covid-19 virus stay at home cartoon

“Keeping a journal of what’s going on in your life is a good way to help you distill what’s important and what’s not.”

Martina Navratilova

Writing Your COVID-19 Memoir

Why write about COVID-19?

Writing your COVID-19 memoir is one of the most positive ways to spend time while you’re stuck indoors. Although we tend to think of memoir writing as an activity that older people do, it is the perfect way for all of us to explore our thoughts surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and the effect that it is having on our lives. As an amateur historian, I also like the idea that we can look back on how we felt at the time – and possibly also share it with others in the future.
Reasons to write include:

  • To explore your feelings and come to terms with them
  • So that you remember the things that you find important now
  • To share with others later, and compare experiences
  • To remember the good things, as well as the bad
  • To have a sense of creating something and being positive

How to start writing your COVID-19 memoir

Getting started on your COVID-19 memoir is easy – there’s no preparation needed at all. It can be a bit daunting though, so here are some things to consider:

  • Would you prefer to write in a diary or journal or is typing on a laptop or computer better for you?
  • You might decide simply to record your own voice – chat to yourself, as if to a friend. Often this is the most frank and involving type of account when it is complete.
  • Will you simply write your own thoughts and experiences of COVID-19 or are there other people you can interview?
  • If you want to interview, decide whether to phone them or use a video call if they are not in your household at the moment
  • Think about whether you should record what people say, so that you write their part accurately. You can use your phone’s built-in voice recorder or similar. No need to buy expensive equipment.
  • Decide on some themes – more about this below

What to include in your COVID-19 memoir

It is worth spending some time thinking about what themes to include in your COVID-19 memoir. You might want to consider some of those listed below but almost anything that occurs to you is absolutely fine.

  • Food – has the COVID-19 situation meant that there is anything you haven’t been able to have; new recipes or foods that you’ve tried; who did the cooking? Is that unusual? What will you eat when you can get out again?
  • Friends – have you missed your friends? How have you tried to keep in touch? What would you be doing that you can’t at the moment? Have you discovered anything new about your friends while apart? What will you do when you see each other again?
  • Family – how different is it being together all the time? Is anyone missing from your usual household? Have you discovered anything that you didn’t know about your family members?
  • Work – Is anyone working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, who doesn’t usually? What household changes have been made, in order to make working from home easier? What technologies have helped? Is anyone working outside the home in a key worker role? How do you/they feel about that? What worries associated with work have you encountered and how have you been dealing with them?]
  • News – how have you been keeping up with news about COVID-19? Has 24-hour news been a good thing or bad?
  • Entertainment – have you been surprised by your choices when it comes to keeping yourself entertained? Have you got out your old board games; started learning something new or taught a skill to someone else?
  • Money – is it cheaper or more costly to live under COVID-19 conditions? What money worries do you have? Have you made savings or economies?

Recording your emotions during COVID-19

Some people find it easier than others to discuss their feelings. Some people react well to a crisis, whereas others find it challenging. Have you had to call on your own resources in an unexpected way? Where have you looked for help in dealing with the trickier emotions? Did your feelings change over time – for the better or worse? Some people call in a faith or practise mindfulness to cope with times of stress – did that work for you? You might not want to share your most private feelings or you might find that it is cathartic to write down how you felt and you feel much better for doing it.

Did COVID-19 make history?

Try to explore how you feel the COVID-19 pandemic made history. What events in your experience have been similar, though maybe on a different scale? Do you think your parents or grandparents experienced anything that compares with what you are going through at the moment? Was something like, for example, Word War 2, worse and if so how? How do you think future generations will look back on this event – will it be momentous or a minor difficulty that we had to cope with? What do you think will change forever and what will we learn?

What to do with your COVID-19 memoir

You might not want to do anything after writing your COVID-19 memoir. You can simply put it aside to read at some point in future.
Alternatively, you might decide to publish your memoir in some form. You could write a blog or website; you might try self-publishing or you could send it to an agent or publishing house (though there is always a lot of competition and your account would need to be strikingly original in some way to succeed). Whatever you decide, you will be able to look back on your account as a little moment of your life that (hopefully!) will never be repeated – a true moment in time.
Good luck with your writing and if you have any questions, please get in touch and I will try to help out.

Sue Kelso Ryan copywriter logo

I very much enjoyed working with Sue Kelso Ryan while she was writing copy for a new website and I’m delighted with the end result! … I would highly recommend Sue and indeed, I hope to work with her on further projects in the future.

Dr Mike Crisp – Jan 2016