Somehow I was born with the genealogy gene. I love family history. I love the treasure hunt of finding connections with the when and wheres of the past – especially digging up the little gems of when someone, whose blood runs through my veins, affected the world in a positive way.
Writing a family story – or our life story – comes from somewhere in us. For me it comes from the question of how I ended up where I am – both in location, genes and personality. Where does it come from for you? What question is nagging at your gut? What fascinating story just has to be told? Or what memory do you want to preserve forever?
We can start so many places…just a thought, a memory, a stack of old letters…
Just write. Write what you remember, write questions you need to ask others, just write.
My great-uncle went through his family – starting with listing each person at the top of a page, then writing down dates, facts and various stories. Knowing that an older brother met his future wife riding a train, and mistook her young niece for a daughter but was still interested, amazing! Even the most basic details of going to school in a one-room building in the midst of Upper Peninsula homesteads is intriguing to someone whose children ride a school bus outfitted with wi-fi.
Make lists to expand on later. Fill out the basic details of a life – when, where, etc. Think of holidays, major events. The good, bad, horrible, and sad. It all counts. It all matters.
Can’t write? Tape the stories and let someone else edit them.
Still stuck? Find someone with the gift to bring out the stories you never knew you had.
Judy Budreau is one of those people who radiates hospitality, acceptance and an amazing gift of helping people fearlessly open up their lives. Check-out her website, and if you can, join us at the Blessing House for a class on writing about our lives (Sat. Jan. 11th, 9am-12pm, Blessing House, Victoria, MN, $30 donation). I highly recommend her to teach a class for your group, organization (she works amazingly with seniors!), or just brainstorm with her!
Kate Hopper is another I highly recommend. I just began reading her Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers. I’m only into the 2nd chapter, and already it has made a huge impact on my writing, let alone my life. I’ve read a lot of memoirs, books about how people “work”, and plenty of amazing works of literature. Yet, in only the first few pages…my emotions, thoughts, mind, body, everything…was challenged, in a good way. She offers an on-line class that goes through the book (the current one is full), as well as a week-long retreat (not a good time for my family schedule), and while I will be working through the book – I will need to take her class. (As soon as I finish the book – months from now??? I’ll write an official review.)
While you may not need to take it as far as I do – using writing as part of my spiritual journey – even writing down the bones (another good book) will get you where you want to go. Just write…and trust that your need to write, to explore, will lead you where you need to go.
Lord, help us to follow our needs, which are sometimes your calling, to see where they go. Help us to trust in ourselves, and in You, that the joys and struggles are exactly what we need. Amen.