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Down Memory Lane: Memoir Maps with iPads

by Miguel Guhlin
memoir map

“Putting a narrative frame on our past—especially our struggles—promotes perspective and self-awareness that are otherwise out of reach for most people,” writes Greg Graham. This means that if you have ever experienced a trying time that left you bewildered, upset, or joyful without explanation, you should write about it. The act can be helpful. Externalizing our experiences helps us process. In this blog entry, we’ll explore this briefly as we consider what might be some valuable tools for creating a memoir map using an iPad.

Note: If you’re not sure about the benefits of concept maps and visual organizers, be sure to read this longer blog post on the topic.

In Search of Memory

“Indigenous villagers often sit together. They share the stories of their days. After each story, positive or negative, the villagers nod and say, ‘That’s a healing story.'” This account of the healing power of memory in story by cultural anthropologist, Angela Arrien, is cited in “The Power of Memoir: How to Write Your Healing Story.” What healing stories could you help your students map out in a classroom writing workshop?

Imagine being able to remember a hurtful event in the past, then write about it in a way that allows you to make sense of it. You can finally go on a journey of healing, confident that at the end of the journey, you will find peace. Memoir writing is one way to remember.

…telling your story—while being witnessed with loving attention by others who care—may be the most powerful medicine on earth. Each us is a constantly unfolding narrative, a hero in a novel no one else can write. And yet so many of us leave our stories untold, our songs unsung—and when this happens, we wind up feeling lonely, listless, out of touch with our life’s purpose, plagued with a chronic sense that something is out of alignment. (Source: Dr. Lissa Rankin, Psychology Today)

Shattered: A Memoir Map

What happens when a hero goes wrong? I remember one time when the adventurer in my unfolding narrative did something he regretted. For years, the hero carried the childhood story of guilt untold.

A few years ago, I decided to map out a memoir of that event. Just the act of mapping out the piece helped me externalize my feelings so I could better manage and learn from it.

While there are various apps for mapping out your memoir, consider using one of the following:

  1. Ideament (free but $2.99 with in-app purchase) – This is my favorite concept mapping tool–and I’ve tried the expensive ones–because it’s easy to use and inexpensive. It features Dropbox support and exporting to multiple file formats.
  2. Popplet ($4.99) – The free version lets you create just one popplet, while the paid version lets you share content you create with others.
  3. iThoughtsHD ($9.99) – A powerful app that is compatible with other desktop graphic organizers.
  4. Total Recall – MindMap (Free) – A free, easy to use mind mapping tool.
  5. Penultimate (Free) – A nice app that you can type and/or “write” in with your finger or stylus.

Worth the Journey

The power of memoirs, and planning a memoir as a concept map, can engage reluctant writers in ways we seldom consider (source: A Study of Memoir). Mapping out your memoir can also help you and your students tap into a treasure trove of memory. Take a walk down Memory Lane, won’t you? It will be worth the journey!


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