- Old photographs of you, relatives, friends, events, places, anything meaningful to you. If you have boxes full, select the best and most appropriate ones for each category. Use these as memory joggers while writing, and include relevant ones in your finished copy.
- Scrapbooks may include programs from plays you attended or acted in, dance cards, invitations, announcements, newspaper clippings, and all sorts of other trivia that ties in with stories.
- Diaries or journals. If you are an avid journal keeper, you’ll find a treasure trove of memories and insights. One key difference between lifestories and journals is that journals generally record events from the perspective of reactions and feelings. Lifestories take those events and reactions and emphasize their significance by giving form and shape to them to add meaning for readers.
- Old calendars remind you of forgotten events, and they are excellent for documenting dates.
- Old music and songs from your youth or other special times in your life can bring long-forgotten memories flooding back. If you don’t have recordings of your own, check the library, or search the Internet. New websites are constantly appearing that allow you to select and listen to music over the Internet, or even to download selections at little or no charge.
- Old letters, written to or by you. Perhaps relatives have saved letters you wrote to them or have other material of interest they would be willing to return or loan you. Ask them, and get them involved with your project.
- Family members and friends can remind you of stories you’ve forgotten, or recall details you don’t remember. Tell them about your project, and ask about their memories of stories and events. It’s enlightening and fascinating to explore how differently people remember things. You may even want to incorporate some of these differences into your story. Just remember who owns the story—you! Not long ago my sister read one of my stories and began enlightening me about what really happened. “I guess you need to write your own story,” I told her. “You may be right, but that’s not the way I remember it, and this is my story.” One day she just may.
- Internet websites. Search for sites on memoirs, genealogy, historical events, locations, etc. A search for “Lifestory writing tips” will yield thousands of hits with useful information. If you don’t have Internet access at home, go to the library. The librarians are happy to show you the basics of how to use it, and many libraries offer free classes on doing Internet research.
Sharon Lippincott, aka Ritergal