(This is a repost from December of 2010)
Writing your life story may seem to some egotistical. Many think, they need to live an extraordinary life in order to write a memoir. However, some of the most interesting life stories can come from those people who are perceived to be ordinary. Remember to your children, your grandchildren, your spouse and future generations you are far from ordinary.
Most family historians would be over the moon to find a diary or journal of a past ancestor. Therefore, we should be the first to set the example in recording the events, memories and emotions of our lives. As you move through this next week, take the time to journal the days ahead, whether they are ordinary or extraordinary.
With Christmas only a few days away, this coming week will offer plenty of opportunity to enjoy your family events, journal your thoughts and gather details that you can later use for your life story. Remember life stories can be recorded in many different formats. The autobiography of your life, a handful of heartfelt memories, it can encompass your entire life, a snippet such as one year, or one event or a collection of select memories. Accompanied with some wonderful snapshots you can create a very beautiful gift for your family. Nowhere is it written that a life story must take a typical format. It’s your creation, your choice.
I have assembled a few key principles to keep in mind as you enjoy your Christmas week and prepare to journal your experience for your life story.
- Grab a notebook, your laptop, your method of choice for recording and begin to write down your memories. You can begin with this upcoming week. Don’t feel you have to start at the beginning. Don’t feel you have to recollect everything from your past. If today is your first day of journaling then start today, this week. Slowly, over time you can pull from past memories. If you put pressure on yourself to recall your last 50 years, you will be overwhelmed and never begin.
- The most important resource you have for your story telling is your memory. Treat it like a database. What is the most important thing we must remember about databases? Back them up! Recording your memories immediately is you backing up your database. The longer you wait the more details begin to fade over time. Memories can be very fleeting, it is important to record them immediately, so they can be recalled, and cherished.
- When writing your memories, be it for personal use, or to write a life story, you should consider using all five senses. The five physical senses of sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste will bring a depth to your writing. Don’t just recall the meal as your family gathers for Christmas dinner. Instead, recall the taste of the food, the smell in the air, the sound of laughter, the conversations around the table, the Christmas music and most importantly the way this made you feel.
- Jot down notes while they are fresh in your mind. You don’t have to write the perfect story immediately. If you try to do that, you will again be overwhelmed and frustrated but do journal your immediate thoughts and details. Later, when the time is right, you can revisit them and begin the story writing process. These notes will become the building blocks to creating your life stories.
- No worries, if your memories are not entirely accurate. It doesn’t matter whether the tablecloth on the Christmas table was white or red, but rather the emotions you can convey to your readers of the experience of sitting at that Christmas dinner and making it real for them.
Remember these keys principles are not exclusive to recording this week’s Christmas memories but other family events or your everyday life. The important point is to record them creating a lasting document for future generations.