, shillings and pence’ at school, and the jingles that taught you imperial weights and measures?
Was your main family holiday a week on the Golden Mile in Blackpool? At that time people usually had no more than two week annual leave a year. How did they cope? Life has changed so much in the last fifty years or so, and you have been a first hand observer as history was being made. Personal accounts such as these provide important insights into how life was lived twenty, forty, sixty or more years ago.
Preserving your memories for future generations can help to give some family stability. Just think how many children live miles away from their grandparents or other members of their extended family. Yet there comes a time in most peoples’ lives when they are curious to know more about their origins. The popularity of the BBC television programme ‘Who do you think your are?’ has proved this. We are all products of our past generations. We think and act in certain ways because of genetic information handed down to us from our ancestors, and sometimes in reading first hand accounts of their lives we will recognise ourselves. We will realise that we think and act like them in spite of changing times. How wonderful then for you to produce something for your own children and grandchildren to treasure.
But what if you have no children or grandchildren, or even no family to speak of, should you still write your life story? The answer is definitely ‘yes’! In some ways it is even more important to celebrate your life with a written record of it, and to share it with your friends and neighbours.
Here are some reasons people give for not preserving their memories:
‘Autobiographies are all right for film stars or royalty, but not for me. I’m just an ordinary person. Who would want to read about me?’
Well, you may be surprised at just how many people would find reading about your life very fascinating. Every one of us has had to deal with life’s ups and downs, and how we coped in times of difficulty can be inspirational to others. It’s not just the events of your life, but the decisions you took, the mistakes you made, the joys and sorrows that came your way. All these things build up into the rich tapestry of your life. They deserve to be recorded.
‘Isn’t it rather big-headed for someone like me to consider writing about my life?’
The very fact that you are asking this question means that it is extremely unlikely that you are big-headed. Rather you will be seen as thoughtful and considerate in writing about yourself, and your finished work will be treasured by your family and friends.
‘I would love to write about my life, but I’m hopeless at grammar and spelling.’
Don’t let this put you off. Lots of people say they are no good at writing but I’m sure that if you can read this you can write a letter, and in doing so, maybe writing to a friend, you will hardly think about grammar and spelling. If you can use a computer it will correct spelling for you, or you may want to get your finished work professionally typed. A good typist will discreetly correct the most obvious mistakes for you, although I am rather in favour of leaving most of it as it is written.
In the days when I ran my typing service I well remember one man coming to me because his family had pressed him to write about his experiences during the second world war. This man’s reading or writing skills were almost non existent so he recorded his story onto audio tapes and I typed it straight from these. His language was extremely colourful and I was in two minds whether to edit out some of the oaths. In the end I decided not to, and I was later glad that I had come to that decision. Sadly the man died before his work was completed but the parts that were written were printed and given to his family. They were delighted with it! To them it was just like hearing him speak and the real character they had loved seemed to jump out of every page.
So the rule for the most part is for this type of project write as you speak. You are not trying to write a best selling novel which requires a different technique. You are just recording your precious memories and creating a unique account of your life, telling it the way it was.
‘I’d love to write my life story, but I just don’t have the time.’
This is a very common problem. However we all have the same number of hours in the day and we can almost always find time to do the things we really want to do. Sometimes it’s just a case of reorganising the day, or even giving up something for a while to make time.
Writing your life story is indeed a huge task, but you’ve got to learn to become like a woodpecker. In other words, chip away at it, a little bit at a time. Even just a few minutes every day, or an hour or so each week, perhaps broken down into twenty or thirty minute sessions for a few months, will be enough to see you making progress. Write just one small paragraph at a time, and eventually it will build up into a full size book.
You may not be able to face it if you think in terms of writing a book, but break it down into manageable bite-size pieces and it won’t seem anything like as daunting.
‘I’m too young/old to write my life story’
Neither of these reasons holds water. If you are still very young it’s a good idea to get into the habit of keeping a journal, and then maybe once a year you could condense it into a chapter of your life story. Anyone who did this would have a remarkable record of their life one day.
Then again, there are many young people who have already done some exceptional things in their short lives, or who have lived, and survived, through all sorts of difficult situations. Some have conquered serious illness, been refugees, lived through wars, raised amazing amounts of money for a good cause dear to their hearts. The list goes on. Don’t wait any longer before you begin to get it down on paper, or at least safely stored on computer software that you can keep and reproduce at a later date.
If you are an elderly person reading this you must have such a treasure store of memories and stories to tell. If you really don’t feel you could write it out by yourself consider asking a family member or friend to do the writing for you. Whatever you decide, be sure to share your memories with someone.
I find a lot of people think about writing the story of their lives when they reach their fifth or sixth decade. This is a time of life when it is natural to take stock of what you’ve done with your life so far, and your hopes and dreams for the future. If you are at this stage you will enjoy writing your life story. Be sure to think about adding further chapters later on in your life. You are after all living history.
Look out for ‘Step 2 – Purpose’ – coming soon.