Emily shares her first list of tips for writing your personal and/or family history, and how to get past some of the common roadblocks to writing a personal history.
Keeping track of your personal history is something that a lot of people find intimidating. There are many roadblocks to getting it done: “I don’t know what to write. I don’t have time to do it right now. I don’t know how to do it, and no one even cares if I do it or not” are some of the excuses I have heard over and over. But I’m here to tell you today that every single one of those roadblocks is very easy to overcome!
First roadblock: “I don’t know what to write.”
Finding things to write about is intimidating. Do you record the main events of life or little things? How much in detail do I need to go? I have found that it really takes a little bit of both the big stuff and the small stuff. I recommend starting big and then going small—write a basic timeline of your life, record the dates of important events, then start filling in with smaller events and every day things. There are also journaling prompts in books and all over the internet.
Second roadblock: “I don’t have time to do it right now.”
This is one excuse I hear a lot from people, but really, it’s a matter of priorities. Instead of watching TV, take a half an hour to record something from your past or something that happened that day. (Or you can even do it while watching TV if you are a good multi-tasker.) If you don’t even have time to watch TV, you can still record just one little thing in 5 minutes if you commit to just doing it. Often we think that we need to do some elaborate writing that will take hours to edit and perfect. I personally think that even making a small list on a sticky note and putting it in a notebook with others like it is just as great of a way as writing a whole diatribe! And don’t forget that you can record your personal history along with your family! Get the whole family involved. Set aside time each week to all work on it. Doing this together will not only bring you closer to one another, but will create the time needed to accomplish your goal.
Third roadblock: “I don’t know how to do it.”
Like I already mentioned, I like to focus on the fact that how you do it, is not as important as just doing it. Here is a list of many different ways I’ve thought of to record your history.
-Use the computer and a word processing program. You can make one file folder (mine is labeled “Personal History”), and save each topic individually in your folder, or you can make one long document with all your history. You can add pictures when you want to as well using this method.
-Start your own personal history blog (that you can make private or public, depending on who you want to see it), and write your history. Blogs are great because you can not only write, but you can post a video, add pictures or even scrapbook layouts.
-Make a scrapbook layout (digital or traditional) about a specific topic about you.
-Write it in a journal—an age-old solution, but still a good one! Plus, those who someday read it, will get to see your handwriting and mistakes you made—making you more real!
-Take (or find) pictures from your past that make you smile. Put them together in a photo album. You can save one of the slots to hand write about the pictures on that page on a 4×6 piece of paper (acid free to keep from destroying the picture on the other side of it), or you can make a 4×6 answer on your computer in a photo editing program, and print it off with your other pictures!
-Make a video. You can do this by either taking pictures and adding music to it (like a slide show), or by using your video camera and record yourself talking about you.
-Make an audio file of you talking about your history. You could do it in the car on the way to work, while getting ready for the day, in one of your favorite locations, or while you’re sitting in bed.
-Write a poem about an aspect of your life. Some people are very talented in this area!
-Make a digital photo collage or album through an online site. Add to it regularly.
-Focus on one topic and make a list of things about you concerning that topic.
-Create a table in a word processing program. Choose one topic and fill it in with what you did in the past, what you are doing in the present, and what you hope to do in the future.
-Publish a photo book through an online site, with old pictures and stories about them. This is great because you can make multiple books in one easy click of a button!
-Draw some things about you. For example you can draw your favorite foods. (This would be especially fun for younger children to do!)
-Do it together as a family! Set aside a specific day every week to get together. Think of a topic and everyone can record about themselves in one of the ways above.
-Interview your parents, grandparents, or other close family members or friends, and have them tell you stories about them. This would be so cool for you and your family to have when they pass away!
Fourth roadblock: “No one even cares.”
This is so untrue! Everyone has a story. EVERYONE! Record what makes you, YOU. There is only one you, and you are loved by so many people. You possess unique talents, habits, and quirks that no one else has. You think and feel differently. You say and do things that no one else would do. Share those things that make you unique!
It would be a tragedy to not leave anything behind for your friends and family to remember the real you by. Help your family remember who you really are now, and who you were in your younger years by recording your history before it’s too late. With a little bit of determination, time, and thought you can overcome those roadblocks and record your story before you know it!
I enjoyed reading this article on Personal and Family Histories. I completed my mother and father’s history just a few weeks before my mother passed away. I have an aunt is is 98 years old and I am working on her history. I have others that I am also doing; but I haven’t started mine. I liked some of your ideas for collecting and etc.
Thanks for the this post!