• Helen Gregory

Now that lockdown is easing, I’ve been enjoying getting face-to-face with friends and family again - the simple pleasure of sharing tea and cake in the sunshine has been wonderful. These all-pervasive rules around social contact were important, but hugely constraining on our lives and relationships. Most of us have had to adapt to the new normal of Zoom conversations, but I certainly won’t miss failing wi-fi connections, frozen faces and echoes.

Let’s face it, virtual meetings can sometimes be awkward. We usually connect better if we meet someone in person rather than communicating via a screen or phone. Our conversation flows more naturally, particularly because we can read facial expressions and body language more easily. And how many of us have sent an email and then realised that someone has misunderstood or misinterpreted a request or off-the-cuff remark.

Human beings are social animals. We naturally want to meet and interact with other people – it’s a good way to establish trust and build strong relationships. When we laugh together, smile at one another, shake hands, or share a meal, we bond on a primal level that can’t be replaced by electronic communication. Someone who sees your face on a screen isn’t likely to feel the same connection to you as someone you meet personally a regular basis. Social contact is even said to help to improve memory formation and recall, and protect the brain from neurodegenerative diseases.

As well as seeing my friends, I’m really looking forward to doing life story interviews face-to-face again. It’s a privilege to share memories with a client about their life – and meeting in person makes it, well….more personal than a virtual meeting. So let’s all enjoy those chats together in the sunshine - tea and cakes optional!

  • Helen Gregory

Last year was one that I’d rather forget. Without being too dramatic, it’s hard to remember many good times, which is why I’ve been casting further back for happier memories.

It’s also not been easy to remember the good times when these recent interactions have mainly been on Zoom. While we haven’t been able to see friends and family face-to-face, these video calls just about suffice – although they don’t compensate for the lack of a hug and real emotional connection. Being forcibly separated from our loved ones has also thrown a light on all our relationships and while some have petered out, others have been put more sharply in focus.

Many of us lost friends and family in 2020. Sometimes a eulogy has been the only way of remembering their life and the part they played in our lives. While sitting at a funeral recently, enjoying listening to recollections about my good friend, I reflected on how this relatively short summary of her life was ephemeral. Sadly, we hadn’t got round to writing her life story and some of these precious memories would no doubt eventually be forgotten, maybe not by us, but by her children and future grandchildren.

This pandemic has been a time for reflection and for gratitude. We might not particularly want to remember the last year but, like me, why not use the time to remember further back - to childhood, family life, holidays, best friends and achievements? These dark days and evenings are the perfect time to dig out your old photographs, diaries and special momentos.

Life is unpredictable and precious and if there was ever a time to record your stories to prevent them from being forgotten, it’s now. I’m taking my own advice and have just started talking to my parents about their childhoods – and I can’t wait until we can ditch the zoom for a proper catch-up!

  • 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!


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! 


07799 764414