It seems to me that life story writing is something you fall into after years of life experience and other forms of writing. At least, that’s how it happened for me. I’ve been a freelance writer, a copywriter, short story writer and fiction novelist.
Four years ago I needed another source of income and while scrolling through Facebook (as you do when you’re supposed to be looking for work), I noticed an advertisement from a local aged care agency inviting people to register as social support workers.
I thought about it for a while, and every time I saw the ad, I’d tell myself, “You need to do this.” I had no idea why, just a strong hunch that this was the path to take. I’m a great believer in following your intuition – the few times I’ve gone against it have not turned out well – so I duly registered with the agency.
Doug’s treasured story
My first job was spending time with a retired scientist who’d served in the Vietnam War. He was in the early stages of dementia and his family, knowing I was a writer, asked me if I would write his life story. They wanted it recorded before he lost all his memory.
Doug and I spent hours talking about his life while I recorded our conversations and created a story from them, in his voice. There were already significant gaps in the narrative due to memory loss, but I filled them in as best as I could with information from other family members.
It was therapeutic for Doug and gave him a sense of purpose, and it was interesting for me. I’ve always enjoyed hearing and reading about other people’s lives – when I was freelancing, my favourite assignments were personal profiles. (In retrospect, an early clue to my future profession).
There were already significant gaps in the narrative due to memory loss, but I filled them in as best as I could with information from other family members.
Doug’s family were delighted with the story and published it themselves. I’d thoroughly enjoyed the process and while I was wondering if this could be a career for me, another resident in the facility where Doug lived heard about Doug’s story and asked me to write his. He couldn’t believe his luck- he’d been looking for someone for over 20 years to take on this task.
And so it has snowballed into a very rewarding career – not only creatively, but personally, helping people to get their stories out into the world. I’ve written a broad range of stories, from the memoir of an Austin 7 car to a tale of government greed and corruption, and I enjoy the challenges and learning that each project brings.
Even if I hadn’t joined the aged care agency I might still have arrived at this destination, but following my intuition got me here a lot sooner.