How To Write A Memoir & Preserve Your Legacy

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woman with book on her lap
Self

As you look forward to 2021 and reflect on the past year none of us anticipated, you can begin a special way to strengthen relationships in a memoir or meaningful recollection you wish to convey to loved ones.

In that case, you may be wondering how to write a memoir so you can keep track of everything.

Memoirs are great for people who want to communicate a legacy of values and stories to their loved ones and others who can benefit from a life well-lived.

Now when life seems so fragile, you may have thoughts and feelings that you acutely want to express.

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Learning how to write a memoir may give you the time to sit and recollect your thoughts and experiences.

Many people are intimidated or feel inadequate to express themselves authentically, relevantly, and to convey their feelings toward loved ones. It's hard to summarize and reflect on life in a way that can be well-received and treasured.

Somehow, the time is not right, your loved ones may not be ready to hear it, or you just can’t find the right words and ways to express what you so much want to convey.

You can overcome such obstacles by beginning to relate valuable lessons in life and the hopes you have for those dearest to you.

A little encouragement goes a long way.

If you're the adult child of seniors and you want this, then encourage and help them get started by your active participation.

So many regret that they either never asked for stories or did not get their parents to convey for the next generations their values and family history.

Don't wait for regret — write the memoir now.

If you're the senior who wants to do this, ask your adult children or grandchildren if they'd like to receive it. If they encourage you, then you have the impetus to make it happen and know it will be cherished.

So, why wait to convey your values and stories to loved ones? Legacy should not just be when you've passed on but can be now moving forward.

In expressing wisdom and caring, you actually can also commit to living life forward with these intentions. That may be the most important reason to start your living memoir.

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As the communicator you are life-affirming, expressing love, and strengthening your relationships.

Recipients are grateful, understand your meaning, and gain wisdom for themselves to be better.

Don't let yourself become overwhelmed by trying to say everything in your memoir.

Focus on just a few stories and lessons to keep it concise, clear, and coherent.

Do not be patronizing, lecturing, or advice-giving. Be humble and show what you've experienced and learned. Let others draw their own conclusions and applications to their own lives.

Do not be impulsive and hasty to get it done. This is a reflection. Edit, revise, add, and subtract, so you hone your message carefully.

Try to be credible, empathetic, timely to the occasion, and precise in what you say that will be lasting and valuable.

Consider two questions to get you going... 

What are some themes in your life story?

Match your experiences to values and lessons learned. Your family trajectory from your grandparents and parents may be a good way to see how you fit and are part of a larger story that includes them and the succeeding generations.

What stories have you played a role in?

Think about causes, fields of work, or community activities you have identified with and derived meaning, purpose, and connection to.

Values are more important than knowledge. Identify the most important values you have learned and tried to live by.

Values provide direction for actions: Generosity leads to service to others and provides meaning to your work life and relationships.

How to be a person in this world.

Legacy is about communication. You can model behavior and tell stories unique to your family history and life that show how to be a person with character.

Stories bring values to life, transmit those values, and enhance relationships.

To help focus your values and stories answer these questions:

What would you say if you were not afraid?

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Why are you doing this? Why now?

What are you hoping to achieve and what is the significance for you?

Why is this time and occasion right?

Moving forward, what would you like to commit to in your actions

Feel comfortable in the style and delivery of your memoir. Be authentic, true to the relationships you have, and articulate what you would like your recipients to think, feel, and do.

Choose the best medium for your memoir.

There are different media options for your memoir. Choose the way you believe best conveys the message to your intended audience.

Print: Letter, journal, book

Electronic: Audio, video

Web: Website, blog post series

You may be pleased with your print message; your loved ones will cherish your audio and video legacy.

Rather than be intimidated by a memoir as a near- or post-death experience, you can approach it as a rearview reflection and positive life-affirming process to live your legacy forward with those you most care about. It may be the best gift you can give.

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Jeff Saperstein is a career transition coach. For more information on how he can help you land your dream job, visit his website.