I write fiction. Occasionally I take a stab at a memoir piece for my family, but I don’t feel qualified to give advice on that topic because that isn’t my strength… that’s really more a hobby or labor of love for me. So I’m really excited to have a guest here today who can talk about memoir-writing from a more experienced vantage point. Please welcome Laura Hedgecock from Treasure Chest of Memories.
Whenever I want to convince people of the value of writing about their memories, I pull out the story of my grandmother. She wrote in secret throughout her life, and shortly before her death, presented us with an astonishing gift: a spiral notebook filled with a lifetime of memories and stories, which she called her “Treasure Chest of Memories.”
Although most of us can see why it would be worthwhile to collect our stories, we hold back, listening to that nagging voice of self-consciousness. We’re afraid our writing or our storytelling isn’t good enough.
Even those who write as a vocation or avocation tend to be more comfortable sharing with the comparable anonymity of “readers” than with family members. The rejection or disinterest of “readers” is easier to handle.
Since I’m not allowed to write about my actual kids, I’ll use a hypothetical kid as an example. (Disclaimer in case my actual kids read this: I’m in no way implying that the subject of this story did anything less than an exemplary job of reading the Bible in church.)
Hypothetical Aaron, age 16, agreed to read the Bible aloud at a meeting of a hundred plus pastors and elders. Nervous and much more accustomed to rap music than leading worship, Aaron read at breakneck speed. Luckily, he was given a well-known passage. By catching four to five keywords, most were able to identify the familiar parable. The four-minute reading was finished in under a minute.
Were he reading for a discriminating audience, say a teacher or classmates, this would have been a catastrophe. As it was, he got excellent reviews. He was thanked for reading. He was told he has a nice voice for reading. A particularly kind woman stopped him and asked him if I was his (hypothetical) mother. When he articulated, “Uhh, yeah,” she gave me a look and said, “Then I know who is a proud mother!”
They weren’t lying. They did enjoy the fact that he read. His reading wasn’t perfect, but it didn’t have to be. Likewise, the people who love you will enjoy your stories, particularly those in which they have a starring role. Plus, there are some other compelling reasons to start collecting the stories of your life.
Why you should write about your memories
Preserving history and stories
You don’t want to simply leave names and dates; make your family tree more accessible!
Out comes my grandmother’s story. ..
Through her “Treasure Chest,” I connect with my grandmother, again and again. I have her memories of watching my mom grow up. I have read the words of raw, overwhelming grief that she wrote on the day my grandpa died. Her writings have resulted in a very deep bond.
Spring boarding conversations
This sharing of stories can spark conversations that would perhaps otherwise never surface. Your memories will be augmented by others’ memories and perspectives.
Such connections with our extended family and our shared heritages strengthen family bonds. Additionally, writing about the past can be therapeutic for the writer as well.
Simple. Write down those memories!
© Laura Hedgecock 2013
Laura Hedgecock blogs resources and content of her upcoming book Treasure Chest of Memories at her website TreasureChestOfMemories.com. She writes about her own memories at Memoriesinthewind.wordpress.com. She welcomes any and all visitors to either site and you can connect with her at