Article by Michael McQueen
MAY 01, 2015
I learned the true significance of written memories when I was 22 years old when my father died suddenly and unexpectedly. Within the space of a few hours, I went from talking to Dad over the phone to being told by doctors he’d suffered an unexpected heart attack; and with that, my closest friend was gone forever.
In the days that followed Dad’s death, my family embarked on the heart-breaking task of sifting through tokens of his life and we came across a well-worn notebook. I had forgotten that I’d given him this for Father’s Day the previous year.
This notebook contained a number of questions that I’d written, in the hope that Dad’s answers would create a more complete picture of his life and experiences than I knew of so far. They were the kinds of questions that simply never came up in conversation.
Upon reading what my father had written I found myself enthralled and captivated by his answers, realising how much I didn’t know about him and his life. I was struck by the things that were important to him but were unspoken, and by how much we had in common. I subsequently used my network as a professional speaker to talk to young people about my father’s notebook and found that they were genuinely searching for a meaningful connection with their family heritage, and from this, Histography.com was born.
Histography.com is an online memory box that leads you through a series of thought-provoking questions designed to unearth the most interesting, unique and momentous aspects of your personality and life’s experience. These questions can be answered at your own pace, illustrated with uploaded photographs and, when you’re ready, can be printed as a beautiful hard-cover book (as one or multiple copies).
Today, my mission to inspire other parents around the world to write down their own stories, just as I discovered my father had. These are my 7 reasons why you should write down your favourite memories right now:
- Because your kids might never find out. The regret of not asking a loved one something while you had the chance is a painful one, and it can last a lifetime. Do your children, and your grandchildren, a big favour and record your story for them. The value of your words in years to come can’t be described.
- Because it’s inevitable that you’ll forget.As the years pass by, memories from our childhood become ghostlike, we forget more and more, and often we don’t remember a particular memory until someone else brings it up. Don’t ever forget how fragile, and incredibly precious, your memories really are.
- Because your memory plays tricks on you. There is such a thing as “false memory”. Researchers are starting to understand that the human mind can create, exaggerate, distort and even re-invent a memory. Have you ever been describing a childhood memory and your sibling pipes up, “That’s not what happened?!” As they correct you, a much clearer picture of the memory returns and you wonder how you ever created a ‘fake’ memory. Our brains are hardwired to ‘fill in the blanks’, so when we don’t remember the whole lot, our brain will trick us into thinking we do!
- Because storytelling actually strengthens your memory. When we write things down we tend to have an easier time remembering them and recalling the information more precisely. The more things you can tie together into a narrative, the more easily you’ll be able to recall those things later on. Think of it as studying for a test and taking valuable notes!
- Because you’ll learn a thing or two. The scientific research into the health benefits of expressive writing is surprisingly far-reaching. Writing down the moments you remember – the things that were important to you – provides you with unbelievable insight into the kind of person that you were, who you are today and who you want to become in the future. Some researchers even believe that by recording and then editing our own stories can lead to behavioural changes and improve happiness.
- Because it only takes a few minutes. Writing your story doesn’t have to be a time consuming chore. Memoir writing programs such as Histography.com provide the platform to write your story in a way that easy and time efficient.
- Because it’ll change your life. Imagine if you had written down a nice memory a day for the past year. That would be equal to 365 memories. Now in this moment try to think of even 10 lovely memories in the past year. What about 50?
Unfortunately bad memories stay with us for much longer – the car breaking down, the heated conversation, the funeral. By recording the good times in your life you will not only make sure you don’t lose these memories, but you’ll be choosing to live a life filled with happy memories that you can look to when life gets tough.