Seniors: Here’s How to Finally Write That Memoir

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Seniors: Here’s How to Finally Write That Memoir

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"I should write that story down sometime."

"One day, I'll get around to it and write that memoir."

We've all said such things to ourselves — we'd wager virtually every senior living in Cincinnati has. But how many of us have actually followed through?

We might think we need memoir writing tips. Or we might think we have more time than we do to get it done.

We might allow ourselves to be distracted by all the petty little foibles and chores of daily life. Or we might simply find the prospect completely overwhelming.

But today, we're going to share with you the secret to finally writing that long-promised memoir. You ready? Here goes:

Sit down, put pen to paper and start writing.

It can't be that simple, can it?

Really. That's the secret. Put pen to paper or fingers to keys and see what comes out. Don't edit yourself. Let it flow. It really is that simple.

Now, people often confuse "simple" for "easy." We're not suggesting that writing your memoir will be easy. We are suggesting — insisting, to be honest — that writing isn't complicated.

But it is, at its core, a reflex. It's an uncontrollable urge that you give yourself over to. You sit back, open up the control valves in your brain, and allow the universe to flow through.

Think back to theme-writing in grade school. Didn't get the assignment done until you sat down and just did it, did you? Freewriting works.

Allow yourself to write free and loose, and refrain from editing yourself on the fly (editing should come last in the process). You'll have a manuscript before you know it. Today, let's talk about some tips you can use to get over the creative hump.

Forget who might read it. Be honest.

If the thing keeping you from writing your memoir is worry that something you write might embarrass a loved one, or that might be misjudged by others, get over it. 

We've all experienced positive and negative in our lives. We've all done "good" and "bad." No one's a saint. Few are completely evil.

But everyone has their reasons. Everyone has their perspectives on what happened and why. Everyone interprets events through their own lens. And that's not only what makes memoirs interesting — it's what makes them valuable.

Take Deupree resident Bill Victor. He had his own perspective on the World War III campaigns he experienced first hand during his tours of duty. One day, he finally decided it was the write time to put it all down in writing.

If everyone kept their thoughts to themselves, life would be pretty boring, and humanity would never evolve. We, as a species, would never learn from our mistakes. We wouldn't have any joys to celebrate, or goofy things to laugh about, or reasons to console one another.

Fortunes and misfortunes alike mix together to form the glue that hold humanity together. Memoirs aren't potential sources of embarrassment — they're opportunities to pass on what you've learned. They're your best shots at leaving the world better than you found it.

Take on your memoir in chunks.

Who said you should start with your own birth? You weren't even self-aware at that point — how in the world could you right about your life from its very beginning?

People who try to start at the very beginning usually never progress beyond that point. Who does progress? People who start writing about the experiences that ended up feeling the most personally important to them. Here are some questions to get you started:

  • What's your "best" memory? What makes you feel warmest inside when you think about it?
  • What's was the "worst" moment of your life? What were the crucibles in which the final products of your life were forged?
  • What have been the funniest, strangest, or uncanniest moments of your life to date?
  • What are the moments that convinced you that none of this is an accident? Or, conversely, that made you sure all existence is just some glorious, haphazard aggregate of events?

Those are the moments where you should begin your story. Expand out from there. Explore each of these important moments to the fullest. They'll become chapters. Assemble them into some sort of order later, and you'll have a manuscript.

Don't worry about grammar, punctuation and the like.

This one doesn't need a lot of explanation. Polish comes in the editing stage. Worry about what your 7th grade English teacher told you once you've gotten the whole story off your chest.

And, if you failed 7th grade English, don't worry about editing at all. Hire someone who does it for a living and have done.

If you try to publish, accept that you'll be rejected over and over...until the one day you aren't.

Finding a published is like dating. You'll put yourself out there, fail, learn, repeat, fail, learn, repeat, fail, learn, repeat.

One day, you'll find the right one. Or you won't. Accept whichever happens and be satisfied in having a manuscript to pass along to your loved ones. Even if no one else ever sees it, at least they will. And that's something they'll cherish.

Tired of reading memoir writing tips? Then sit down and start scribbling.

Don't waste any more time thinking about writing. Just get to it. That's the best advice we can give any senior who's interested in making their memoir come to life.


DH - Blog - Choosing Retirement Community


Kristin Davenport
May 24, 2018
Kristin Davenport is the Director of Communications for Episcopal Retirement Services (ERS). Kristin leads ERS’s efforts to share stories that delight and inspire through social media, online content, annual reports, magazines, newsletters, public relations, and events. Kristin earned her BFA in graphic design from Wittenberg University. She joined ERS after a 25-year career as a visual journalist and creative director in Cincinnati. Kristin is passionate about making Cincinnati a dementia-inclusive city. She is a Lead SAIDO Learning Supporter and a member of the ‘Refresh Your Soul’ conference planning team at ERS. Kristin and her husband Alex, live in Lebanon, Ohio with their 2 daughters. She also serves as a Trustee and the President of the Lebanon Food Pantry and is a board member for ArtScape Lebanon.

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