In the pandemic, with days on end of isolation and worry, writing was found to be cathartic. Some of you may have used the time wisely and now you are able to look back and see that it was a very constructive time.
With empty diaries, some people chose to use the time to start writing a memoir. This has recently been a theme in the Sixty and Me community, and it reminded me of why I began writing my memoir 50 years ago.
I have been in writing groups for many years; first in a group in Northwood where I was able, for the first time, to read out work that I had written. 20 years ago, I moved to Dorset and found two writing groups. When numbers dropped, these groups amalgamated into one.
It was at one of these meetings that a member read out her memoir. It was an extract featuring the dreaded PE lessons and hockey matches in what were then grammar schools. The PE mistress was a doppelgänger of mine, and I thought if that woman could write down her memories, I could write something equally appealing.
This coincided with my venture into researching family history. A common tool is www.ancestry.co.uk, but finding this an expensive resource, I discovered www.genesreunited.com which offered a more economical annual fee. This exercise took up considerable time over the next 6 to 12 months, discovering a lengthy family tree. As I entered information, memories of my childhood began to surface.
Around this time, I became aware that some acquaintances and friends were suffering memory problems, and it occurred to me that writing everything down in my 60s would give me something to refer to at a later date, something I have been incredibly thankful for when sharing information.
A spin-off from this endeavour has been the gathering of my own history which is now firmly in my memory. I have recounted many tales to my children and grandchildren thanks to this exercise. After all, we don’t just write it down, we have to reread many times and edit the contents and, if we want to publish, we need a professional editor. This whole process ensures the contents become firmly embedded in memory.
So, what was I to do? I visited the local stationers, bought a large red bound journal and began writing down memories of my school days and of my family. I did not worry about the chronological route as that can be inhibiting, but I did date all the entries with an approximate year and themes such as family, school, friends.
I carried the journal with me on visits to the beach and when on holiday. I do keep notebooks with holiday and travel information which are all indexed, something I will share with this community in a future blog.
The chronology of your writing can be sorted at a later date when inputting it on the computer and thanks to cut-and-paste you can decide where a certain section should go.
My memoir began to take up a good deal of time, and now, at the point where it is reaching publication, it stands at 80,000 words. I have shared extracts on my blog.
I have been asked frequently to give tips on how to start writing a memoir. People who are retired will often say they would like to write their memories down. One word of warning is that this is not something that can be done over one weekend or even two or three months.
It is a commitment over a long period of time. My memoir has taken me 15 years, although I have worked on other writing projects along the way. If you are just starting, you should keep in mind that you may need to put your work aside regularly and then return to it and read it from the start before continuing.
Another mistake is to try to include too much information and write everything from your date of birth until the present day which may be in your eighth decade. It’s a good idea to have themes and a strong voice.
Not everything in your life will interest people. Young people like to read about what life was like in the 1950s and 1960s and can be amazed at how we managed without mobile phones or even telephones and definitely without computers and television.
Good luck and happy writing!
Have you written your memoir and shared it with others such as family and friends? Do you have a method of storing your family memories and information? Are there people you could research on social media who could provide useful information for you?