Why Write a Memoir?

The New York Times columnist David Brooks recently asked people over 70 to write “life reports.” Analyzing those reports, he found that those who “divided life into chapters” – or in other words, took charge of their own narrative – were the happiest old people around. They “divided time into (somewhat artificial) phases. They wrote things like: There were six crucial decisions in my life. Then they organized their lives around those pivot points.”

More reason to write: Descriptive writing sets fire crackers off in your brain. Another recent NY Times piece described “your brain on fiction”: “Researchers have long known that the ‘classical’ language regions, like Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area, are involved in how the brain interprets written words. What scientists have come to realize in the last few years is that narratives activate many other parts of our brains as well, suggesting why the experience of reading can feel so alive. Words like ‘lavender,’ ‘cinnamon’ and ‘soap,’ for example, elicit a response not only from the language-processing areas of our brains, but also those devoted to dealing with smells.”

If that’s how your brain reacts when it reads imagistic, emotional stories, imagine how it reacts when it writes them. And imagine how family members will react to and live your story. You can share emotions and strengthen connection through your writing.

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