Stepping Stones Blog

Milestone Memoir: Step 1

Step 1:  Brainstorm a Theme

As I mentioned in the Introductory Post, Milestone Memoir is my vision of marrying one picture (worth 1,000 words) with one personal essay (500-1,500 words) to create a meaningful narrative for future generations.  

This method varies from traditional scrapbooking in that it places more emphasis on the written word, and less attention on decorative elements.  While journaling is always encouraged, many scrapbookers treat writing as an after-thought.  We try to ensure that the 5Ws are addressed (who, what, where, when, and why), but we tend to focus more on the layout’s visual appeal.

Please note that I do not see Milestone Memoir as a replacement for current scrapbook techniques.  Instead, I see it as coming along-side your other photo preservation methods.  It is more of a hybrid of scrapbooking and storytelling – YOUR story that needs to be shared with others.

Over the next several weeks, I will outline the nine-step process.  Today we will start at the beginning:  brainstorming a theme.

* * * * *

Those who currently scrapbook tend to organize albums chronologically, documenting various family events throughout the year.  Sometimes we may create a specialty scrapbook that focuses on a single subject, like Baby’s First Year or an exciting vacation, but for the most part we don’t consider “theme” when we scrapbook.

Since Milestone Memoir is the telling of our story, it would follow that the elements of any narrative would be contained within this album:  setting – characters – plot – conflict/resolution – and theme.  While one possible theme could be “autobiography” – and thus follow the chronology of your life, don’t limit yourself to this only way of thinking.

In literary circles, Memoir is considered to be one particular aspect of your life rather than a comprehensive overview.  For example, one idea I have for a future project would be to recount my mother’s life from my perspective.  A possible could be: I Learned How to Live by Watching My Mother Die.  My first project, however, is going to focus on the significant Stepping Stones in my life.  The working title is:  In Search of Significance, Acceptance, and the Perfect Shade of Pink.

See, we all have more than one story to tell, and some of us may have enough material for several memoirs.  That is the beauty of this method; it allows us to slow down, become introspective, review our life and share lessons learned.  This is not a project to be completed overnight.  Rather, it is one that benefits from a certain degree of distance, which allows for developed perspective.

I think Memoir albums can include documentation of global events as well as personal milestones.  This helps put our life in context.  World events that I might consider include the Tearing Down of the Berlin Wall, the Twin Towers tragedy of 9-11, and Obama’s historic Presidential victory.

While the story behind the photo is of utmost importance, Memoir albums can also include lists of favorite books, movies, music, and scripture verses.  Consider adding quotes or lyrics, but don’t forget to also include WHY these are your favorites; it is that kind of personal insight that will be a treasure to your descendants.

Just in case you might need them, here are a few suggestions for possible memoir themes, but I am confident that you will develop many on your own – as they relate to your life and your story.

  • Heritage album of your ancestors and their stories
  • My Favorite Things – include photographs of favorite objects as well as activities
  • School Days – perhaps one album through high school; another album for higher education
  • Wedding album – but don’t forget to tell all the stories that led up to the wedding
  • Travel or vacation album – include the preparations, memorabilia, the purpose for the trip and why that particular destination
  • Hobbies or Pastimes – include the reasons why you enjoy doing this; who introduced you; who are your mentors; what are your dreams; what successes (and failures) did you encounter
  • My ABCs – a creative perspective on your personal life
  • Core Values/Beliefs – this could not only be a living legacy but also a creative endeavor.  Values tend to be abstract – try to photograph something that symbolically represents that value.
  • Stepping Stones or Milestones (such as I outlined above)
  • OR… if you feel so inclined, think in terms of literary genres:  can you write a fantasy story of your life – perhaps an adventure, a mystery or a fairy tale?

As I am still fleshing out this concept, I am curious to hear your initial thoughts on this method of memoir documentation and/or possible themes you would consider for a memoir album such as this.

Next week I will discuss Step 2:  Brainstorming Memoir “chapters”

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