Writing your personal story is THE MOST important aspect of family history, yet few people do it. Are you afraid of writing your life story? Do you worry the effort is not worth the time?
Writing your life story can be therapeutic. The process of writing our stories help us understand ourselves and our family dynamics.
Additionally, our stories add to the body of reference materials which historians use to document the lives of the less affluent, less famous, minorities, females, and so forth. With all the benefits of recording your story, why is it hard to accomplish the task?
Few memoirs and life story workshops discuss the fear that grabs hold of our throats and makes it impossible to tackle the project.
Worrying Took The Joy From My Accomplishment
As beta readers began reading chapters of “From Metal to Rhinestones: A Quest for the Crown,” panic kicked into high gear. I wanted to ask the readers to return their review copies and forget I ever asked for their feedback. Thoughts plagued me throughout the night keeping me awake:
- What if the readers hated the manuscript about a teenage quest for a beauty pageant crown?
- What if the feedback pointed out a plethora of errors but also not worth reading?
- What if they stop being my friends?
I live by the motto “capture and preserve family history so they will know” but the philosophy began to fail as my courage diminished. I may have finished writing my life story but now I didn’t want anyone to read it.
Writing a personal history exposes our vulnerability and that is discomforting. I thought,
- “Would my children really care about this story?”
- “Was the effort worth the time spent?”
- “Would any relative treasure the thousands of words I agonized over?”
- “Had I wasted the trees and digital megabytes necessary to create the book?”
As more and more negative thoughts filled my mind, I had to fight the fear that prevents many family historians from getting this far.
A Mind Shift Erased My Anxiety
Imagine for a moment that you are holding a book featuring the story, no matter how small, of your mother, father, grandparent, or favorite relative. They have passed away but their story lives on.
- Do you care about this story?
- Do you think the effort to record the story was well spent?
- Do you treasure the story?
For many, the answer is a thunderous, “YES!”
- Did they sacrifice trees unnecessarily for the book you are reading?
The correct answer, is “Heck, No!”
If you know that you would give nearly anything to know more about your favorite relative, then someone will feel the exact same about you!
Just as you crave details about the day to day challenges of your ancestors, your descendants will feel the same about you. This is the mind-shift you need to stop being afraid of writing your life story.
Do not let fear stop you from writing your story.
Ignore Other Triggers Making Your Afraid of Writing Your Life Story
Other fears creep up and may stop you from writing your life story. These may include:
- Fear of spelling and grammar errors
- Fear of speaking in an inauthentic voice
- Fear of sharing too little
- Fear of sharing too much
- Fear of sharing the wrong things
- Fear of including the wrong facts
- Fear of alienating family members if they ‘knew the truth’
- Fear of rejection of family members because they don’t like what you wrote
When it comes to grammar and style, use an editor. Then, if spelling and grammar errors remain, consider it your quirk. Also, realize that spelling and grammar rules have changed throughout history, so you’re just part of that change! (In other words, give yourself grace and write your story!)
With regards to what to include and what not to include, start with writing details that help us know what you thought and felt at the time. Include details that describe your choices and the people you know. Showcase your treasures and keepsakes and why you keep them. Then let your closest family members read your book to know what details they most want to have included.
Some of your family members might not appreciate your story if you tackle difficult topics. Be objective and factual and let the story stand. Even if you misremember details which caused family strife, record those stories as well. Never write a hit piece, but do record your story from your perspective so others can understand your choices.
The Pay Off Not Being Afraid of Writing Your Life Story
If you don’t stop being afraid of writing your life story, then you will leave your relatives wishing they had something with which to remember you. When you write your story, you may soon learn that your family will treasure this story so much.
Recording your life story is worth the effort. You can do it!