Memories are repeat visitors. Whether positive or negative, certain memories linger in our mind for a long time. As we age, memories are often our most profound link to our own pasts. And because they’re so important, what better way is there to help our families pass down meaningful memories than by encouraging parents to write memoirs?
While writing memoirs may not seem like a popular exercise choice for seniors, writing can help us to flex our most important muscle– our brain– which can be beneficial as it regards maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Are you considering encouraging parents to write memoirs? If so, the following information may help you to make a decision.
What is a Memoir?
Memoir writing differs from autobiography writing. Autobiographies typically follow a person’s life from the beginning, and have a deep focus on accuracy. They contain a lot of dates, times, and facts, and are well-researched. Since fact-checking is often an important part of the process, it can sometimes seem more historical than personal. While anyone can choose to write an autobiography, they are more commonly written by famous people. You may have read famous autobiographies such as Blackberry Winter: My Earlier Years by Margaret Mead, The Secret Life of Salvador Dali by Salvador Dali, and Harpo Speaks by Harpo Marx.
On the other hand, memoirs tend to be less formal. Some follow the chronology of a person’s life, while others bounce from one point to another or capture a period of time. Similar to an autobiography, truth is important. However, when it comes to personal experiences, truth is open to interpretation. Two individuals may have the same experiences but remember them very differently. Because it is so subjective, many memoir writers aim to achieve their own emotional truth through the process. Powerfully-portrayed scenes, a somewhat likeable protagonist, details of personal struggles, and some type of concluding resolution build an engaging memoir.
Tips for Encouraging Parents to Write Memoirs
Memoir writing is a big task, and writing doesn’t come easily to everyone. If your parents aren’t writers by trade, why would you want to encourage them to write memoirs? Engaging in this process can be a cathartic way to process what has happened in one’s past. It is an effective way of reflecting on one’s own lifetime, as well as leaving a legacy.
The majority of people who write their memoirs are not professionals, although many of them do seek professional help. Here are a few tips for those learning how to write memoirs:
- Enroll in a memoir-writing class. Colleges and continuing education programs that offer memoir-writing courses are finding that seniors, (and other people of all ages!), are signing up in impressive numbers. Sign up with your parents and go together! You might find you have interesting experiences to write about, too.
- Seek out book clubs that include memoir reading. Reading is one of the best ways to learn to write. Reading and critiquing other people’s work will help your parents to think more deeply about the process when they put the pen to paper for themselves.
- Sign up for a writer’s group. A big part of community living at Briarwood involves taking advantage of the group activities that are available. We offer many ways to help cultivate your literary skills.
- Hire a writing coach. This option can be expensive, but the one-on-one help that a coach can bring can greatly enhance the writing experience. If hiring a professional isn’t reasonable, consider contacting the English department of a local college. There may be talented writing students who want to take on the role at a reasonable price.
What to Do When It’s Finished
Your parents probably don’t want to spend all that time writing a book that no one will read. Passing the memoir along to family members can help motivate your parents to write so that future generations will get to know their stories. If they want to reach a wider audience, they could always submit their finished work to a publisher or self-publish their memoirs online.
Writing a memoir often involves a lot of support from mentors, family members, and peers. At Briarwood, we offer many activities designed to help seniors enjoy the activities they love and get to know their peers. If your parents would like to learn more about the Briarwood lifestyle we’d like to invite them to come for a free meal in our dining room, as well as to meet the staff and get an idea of what it’s like to live here. And if they decide that Briarwood is the right place for them to embrace their golden years, they’ll certainly stand to make more memories worth writing about!