I met one of my first customers yesterday, Joan Farrar, and I got to ask firsthand what she liked about using Bookform, what motivated her to create her memoir, her writing routines, fears, struggles and triumphs.
Joan is exactly the person I created Bookform for; she is an active and engaged retiree who, in between family, volunteering and her interests, is keen to collate some of the funny experiences, travel stories, insights and lessons from her life so far, as a keepsake for her children and grandchildren. Plus, she says that regularly thinking and writing about her life is making her memory and brain function a lot better.
Joan is not a writer or particularly technical, but she is a person who is trying to stay relevant in a fast-changing dynamic world. She understands that technology is a useful tool that can make typically tedious processes very easy and fun.
What motivated you to write your memoir?
Joan: My Grandfather wrote a business journal and my Father did a small book on his life and I am so grateful for that. It is wonderful to read them and ‘hear’ their voices through the words and phrases they used. I have also previously been involved with helping other people collect information on their lives to create a life book, but it is not until after my mother’s death that I really started to think about doing my own. When my mother was dying I was consumed with grief and sadness, but I regret now that I didn’t make an effort to save some of the stories she started to tell me at the end. I thought I would remember them, but as time passes, the information is getting muddled and lost.
What keeps you motivated to continue writing?
Joan: I find the process of writing quite cathartic and relaxing. It’s like opening the floodgates and it helps me get the jumble of thoughts out of my head and into perspective. At my last job I was a typist, so I can type quite fast. I like to just purge my thoughts onto the page and not worry about whether it makes sense or the spelling and grammar are correct, I can come back and fix it up later.
The questions in the Bookform template are wonderful memory prompts. They unearth thoughts and memories that may have been overlooked in one’s story telling if they were not teased forth by these questions that jog the memory. Ask anyone to tell you about their life and they’ll say “oh, I don’t know… it’s not very interesting”, but if you ask them specific questions it gets the ball rolling and their memories come flooding in and stories come pouring out.
Sometimes when I tell people I am writing my memoir they ask if I am special in some way, do I have specialist knowledge? I’m not and I don’t, but my book is not for publishing, it’s private and I will probably only show my kids. It’s just for fun.
Do you have a writing routine or writing habits?
I don’t really have a strict writing routine, just whenever I feel like it. I usually only write for about 30 minutes, maybe an hour. I start answering one question and I find that it stimulates thoughts and memories about so many other things that I haven’t thought about in years.
I like that I don’t have to worry about structure, I know that I can come back later and just move the chapter or story around to wherever it suits.
Sometimes when I am out and about or reading a good book I get a thought I want to save. Maybe it is a memory, or a particular style of writing that I like. I have started taking notes and I make sure to refer to them when I log into Bookform.
I really like including photos too. I often upload a photo of an occasion like a wedding or birthday and then write the story about who and what was happening behind the scenes at the time. Often when a person passes away their family inherit all their photos, but a lot of the time no one knows who the people or occasions are. This is a good way to save all those special stories.
How do you deal with writing about difficult or emotional topics?
I put it off. At the start I avoided difficult issues or moments in my life that were hard, but once I started writing it became a lot easier. Simply getting it out of my head was the biggest battle. Writing has sort of become a ‘safe place’ too, so I can say whatever I want and there is no one to judge me.
I have also noticed a theme to my life – humour and luck. I look at events that were really upsetting at the time, but now, after the passage of time, I see that these things have all led to making me the person I am now and I am grateful for who I have become. I never would of thought I could have achieved as much as I have.
Would you use the Collaborative functionality?
I haven’t yet, but I can see how it would be helpful. My family did a genealogy book, but it is just names and dates, with not much other information. Bookform would be a really easy way to create a book of family stories and photos, with everyone contributing their bit.
Would you use the new voice-to-text functionality?
Yes, absolutely. I love any technology that makes life easier. I think it would be really useful for people who can’t type very well and lose their train of thought before they can get their words out too.
I actually volunteer at Greenwich Hospital in the Palliative Care department. Some people think this would be quite depressing, but I find it really interesting and uplifting. I have met some amazing people there. Even though patients are usually only there for a few weeks, we focus on making sure they are comfortable and enjoy every day as much as possible. Often they are desperate to talk about their lives and really appreciate having someone sit with them and listen to various stories and experiences. Maybe we could use Bookform’s template questions and voice-to-text function to save these stories for their families. It would be nice to have an exact record of their voice and their words as this really makes a difference in capturing a person’s personality.
When is your book going to be finished?
I hope it never is. I am really enjoying the ongoing process and the more I write the better I am getting at it. It’s fun.