• Helen Gregory

It’s not a very cheerful thought, but as the old saying goes, there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes. While taxes are unavoidable and frankly, no fun, making sure you’ve drafted a will, got your finances in order, and sorted out your belongings is a positive way to face the inevitable.

You’ll probably want to make life a bit easier for your children and grandchildren, so why not start by sorting out your old photographs? If your boxes of loose, uncaptioned prints are too overwhelming, when you’re no longer around, they’re at risk of being dumped in an attic at best, or just dumped.

Sorting through your old photographs to keep only those that bring comfort and joy is a truly worthwhile task. Don’t feel guilty about culling those you don’t want; if they don’t mean much to you, they probably won’t mean anything to your children and grandchildren.

You could put them in a timeline, starting from birth to present day, or in themes, such as birthdays, holidays or childhood milestones, labelling each on the back with names and dates if possible. Don’t assume others will know who people are, even those close family members, as your children might only end up looking at them some time in the distant future.

Apply the same method to more recent digital photos on your phone or tablet; caption them and put them in labelled folders on a memory stick.

Ditch blurry pictures, duplicates and landscapes, and hold on to only those that have meaning, testify to your memorable experiences, or make you smile.

Once you’ve had the satisfaction of doing this, why not go a step further and generate some stories from your photos, so you can leave both a visual and narrative history to your children - a gift from the past for the future. This might seem like a lot of work, but consider what value these photos will hold if your family doesn’t even know what they represent? (Answer: very little.) Instead, what value will they hold if you share not only the vital details, but also the stories behind them? (Priceless.) A life story book is the perfect place for both.

Don't forget to date and caption each photo

  • Helen Gregory

As a life story writer, I hear a common lament: “My life isn’t interesting enough – who’s going to want to read about me?”

Everyone’s lives, however ‘ordinary’, are filled with experiences that other people can relate to, which makes them inherently interesting. A memoir or life story attempts to make meaning of your life's events and, unlike a novel, doesn’t have to follow a plot or chronological order to make sense. It’s about reflection, observations, beliefs and opinions. There’s freedom in how you write, and acceptance from the readers – usually mainly your family and friends.

Don't feel that you need to catalogue everything from birth onwards; it’s an account of a period, or series of events from your life, which can be centred on parents or grandparents or themes, such as marriage or loss.

Photographs are the next best place to go to jog memories and create vivid memories on the page, using all your senses – smell, taste, feel and sound as well as the more typical sight to engage readers.

To help, you can try a couple of exercises: picking a memory then sit quietly with it for a while – in a meditative state – to really try and transport yourself back to that moment in time, being aware of what’s around you, smells, colours and food, before attempting to write down or record those sensory recollections while still in this semi-meditative state.

Another idea is to draw a map of a certain memory, encouraging yourself to remember small details. Perhaps start with your childhood house, draw this along with neighbours’ houses, adding street names and people’s names and their relation to you. Mark down any significant events on the map and the reason, or result of what happened. It’s surprising how the act of creating a detailed, colour diagram can help hidden memories resurface.

Some people have kept a journal much of their lives, in which case, that’s a good way of embarking on a life story. However, too much material can be overwhelming, so if you need some guidance about how to get these memories down or in order, Memory Lane Books can help.

Try meditating then let your thoughts run free!

  • Helen Gregory

Visit any high street book shop and you’ll find shelves full of celebrity biographies - as well as dump bins with cut-price offerings in a bid to attract the book-buying public.

These celebrities are in no doubt that their lives are sufficiently interesting for shoppers to part with their hard-earned cash. From pop stars to actors, politicians to Big Brother house rejects, these writers fill hundreds of pages, often as a way of grabbing a few headlines if their books are sufficiently scandalous or revealing.

Writing your own life book however, is literally a different story. It isn’t about name-dropping, shocking people or describing outrageous adventures, it’s simply the story of your life, written for your own pleasure, and for those nearest and dearest to you.

Another book shop, another celebrity biography...

These books can reveal family secrets, share poignant intimacies and make readers who are acquainted with the writers laugh or cry. Yet so many ordinary lives remain unwritten, usually because people believe that their lives are just that – ordinary and not worth writing about.

One lady I met recently had once started writing about her childhood and the time she’d spent as an evacuee during the war, but she’d soon put it to one side, thinking that no one would be interested.

She was wrong. Recently, her young grandson was working on a school project about World War Two and asked about her experiences. He was fascinated to hear about her year spent with an elderly couple in Dorset, quizzing her about her clothes, what they grew and ate and the friends she’d made. This lady and her grandson spent a very happy afternoon together, talking and looking through photo albums, and she realised that perhaps her life was more interesting than she’d first thought.

Now, she’s written her life story and it’s ready for her other grandchildren – and great-grandchildren - to discover.


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