Any large project can easily become overwhelming, unless you break it down into manageable parts or pieces. “Don’t try to eat the elephant at one sitting.” Writing a life history is no exception. Each week this column will give you an important piece of the total writing process: a topic to explore or some suggestions for accomplishing this important task.
You do not have to write chronologically starting with your birth and continuing until your old age or death. There are other options like making a collection of vignettes or episodes. Let’s start with that approach and then later you can edit the parts into any format that you desire including the chronological layout or timeline.
Maybe there’s a special experience you’d like to share with your loved ones: your military experiences, courtship days, work challenges, religious conversion, etc. Start writing today about what interests you. Small note cards or an electronic device carried around can be helpful to capture bits and pieces as they occur to you. If you are interviewing someone else to write his or her history, have a storage device (notebook, tapes, CDs, etc.) to preserve your writings. (Photos of me as a baby and with my dad.)
Start compiling these notes at the computer or with paper and pen in hand or with some kind of audio or video recorder to capture details of your story. It doesn’t have to be perfect now. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar or punctuation that comes later when you edit and put together your rough draft. I know you still have your own manual or electric typewriter that you could use, but at some point you will need to transfer all your writings to a computer for easier editing and publishing. Even if you don’t own such a device, someone in your family or neighborhood has one that can assist you.
Find a support buddy, a spouse or trusted friend, even a grandchild who is willing to help you and keep you on tract with this quest to share what you’ve learned along the way as you’ve lived your life. If you’ve already finished your life history,congratulations. Choose someone in your family that needs their story written and work on that project, perhaps a grandparent or parent or even a loved one who has recently passed on. Each person’s life is a unique story that needs to be told and valued as a family legacy.