But… I’m Not a Writer!

So, you think that you’re not a writer and therefore nobody wants to read anything you’d write.  I had one woman tell me that her plan was to put her lifetime of calendars and photos into a box and give them to her children and that would be her life story.  Why? Because “she wasn’t a writer”.

What would you rather have? A box of random items and photos to sort through or a chance to hear a loved one’s voice through their writing?  Maybe both?  But definitely we want to have a part of them in their own words!

I spoke in another post about my uncle who wrote his life story that I cherish.  That uncle couldn’t spell (for example, school was spelled skule), didn’t understand the rules of grammar, and struggled to choose the right word in places – spelled correctly or not.  BUT, every time I look through those notebooks he left me I hear his voice.  It is as clear as though he were talking to me on the phone.

The same experience occurs whenever I read the personal story of someone I knew well.  I actually prefer the imperfect style in personal histories than a polished well-honed ghost-written story.

Our system is perfect for writers and non-writers alike.  You open the program in your computer and just answer the questions in your own words and in your own inestimable style.  In the next few posts I’ll be answering practical how-to tips to make sure you get the most mileage out of every question.  But however you choose to answer each question – with details or not – you will leave your family a legacy that is beyond price.  Your story.  Your words.  Your voice.  What more could they ever want?

I’m Boring; Nobody Would Want to Read MY Story

One of the most frequent arguments (or dare I say, excuses) I hear for not writing a personal history is that “I’ve never done anything exciting in my life.”  That is usually followed by: “I was just a wife and mother”, or “I just held a boring job and never did anything else”, or the all-encompassing, “I’ve never done anything at all that anyone would be interested in reading.  My story would put the reader to sleep” excuses regularly.

First, there is no such thing as a nothing life.  Everyone, absolutely everyone who has taken up space on this earthly sphere has been influenced by and influenced other people.  Everyone has had experiences that have been unique to them.  Oh, some of the external circumstances may appear the same, but let’s face it: everyone’s individual background and DNA and influences make each story completely unique.  I handled my husband’s unexpected death differently than other people I know who went through an externally similar trial.  Why?  What is it in my background that made that so?  I can assure you that enquiring minds do want to know.

I learn the most from people who live quiet in-the-background kind of lives and do it well.  They go about affecting lives every day by simple means and never recognize the impact of their actions.

“Just a wife and mother”?  Please!  The poet William Ross Wallace penned, “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world”.  More and more empirical evidence is proving the validity of that statement.  The impact parents have – for good or ill – is immeasurable.  That means the stories of rearing their families and the experiences they had will be a great tool for future generations.

“I just held a boring job” excuse is equally silly.  Seemingly boring jobs make up part of a great whole of something.  And there are work experiences and co-workers and changes you’ve seen and all sorts of wonderful stories from a career, whether that career is glamorous or not.  So you weren’t a professional sports star, a prima ballerina, or the first man on the moon.  Those people are few and far between.  But who you are and what you did is definitely just as important in the lives of those around you.

As you go through the questions offered by The Write History you will discover just how much you actually have done in life.  You will see yourself in a new light and maybe even find that you’re a bit of a rock star in your own right.  They say that writing about yourself increases self-confidence and helps sort through personal crises.  Try it.  Find out just how much more fascinating your life has been than you ever imagined!

I Don’t Have Children, So I Don’t Need to Write My Story

The poet John Donne famously wrote, “No man is an island”.  The entire poem is exquisitely profound and thought-provoking.  And it is entirely accurate.  NO man is an island.  We are all part of the whole.

I had an uncle who was never married and never had children.  He had some learning disabilities which kept him from learning to read or write until he was an adult.  He worked for a fast food restaurant, as a tailor in his mother’s dry cleaning shop, and later as a van driver for special needs students.  He drove his fairly famous (also unwed) brother places as the brother couldn’t drive.  For personal fun he read vociferously and participated in historical reenactments.  In other words, by some standards he had no reason to write and share his personal history.  I spent a lot of time trying to convince him to write his story down, despite his many arguments.  He finally acquiesced and took some spiral bound notebooks and started writing.  He’d send copies of the handwritten pages to me, along with scanned pictures of different people in his life and from his past, every month or so.  I absolutely loved these pages!  I now have the original notebooks and I cherish them.  I learned so much from them!  I learned about my father’s childhood, about my grandmother, about the life of growing up with learning disabilities in the 1940s and 50s, and about the hardship of not having a father in his home.  I learned the real meaning of rising above adversity and what it means to endure in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.  I learned how to look for the positive in people, even when those people don’t treat you well.  I learned so much!

My aunt, my mom’s sister, was a relative I felt extremely close to.  I regret not having her story.  I’d like to know so much more about her!  Her story, even though she was but my aunt and not my mother or grandmother, would have been of great benefit to me.

All of us are products of so many different elements.  The people in our lives make such a difference.  To paraphrase that famous African Proverb, it really does take a village to raise a child.

So, you don’t have your own children or grandchildren?  You have others you have touched.  Trust me on this: they want and need to hear your story.  It matters to them.  Your hands, that reach out in an individual way, are part of the great family tree you are part of.  You have an influence.  Make sure your story continues to have an influence for generations to come.

What’s the Urgency? Why Should I Start Writing Now?

Admit it.  You think that writing a life story is something reserved for grandmas and grandpas after they’re retired and have lived very long lives.  I’m right, aren’t I?  Isn’t that what you’ve always thought?

Well, I’m here to tell you that that old stereotype is just that – an old stereotype.  Writing a personal history isn’t just for grandparents anymore!

But why?  Why now? Why should you, a busy younger person juggling jobs, family, volunteer work, and other pressures want to write your history now?  After all, you have a long life ahead of you with a retirement just replete with time for writing.  Maybe not early retirement, but at some point.  When you’re in that ambiguous category of “older”.

The truth is, however, that starting your history young is a brilliant way to go about it.  Think about it: when are you most likely to remember the events, people, and stories of your childhood – when you’re younger like today or decades from now?  I’m waiting for the answer.  Of course the answer is today, now.

But the paradox of being young enough to have the energy to do whatever you want to do is that you are too busy to do whatever you want to do.  Writing your history is just one too many things to add to your already busy plate.  Or so you think.

What if we offered a system where you could fill in stories when you had time?  What if the questions were laid out there for you and you just wrote when you could?  Then after you caught up to the present time you could just add your annual holiday letter or write a brief annual recap and put it in the same computer file as what you had previously written?  Just add a few pictures and maybe even a video every now and then and voila! you have a finished history whenever you need or want it.

Why now?  Because the present is the only time we can be guaranteed the ability to do so.  I can give numerous examples of people who wrote their stories while they were young and had grateful families as their loved ones descended into dementia or Alzheimers, had life-altering experiences that prohibited them from remembering or speaking or writing, or even passed away younger than expected.  I can share even more stories of those who regret not having the stories of parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles due to procrastination and then losing that person for the same reasons listed above.

Let me give you one quick example.  I’ll call her Karen.  She was a gifted pianist and accompanied various celebrities and professional choirs.  Her husband was a confidante of Howard Hughes – close enough that Hughes paid for their wedding.  She was an influential figure in education unions and a popular music teacher for decades.  She had trials and struggles that could have destroyed her, and yet she persevered and rose above.  And there is no written history of her life.  None.  Her friends and children have a few stories, but that is it.  For the past decade or so she has suffered from the ravaging effects of Alzheimers.  Those stories will never get recorded.  What a great loss.

It can’t be reiterated enough: one of the greatest gifts you can give loved ones, be they children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, siblings, or other loved ones, is the the legacy of your story.  You have touched them and influenced them.  Let that influence continue with the stories of what made you who you are.  They will thank you forever for that.

Start now.  Don’t put it off until you’re older.  It’s easy and it’s rewarding.  Why now? Because that’s the time you have!

Welcome to The Write History

At The Write History we believe that everyone has a story and that every story needs to be shared.  Why?

Many of you are familiar with the scripture from the Old Testament that the hearts of the children are to be turned to their fathers.  What a beautiful promise.  But what does it mean?  There are many different levels of understanding for that particular verse, but one that I want to talk about is the innate desire individuals have to understand the people who have gone before them.  Parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles.  Don’t we all want to know what they did, why they did it, and what exactly made them them?

I absolutely love reading about my grandmother and some of the amazing things she did.  Turns out that she and I have walked some similar paths – albeit many decades apart!  We were both married older, nearly the same age, in fact, and both of us were widowed about the same young age. It has helped me so much to understand how she withstood her trials and thus feel that I can withstand mine.  My mother’s musicality, which she got from her father, was passed on to me.  My father’s sense of adventure, as inherited from his father, has been passed on to my brother.  I love to read all of the stories of my family that I have.  Unfortunately there are too many holes.  What was my paternal grandmother really like as a girl?  What were her interests?  How about my paternal grandfather?  What made him who he was?  I’ll never know.

I’m afraid of that same lack of understanding existing for my daughter and her children.
For many years my dear husband sat down at his computer for his annual ritual of trying to write his personal history.  He started this when he was about 30.  He was a gifted writer and earned his bread and butter (with lots of jam) largely by his written words.  But for some reason this was a much more intimidating project.  But he was determined to overcome his writer’s block on this and every year, once a year, he’d announce his intention to finally write his story.  He’d open his laptop, stare at the screen, type, backspace and erase, type some more, erase some more, and sigh and mutter an awful lot through the entire process.  After about an hour he’d declare that he had absolutely no idea where to start, close the laptop and put it away.  When he very unexpectedly passed away at the age of 46, our daughter and I were left with no written history of Ben’s life.  We now only have memories of what he shared with us of his childhood instead of having the stories in his real words.  What a loss.

This experience has been the impetus for beginning this company.  No one should struggle in knowing how to write their story to the point that it never gets written.  Our system takes away that stumbling block and instead makes telling your complete life story simple and fun.

Make sure that when your loved ones want to better understand you and your life that they have the means to do so.  Let them have something to hold onto when their hearts are turned to you.  Start today.  Be the bridge between generations and don’t let your stories fade away, leaving nothing but distant memories behind.