The way we tell stories of our lives can shape our memories | Eva Wiseman

The trend to have personal documentaries made about our lives enables us to shape the narrative of the way we want to be remembered

A new industry is shaping itself around our memories. First there were the companies who could build a glossy family photo album overnight, bookish objects that ordered and elevated blurry phone pictures into a story of pure love and redemption. Recently, new businesses have launched with similar aims but higher ambitions.

Piling up in my emails are producers advertising services where they’ll “create family documentaries”, editing a day of interviews into a film – “a permanent memory of you”. Biographers are promoting retreats where guests will “write their life story”, while those who’d prefer someone else to do it can employ a ghost writer, with one company offering a package that includes a set of hardback memoirs from £7,500. For those at the end of their lives, a new charity called Stories for Life trains “life biographers” to record the memories of people in hospices, palliative care and residential homes: “We believe everyone has a story to tell and a legacy to leave behind.” Suddenly, ordinary lives are of note.

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