Your Creativity for Memoir & Family History

December 9, 2019 Deborah Wilbrink

Everyone looks for creative angles when writing or marketing. Use your creativity for your memoir, family history and personal history book! When you spend time on a project, why not make it creative writing and illustration along with factual? Your own talents and interests can be of use, personalizing your personal history book, whether memoir or family history. Use your art and creativity while working, and you will have a more fulfilling personal history adventure as you work. I’m not talking about creating facts, but rather creating the focus, theme and design. Whether framework or enhancing bits, your book will be more exciting to its readers and you will have more fun producing it.

A Personal History Creativist – THEME

Be a personal history creativist. Add your hobbies as design elements and reveal the passionate you to those who find your recipes, photos of woodwork, needlework, etc. For example, if you are a gardener, you could incorporate plants into details for illustrations and design, even make your book into seasonal chapters. A collector of cars surely has a collection of stories featuring cars for every generation, or a photo that can recall a time or mood. Pictured is my father whose first car he called The Blue Goose; Dad won a new Mustang at a dealership drawing in 1965, and has a Shelby today. Independence, travel and a bootstrap success can be illustrated with his planes and autos and motorcycles, enhancing the theme of his life story.

Perhaps you’ve seen cookbooks that combine story with recipe. One of my favorites is the entrepreneurial themed, Elbow Grease & Chicken Fat by Marilynn Mendell, about her adventures in catering. Marilynn used a set of cooking symbols that she created! Another of my favorites is Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking. Anya Von Bremzen. Bremzen incorporates not only family history and recipes, but also the history of the Soviet Union into her memoir, creating a challenging theme that drew on all of her expertise and family history.

A Deeper Creativity through Photographs

Take your own photographs to illustrate, and when you do, use symbolism and metaphor. Here, I used a bird gate at the Japanese garden of Cheekwood in Nashville, Tennessee, to demonstrate respect for ancestors and joining the journey of those who have Been There Before, a title for one of my songs and certainly a valid theme for personal history.

Words Can be Picturesque!

Are there poems by your ancestors, bits of letters, favorite sayings that you can make into story titles or “pull-out-quotes” or even include whole? Let your memoir or family history project shine light on who people are, or were, but including creative bits and pieces. Thinking more deeply about theme will unify the projector.

Pull it All Together with Creative Writing & Illustration

In Time to Tell Your Personal & Family History, I used quilts from the Morristown, Tennessee quilt society as a design element throughout. To further tie my tips and example stories into the theme, each chapter has an original song lyric, and a music CD or download of the motiving Songs about Your Personal & Family History are an option. The book and music project was a very creative journey.Whether you think of yourself as a creative person or not, if you are at the point of writing your memoir or family history, you are in the game of creation. Let yourself go and experiment with theme and design!

Men and women both should cease to grow old in any other way than as the tree does, full of grace and honor. The hair of artists turns white, but their eyes shine clearer than ever. Age brings maturity, not decay.

– Margaret Fuller, Woman in the Nineteenth Century, 1845

Deborah Wilbrink is a ghostwriter, helping others creatively write memoir and family history: personal history.

Learn more about her and her book writing and producing services at

Best Book Ever
Best Book Ever - Brentwood Library
“The Best Book is Your Own Story.”
Deborah Wilbrink

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