Story and Why
"Your Life is Your Story" Blog Archives
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November 28, 2013
in the United States it is the Thanksgiving Holiday. This is one of my
favorite times of the year, a time to count blessings, gather with
family and eat a big meal. Traditionally, it is turkey, along with
plenty of side dishes.
Thanksgiving is also a terrific time to spend finding out more about
our life journeys. If you have multiple generations together then you
have an audience for the storytelling. Along with some humor and
wonderment a few bits of family wisdom and values might get passed
Last year about this time I wrote Ten Good Life Story Interview Starters.
Take a look; perhaps there are some good tips for you to use with
relatives. The idiom, "talk turkey" is sometimes interpreted as
straight talk or really meaning business. I think "talkin' turkey" with
family members can be fun and revealing.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
Listen and Record a Story
November 26, 2013
In just a few days it will be Thanksgiving. Annually the day after
Thanksgiving has become something special for personal historians and
people interested in preserving family life stories. No, not Black
Friday. It's the National Day of Listening, started by StoryCorps. Mark your calendar for 11/29/13 and check out some of the suggested questions and how to upload your brief oral interview.
Where to Write
November 24, 2013
I previously wrote about the willingness to write.
Being willing gets you out of the starting gate. Doing the regular hard
work of writing requires effort and willingness is a key to beginning.
But there is a lot more to the ongoing writing process.
One of the things that can help is to have a regular place to
write. I have two: one is in my home office (where I am currently
composing this post). The other is on my laptop. The location of the
laptop changes. So I'm taking a bit of liberty with the "2nd writing
location". Often I am at the kitchen table or plopped on the couch. But
I could just as easily be at a coffee shop with my laptop computer,
enjoying a cup and doing a bit of people watching for inspiration.
Regular writing locations go hand-in-hand with regular writing times.
Set a schedule and stick to it. Even if you find when you are at your
writer's spot that you have nothing to write about stick with it.
Spend the time free-writing, whatever comes to mind. Or even write
about how you have "nothing to write about". Sometimes that will get
the juices flowing.
Another place to consider for writing would be a specific destination,
a writer's getaway. Writer workshops and writer retreats are examples.
When you commit to spending a day, weekend, week or more to the process
of writing you may very well get a lot accomplished. Some of that will
be during those specific days. Some of it will come later, the
rewarding inspirations that come to you as a result of the thoughtful
period of a writing retreat. That is a most welcome muse.
Consider attending a writing workshop or retreat. It can be a powerful way to make real progress on your stories.
Willing to Write
November 19, 2013
Many people desire to write about themselves. They want to share their
life experiences. They hope the inner journey of reminiscing and then
putting down on paper their thoughts, emotions, hopes and dreams will
help them make sense of their life. And I would agree with this.
How do you get started? That's a question I regularly get on emails and
from people I chat with regarding life story work. That is a very good
You start by first making a commitment. You decide that you are going to do it.
But that still doesn't get the job done. Making a decision is a
necessary first step. Following through with action is critical. If you
don't then you won't have a preserved life story. If nothing
changes, nothing changes. It's as simple as that. And as profound.
I believe it begins with a willingness. Not just at the start, but
always. I know from personal experience that you won't always be
willing to write. However, if you make a decision to become willing
that may be all it takes.
They are many techniques and work steps if life story writing. Set a
schedule to write. That could be every day at a certain time. It might
also be three times a week at three different times. Do what works. But
set the schedule.
Make a list (memory list, critical life events,
timeline). That really helps. Making that list helps you to start
organizing ideas and it prevents writer's block. You can always return
to your list when you can't think of anything to write about.
Have some passion for the project. I personally think this passion is
already inside anyone who considers saving their story and passing it
on as part of their legacy. But you have to fan that spark and get the
fire stoked. What does that is the process of the work. Sometimes you
will get bogged down. If you persevere, however, you will have many
satisfying breakthrough moments. And that will help your willingness.
See how it all comes full circle?
APH Conference a Rousing Success
November 18, 2013
The reviews have been coming in to the Association of Personal Historians
Listserve and everyone who attended the annual conference just held in
Washington D.C. has been raving. The workshops, network opportunities
and valuable education have all been mentioned. I am sorry I wasn't
able to attend, but once again the value of the APH is clear from the many who did go. It is especially valuable for new members.
Every year the interest grows in people wanting to preserve their
legacy in the form of a memoir, photo record, video biography or other
means of family and personal history. The technology continues to make
it possible to do things in various ways. And the work of personal
historians is challenging, yet very rewarding. We get to help people
save the stories of their lives.
If you are thinking of perhaps doing work in the personal history field I urge you to investigate the APH. Membership has great value and their are three different levels to choose from. Find out more at their excellent website.
Mention my name when you join and I will be happy to talk to you as you
start your business. That's what others did for me and this form of
"paying it forward" helps us all.
Next year's conference is set for October 22-26, 2014. It is a return
to the "Gateway City" of St. Louis. Initial information is online here.
Photos without Names
November 12, 2013
I came across a blog posting by fellow APH
member Deborah Tomasetti Perham about finding people's stashes of
photos and the misfortune of people in them not being identified. I
have a feeling this could be widespread in many people's photo albums.
I'm guilty of some of this.
Not knowing who people are in a photograph means something is lost in
our history. Taking the time to write on the back of the photo or keep
some sort of log can be of great help when you finally put together
some family history scrapbooks, photobooks or life histories. On the
web it is very easy to "tag" a photo. Not so with the actual photos.
Deborah mentions the thrill of finding a trunkload of pictures in her
grandmother's basement after she passed away at the age of 97. The
excitement turned to frustration when she discovered not one of the
pictures had an identifier.
So, now what are you going to do with your photo albums? Time to get
out a marker and note for posterity those family members and friends.
Future generations will thank you for it.
Center for American War Letters
November 10, 2013
Letters are often a way to travel back in time. Reading letters
from years past brings us up close and personal with history. The Center for American War Letters
collects the correspondence of war veterans from every American
conflict. Yes, handwritten missives from the Revolutionary War, Civil
War, World War I & II, Korea, Vietnam and others. And they are
continuing with emails sent from Iraq and Iran.
Andrew Carroll has been collecting war letters for the past 15 years as part of something called the Legacy Project
(this name is also been used for some other organizations that are
preserving personal history). Now he's donating his large collection The Center for American War Letters. What a tremendous Veteran's Day gift.
Those who serve in war face grim realities that are very often difficult to discuss. The Veteran's History Project
is dedicated to collecting the stories of veterans who are willing to
share about their experiences. But these letters written by veterans is
another way of preserving their legacy. Once again Your Life Is Your Story salutes our veterans on this year's Veteran's Day (November 11, 2013), including my father. I wrote about him when after he passed away in January, 2012, including some of his Vietnam experiences.
Lifewriting Month is On
November 4, 2013
Anytime you work on your life story is good. But sometimes we respond
better to specific times when we are given the opportunity to focus on
our stories while at the same time getting the help we need.
Over at The Memoir Network they are working hard to provide great assistance to lifestory writers. They are observing Lifewriting Month throughout November. Find out more about the resources offered for NILM (November is Lifewriting Month), including a great special on the Memoir Start-up package at nearly half price. It's just $69 and a real bargain considering all that comes with the package.