If anyone ever says, “Yeah, you told me that one before,” that’s a clue the story is important to you. I know I told you to make a time line, but there’s no rule that says you have to write your life story in chronological order.You can use the time line for reference only, then write your stories in any order you want.Seventeen years after my Grandpa Bob passed away, my dad planned a family reunion at a park in Northern Utah.
If you make a general statement, think about the evidence you’d include if you had to prove you’re telling the truth.
For example, my cousin Natalie wrote, “I remember Grandpa always took very nice care of things.” If she had stopped there, it still would have been a true statement about Grandpa, but it became much more memorable when she added this detail: “If he used the weed eater, he’d wipe it off and put it back in the box.” Now tells a story about just how careful and meticulous Grandpa was.
Not only did he keep the original box for years and years, he also took the time to wipe off dirty lawn equipment before putting it away.
I loved that detail; I can picture him doing exactly that.
I’m so grateful to all of my cousins and aunts for contributing their perspectives, despite any writing insecurity they might have felt.
Now we have a well-rounded picture of this man we all loved, from those who knew him as a young father and those who knew him as an aging grandfather, from those who saw him daily and those who visited a few times a year. Typing is so much easier.” Let me just ask you this: Have you ever encountered a recipe written in your grandmother’s hand and thought anything other than, “Wow, I miss her.” Your handwriting is unique to you.As you write your stories down, you can add whatever structure to your memories you want. (Yes, I really do have a story about cheese.) Photos, keepsakes, clothing, and other objects can be wonderful memory triggers.Look through photo albums at relatives’ homes and see what stories come to mind. Plan a visit to a neighborhood or city where you once lived.Consult siblings, cousins, children, and other relatives to help round out your memories of a person or event.Natalie talked to two of her sisters before typing up the final list of memories she sent to my dad.Her words painted a vivid picture of him that made me miss him acutely.I didn’t once notice an ungrammatical sentence in that collection of memories. What matters is authenticity, voice, and perspective.It doesn’t matter how far behind you feel you are in capturing your personal history. Even if you don’t have time to delve deeply into the past right now, make a regular habit of capturing and collecting current thoughts and memories.The important thing is to capture them while they’re still fresh; you can always organize and rearrange your memories later.You are absolutely the best person in the world to write your story and your family history. They get together and reminisce and repeat some of the same stories over and over.You are the only human being ever born to this earth who has your unique perspective and life experiences. This practice adds structure to fragmented memories, making it easier to write them down later.