We all have things we have to do and things we want to do. Writing family stories is one of those things we put off until next week, next month, or that glorious day when we’ll have time.
Read on to find five tips that make it easier to break through the procrastination cycle and start preserving those precious family stories.
Break Down the Magnitude of the Task
A huge task invokes an anxiety factor that makes us want to procrastinate. We file that project further and further into the future under the one day heading.
When we think of “writing family stories” as an every-single-relative-and-ancestor-encompassing task, it doesn’t seem like something we can easily conquer. However, if tell yourself you’ll write a couple of stories about grandma, it’s doable and rewarding. Even fun.
Like researching ancestors, writing family stories can be an enjoyable pastime and a perpetual work in process.
A flexible framework for writing family stories will enable you to break your project into realistic chunks.
Additionally, the beauty of living in the digital age means you don’t have to processed methodically by family line unless you want to. You can proceed with capturing your memories of family members, things that you fear will be lost from family memory, or develop a theme such as family letters or recipes. Once you’ve compiled some stories, you can re-organize them as you desire.
Channel Your Passion when Writing Family Stories
The easiest stories to write are the ones you feel passionate about. Start with writing about people you remember or had a major influence in your life. Remember, your grandparents will be your children’s and grandchildren’s ancestors.
You can also start with putting the old familiar stories that are retold (and possibly embellished) at every family reunion to paper. As you recall the facts, focus on the emotions as well. Those are the stories that will connect.
Of course, the topic you know best is yourself. Be sure you tell your own stories. As the recipient of passed down memories, I can’t stress enough how important that can be.
Make First Drafts
Just write. You can (and must) edit your writing later.
A standard of perfection, or even pretty-darned-good, is another one of those things that spark anxiety that flares up into full-out procrastination. To paraphrase Stephen King, you have to allow yourself to write crap. Let your memories and thoughts flow as you write and keep going. Just write. You can (and must) edit your writing later.
Another trick I find helpful is to make yourself notes in brackets as you write. For instance, if you want to check the actual date of an occurrence or add historical context, you can type your self a note. [Check this] [Add source] [add context] Later, as you edit, you can use the find feature of your word processing program to quickly hone in on all those “[“ symbols.
Find a Writing or Critique Partner
Take a friend or relative along on your writing journey. This helps you have a sense of accountability and gives you someone to bounce ideas off of. For instance, Amy Johnson Crow’s #52Ancestors prompt has helped untold family historians get around to writing ancestor profiles and stories.
While your thinking about it, take five minutes and start brainstorming. What stories come to mind first? What is it that you want your children to know about you? What are the things you wish you knew about your grandparents? Make yourself a list of story ideas and start writing, a little at a time.
Need more inspiration? Look through the writing advice and prompts on this site or even investigate my book, Memories of Me: A Complete Guide to Telling and Sharing the Stories of Your Life.