While choosing which journal writing techniques to include in my course, Journaling for Memoir Writers, I was reminded of the power of Legacy Letters to explore aspects of ourselves and our life experiences we wish to preserve for the future—whether it’s as a gift for friends and family members or a gift for ourselves to facilitate future memoir writing.
I first came across the idea of Legacy Letters in Sheppard B. Kominars’ book, Write for Life.
For almost everyone who writes with some consistency, there’a growing sense of empowerment. Through the act of writing, you discover new ways to appreciate what you’ve done in the past and feel good about what you’re doing right now. This lends great value to your sense of your legacy in life.
What exactly is a legacy? I like this definition best: anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor. Anything we receive from the past, particularly that received from those who meant the most to us, is a legacy, an inheritance not limited to money or possessions. Everything we write—letters, poems, journals, fiction, and nonfiction—if kept, becomes a legacy for the future. So, if everything is a legacy, why write Legacy Letters?
Legacy letters are a great way to take stock of where you are in your life right now, consider your relationships, and appreciate the gifts you have to offer. They can be a vehicle for reaching out to others now, rather than later. And they can help you reflect upon your life in new ways.
This week’s journaling prompts will help you write your own Legacy Letter(s). Freewrite for ten to twenty minutes exploring the questions and issues raised by each of the prompts.
- Make a list of values that have been important to you throughout your life. How has the importance of these values shifted during your life? What was important to you when you were young, and what’s most important to you now? How have these values influenced your life choices?
- Make a list of your major life accomplishments and write about why those accomplishments were important to you. Why do you value those accomplishments over others?
- What questions would you ask of your ancestors if they were here to tell you the answers? Write the questions, followed by why you’d like to know these details about their lives. Which of these questions will your ancestors want to know about you and your life?
- What have you dreamed of doing that you didn’t do? What are you still hoping to accomplish?
- What of your perceptions, knowledge, experience, and wisdom would you leave as a gift for others? For your children, grandchildren, or best friends? What gifts have others given you that you’d like to pass on? And what might be important for your future self to remember? What are you most grateful for about your life?
- Make a list of people you’d like to communicate your feelings to (past, present, alive or dead). Choose someone from the list who feels easy to write to, and chat with him or her in your journal, exploring your feelings about writing him or her.
- How would you like to remember your Self?
Finally, choose a person from your list (that person can be yourself) and write a letter, including whatever you want that person to know or remember about you. Write from your heart. You may choose to send the letter, or not.
Will you write legacy letters for yourself and/or others? Why or why not? Leave a comment and to share your thoughts.