Did you ever have a journal growing up? Maybe one that you've kept since childhood or maybe you picked up the hobby as an adult? Whether you're familiar with journaling or want to start the habit of recording your life experiences, you may want to consider writing a memoir.
Writing is a great way to promote retention and memory and can be a rewarding creative outlet for seniors. With age comes the opportunity for older adults to share their past memories or family legacy with their loved ones and reminisce in the recollection of life's most important moments. This activity can seem intimidating at first, so here are four tips to help you in starting your memoir this year.
We're all different, living individual lives with varying interests, experiences and values. This can influence what you find important or comfortable to share, especially if you're recording these experiences for your friends and family to read.
So with that in mind, here's a word of advice: Your memoir is your memoir, so feel free to write about whatever you want! It doesn't have to be limited to your everyday life. Perhaps your memoir could be about a specific time in your life that was significant to you. Your memoir could be dedicated to your career, raising your children when they were young or your spiritual journey.
It's helpful to save the writings of your memoir in one space, either in the same journal(s) or in documents you can use in a word processing program on your computer. This ensures your memoir is organized and easily accessible when you go to write another entry or share it with friends or family. The choice to use an online software versus a traditional journal is personal, and there are pro and cons to each.
Here are a few things to keep in mind before choosing one over the other:
• Written Journal - A handwritten journal adds that personal touch to your memoir that a printed copy just cannot capture. Consider a journal that inspires you in some way when you look at it. Maybe spend a bit extra on one that's leather-bound with yellow paper or with a cover patterned in a fun color. An ordinary lined notebook will do the job, but using a journal you really like makes the experience more enjoyable. This method is not recommended if you naturally have poor handwriting. Admittedly, not everyone has the best penmanship, and this should be considered if you plan to share your memoir with your family. After all the hard work you put into writing it, it would be a shame if they couldn't read it!
• Online Software - Although you lose the personality of a handwritten memoir, online writing programs like Microsoft Word and Google Docs offer many features that written options lack. Most word processing software has an automatic save feature that conveniently saves your writing as you go as well as spell check to ensure your spelling and grammar are accurate. Another advantage of online software is that most computers have mics that allow for a speech-to-text option for those that may have limited mobility in their hands and arms. Bethesda Gardens in Phoenix offers residents an on-site computer center and staff are more than happy to assist you with any of your tech needs.
Regardless of which method you choose, consider carrying a handheld notepad to jot down any ideas or memories you recall while you go about your day. You can add any important details to your memoir at a later time.
Your memoir will be more accurate if you write somewhat frequently and when memories are fresh in your mind. It would be ideal to write every day in your free time, but we're human and have demanding lives. However, it is good to exercise some discipline and set a few goals to be sure you make progress on your memoir. This can range from how many times you plan to write every week to a daily word count or a set limit of three pages per session. Be courageous and open to challenging yourself. Don't be discouraged if you don't meet your goals right away. This should be fun, not distressing.
Writing a memoir requires some concentration. Recalling memories from what could have been decades ago can be straining. It's even more difficult to find focus if you find yourself in a noisy, distracting environment. Find a quiet spot in your apartment to settle in for a daily writing session. Maybe you'd enjoy writing outside to admire the nearby Arizona landscape while you work. Bethesda Gardens also offers a library and reading room—a perfect quiet spot to help you draw some inspiration.