Experiment and Have Fun: Memoir Writing Prompts for Older Adults
Sometimes, the best way to get started writing your life story is to stop trying.
Think of the writing process itself as a playground, and each of the prompts below is a new area in which to play and explore. Give these a try and let us know if you are interested in a memoir writing class. Email: AED@edmontonseniorscentre.ca
Give yourself 10 minutes to brainstorm on these topics, then let loose your pen — or keyboard, as the case may be.
- Can you recall your childhood best friend and some of the things you used to do together? Places you used to go? Ways you pulled your imaginations together?
- Close your eyes and take a tour back through some prominent places from your childhood: a house you grew up in, a relative’s house, a school, a store, a park where you used to play. The list could go on and on, and the rooms within the buildings would extend the tour as well. As you follow your memories through these places, what can you sense? Are there smells, sounds, textures, colors, or even tastes that come back to you?
- What were some traditions your family observed during your early life? Do any of those traditions survive to this day in your family?
- Describe a turning point in your life. Explore the past, present, and future around that experience.
- Which one of your parents—or perhaps another family member—are you most like? How do those similarities make you feel? What about you stands apart?
- Can you remember back to a conversation or interaction that inspired you? See if you can return your imagination to that experience and then write about it from that place of inspiration.
- What was one of your favorite songs from long ago that comes with strong memories or feelings? You may not still have your original playback method, but you can probably find the song by searching the title and artist online. If you can locate it, set aside some time to listen to it (maybe even on repeat), and then, while it’s still playing or in silence afterward, explore the memories and feelings that arise. Let them dance onto your page as they follow their own rhythm.
- Choose something that is important to you. It could be anything from a cherished relationship to a souvenir you brought home from a special trip. Begin by writing about that thing, and then see where your thoughts naturally take you from there.
With any and all of these prompts, don’t become attached to a certain outcome. Don’t hold yourself to a certain expectation of what your story should look like or get intimidated because this little exercise is only a small start toward a larger project. Instead, set the intention to enjoy yourself and the process along the way. It’s worth it to try life-story writing because it’s worth it to explore your life! Try to put that second consideration first. If you’re wondering how to start off a memoir, don’t get hung up on the memoir itself; instead, get in touch with what’s really interesting: you and your life story.