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  • Helen Gregory

One client I recently worked with had written poems throughout her life and wanted to use these in her book. Interspersed with her narrative, these highly personal creations gave a fantastic insight into her character and another dimension to her memories.

If you've never been inspired to wax lyrical, then there are other ways to spark the creative process. One life story writer talks about collating personal essays, each one told through the lens of fashion, so for example writing about a loved maternity dress, a hated childhood jumper or a sundress worn on holiday when travelling with an aging parent. Using photos of yourself in these dresses would work wonderfully throughout a book and they'd be a great peg on which to hang the stories about those significant times of your life.

You want your readers to walk away knowing you, and your experiences, on a much deeper level. It can often be the backstory and vivid details that make for a powerful story.

Treat you memories like a collage. Shuffle them about and enjoy the experience of reliving them. And after you collect everything in the order you think might work, read the last paragraph of one piece and the first paragraph of the following piece and see if works as an overall story.

And don't forget that a life story isn’t objective, but highly subjective – you’re the subject and it’s your prerogative to write it in any way you choose. The more personal the better. You’ll give readers (usually your friends and family) an insight into your opinions, feelings and reaction to events. Who wants to wade through a dry book full of dates or lists? You want to engage, maybe educate, enlighten and who knows, even shock!

Writing about memories is in itself a creative act, and bringing them out in the open is good for us, and can help us become more creative. Writing about your life might also help create other ideas so that you end up turning your book into a best-selling memoir, a play or a film.

Putting pen to paper could lead onto the next chapter of your life - and that really will be something to write home about!

  • Helen Gregory

Each year I reflect on how quickly the past 12 months have flown. Flicking through the photographs I've taken seems to speed up the passage of time even further; images blur from winter walks to summer holidays to Christmas celebrations on my phone's image library.

The new year is perennially a time to take stock and make plans for health, holidays or self-improvement. No doubt you've enjoyed good times with family and friends in the last year, but for those of us who've lost people we loved in 2019, memories will be tinged with sadness.

Self-reflection and an urge to keep those precious memories alive make the new year a great time to get those thoughts and feelings down on paper. So why not make 2020 the year you commit your life story to paper?

It doesn’t matter if you start off by writing a few paragraphs or a single page; you can handwrite in a journal, on your laptop or phone, or even make a video or audio recording. To help kick-start the process, ask some family members to share their memories around your childhood home, Christmas or New Year's traditions. Their added insights will help enrich your narrative, and by going on social media you might even rekindle a few old childhood friendships.

You'll find that writing your history will throw a spotlight on your triumphs over adversity and how you achieved important goals. And when shared as part of your life story, it can even inspire and strengthen family ties with your children and grandchildren.

Why not use January’s traditional theme of goals and achievements to inspire you to start writing. Ask yourself, what was the greatest achievement of your life? Have you taught yourself to do something without help from anyone else? What role has failure played in your efforts to achieve your goals?

If you need help to get it all down, a life story writing service like Memory Lane Books can make the process easier and even more enjoyable.

So forget the gym and enrolling in pottery classes, make this year's resolution to write your life story for the next generation. Just think, this time next year, you could be sitting with friends enjoying your memories in a professional book - and it'll make Christmas present buying a lot easier too!

  • Helen Gregory

Memory is as personal as your favourite flower

I was looking through an old family album the other day, trying to find a photograph to send to my brother of us standing outside my grandmother’s house. I was sure this photo showed a small door surrounded by roses. But the only one I could find had us in front of a much larger, ornate door, with no roses to be seen. How was that possible? Had she taken out the roses sometime before?


I checked with my mother and she confirmed there had never been a rose bush round the door. So why did I remember the colour and the sweet scent of those flowers – what was their significance? I still remembered the times we spent staying with my grandmother fondly, but now I questioned what else I might have forgotten or mis-remembered about her. It was almost as though that memory had become corrupted.


That got me thinking about our memory and capacity for editing in or out details. Perhaps we’re just not able to recall the information so our brains simply morph in other memories to replace or augment them. Perhaps someone tells us something or we see another photograph and implant those ‘false’ memories into the real ones. You might start questioning your own recall and worry that you’ll get other memories ‘wrong’.


When you sit down to write about these treasured memories, of your childhood holidays spent with grandparents, where you smiled happily in (rose-covered) doorways, ask yourself if these small details really matter. I don’t think they do. You might remember differently and then learn something new when you discuss it with family and friends. You could make the discovery part of the story. It’s more than likely that once you’ve written your life story, no one will challenge you on these smaller details, but if they do, it can actually present a nice conversation starter and a way to enjoy your different memories of the past together.


Life isn’t always rosy but how you choose to remember and present those memories makes it your story. The smell of those flowers - my grandmother's favourite - will always remind me of her. And that’s what really matters.

NEED SOME HELP?

If you're ready to write your book but don't know where to start, contact Memory Lane Books and we'll take you through the process from start to finish! 

Email: helen@memorylanebooks.co.uk

07799 764414