Tell Your Story! for Yourself, for Others, for Posterity!

When I was in high school, one of my English class teachers gave us the assignment to write our own obituaries.   We were to write it as if we were predicting the future by telling about a past that had not yet happened.

I wrote about my 97 long years, telling about how I made my first million before I was 30, wrote the great American Novel and found a cure for cancer.   Well, life hasn’t quite turned out as I planned.  I’m still working on that first million, my writing consists chiefly of emails and text messages and I’m hoping I don’t get cancer!

As I read obituaries, I often wish I knew more about the person.  How did their lives matter?  Whom did they touch?  How was the world changed because of their presence? I wonder, what were the stories of their lives?  Did their stories die with them? I wonder if those stories are lost forever.

What about your story?

I know what you may be thinking. . . I don’t have time to write memoirs. . .I wouldn’t know where to begin! Or even,. . . my life isn’t that exciting.

I had those same thoughts!  But what got me writing were not my own stories, but another’s.  I was concerned that my Korean-born mother-in-law’s stories of her struggles growing up and of her early years in the United States would be forgotten, that they would just fade away, lost to future generations. That thought motivated me to record a few interviews with her, write her stories down and give a short book of them to each of her children and grandchildren for Christmas in 1998.  Several years later, I discovered photobooks as a way to record personal history.  I have made about 20 photobooks, telling the stories of vacations, weddings, memorials, an adoption and more.   Last year, I compiled some of my own writings, primarily from speeches, into a book of  “Stories and Words of Wisdom for My Children.”  I don’t think any of my children have read it yet (they are 17, 18, and 21), but it will be there when they are ready.  Just this summer, I compiled 18 years of letters from and to my daughter’s birthparents, along with some school essays that my daughter wrote.  I called the book With Love and gave copies as gifts to my daughter and her birthparents.

Perhaps I got the story-telling bug from my Aunt.  My Aunt, a prolific poet and family historian, interviewed family and neighbors, interweaving their stories into books, preserving stories for generations.  She also assisted my mother in the last months of her life to finish her final book on all the cats in her life, A Houseful of Cats.

So, what about YOUR story? If you are at all inspired to get started, here are some tips:

1.  Why?  You must have strong motivating factors for wanting to write.

–leaving a little bit of yourself (or someone else) behind for posterity

–giving others the benefit of wisdom and experience

–documenting so you and others don’t forget

–giving as a gift

–processing life events and gaining new perspectives

–getting material for speeches, holiday letters, books, etc.

2.  What?

–Entire life stories,

–specific events or times (childhood, birth of first child, vacations, etc.)

–Thematic–Christmas over the years, Pets owned, etc.

–Compilations of stories, poems, speeches, letters

2. How? Ways to record your personal history (also source material):

  • Journals/Diaries
  • Letters
  • Holiday Letters
  • Speeches
  • Calendars
  • Documents
  • Photo albums
  • Scrapbooks
  • Memorabilia
  • Video recordings
  • Audio Recordings
  • Emails
  • Blogs (online journals)
  • Personal or family websites
  • Facebook
  • Youtube

3.  When?  Pick a goal and get started!

Start with what you already have (see above)

4.  Binding–quick and easy:  Comb binding at a local copy store

More professional:  Lulu.com

Tell your stories.  If you don’t do it for yourself, do it for someone else!

In 2007, During the final week of my mother’s life, I gathered photos and made a memorial website, finishing it on the day she died.  To tell her story.  I also wrote her obituary, the first I’ve ever composed.  How do you tell the story of a person’s life in 300 words?  How do you capture the unique treasure that is every individual?  You don’t.  Not in 300 words, anyway.  Don’t let your stories die.  Tell your stories now.

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About Diane Windingland
I speak for organizations that want their people to have better, more profitable conversations.

One Response to Tell Your Story! for Yourself, for Others, for Posterity!

  1. Paulie says:

    Love this post. Your tips support the reasons I wrote the book about our community. Now, I am in the process of capturing my story for others to learn and grow. Thanks for sharing the info!

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