In addition to being National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), November is National Lifewriting Month. Although you aren’t likely to find lifewriting in the dictionary, you can probably guess its meaning–writing about life, specifically memoir and family history.
I encourage everyone to write their own or their family’s life stories. In my ebook, Preserving Memories: How to Write a Family History, I say:
After my father died, my mother became very depressed and withdrawn. I convinced her to attend a writing conference with me by telling her I didn’t want to stay in the hotel alone. She attended one conference session — a seminar on writing essays. She wanted to try her hand at an essay but couldn’t decide on a topic, so I suggested she write about our trip. After that successful attempt, my siblings and I encouraged her to write about her own life.
She wrote what she called her “stories” in longhand on notebook paper. I transcribed them, making only minor corrections in her spelling, punctuation, and grammar. I scanned family photos and added them in appropriate places. We printed the stories on my computer printer and inserted the pages in loose-leaf binders so she could give a book to each of her adult children for Christmas; each year after that, she wrote more stories to add to the book.
These stories quickly became cherished family treasures. Teenaged grandchildren put aside video games to read their parents’ copies of their grandmother’s memoirs. Siblings pointed to stories and asked each other, “Did you know that?” Family members shared laughter and tears when the stories were given as gifts, and now, years after my mother died, those loose-leaf binders filled with family stories have become treasured legacies, possibly even more valued than money or property.
The same can be true for you. Your personal memoirs or your family history can be the greatest treasure you can leave your family because you’re sharing your life and yourself.
A memoir or family history doesn’t have to be a published book to be meaningful. It can be typed in a word processor, recorded on a tape recorder, captured in a video, or assembled in a scrapbook.
Denis Ledoux, author of Turning Memories Into Memoirs: A Handbook for Writing Lifestories and originator of National Lifewriting Month, shares tips for getting started on your memoir in the article November Celebrates Memoir Writing.
A memoir or family history may seem like an overwhelming project, but Preserving Memories helps you break it down into manageable tasks so you, too, can leave your loved ones a precious legacy: your life story or the story of your family.
Have you done any lifewriting? If not, why not give it a try during National Lifewriting Month?