This is where you’ll learn how to write your own personal history. Some might call it memoir writing, but that sounds a bit formal to me. You’ll find that in this class, there’s really no wrong way to do things. Personal history is, well, personal and it’s pretty much up to you how you shape it.
Throughout May, designated as Personal History Month on Chase’s Calendar of Events since the mid 1990s, I’ll be giving you tips on how to collect and organize material to write your own personal history.
My credentials can be found by clicking the “About” section in the left column, but for now, you can call me Professor Lehmer, an honorary title I just wanted to see in print once. Or you can call me Larry. I’m the founder and president of When Words Matter, Ltd., a personal history and business editing company in Des Moines, Iowa.
The course will cover the basics of putting together a personal history in what I hope is a very non-threatening way. There’s no registration requirement, attendance won’t be taken and there will be no assignments or tests. You don’t have to be a genealogy expert or accomplished writer, either.
The biggest thing you can bring to this class is a sincere desire to preserve your life’s story in writing. To be successful you’ll have to make a commitment to yourself to get it done. I’ll help by giving you the tools and tricks of the trade to be successful and, perhaps, a little inspiration. But, after that, it’s up to you.
The first things we’re going to tackle are the issues of time and space.
One of the bigger mistakes people make in a family history project is to get all gung ho at the start. They may spend several hours a day on their work, spurred on by the rush of doing something that is fascinating and new. This tactic is unsustainable, however, and they usually burn out quickly. Don’t let this happen to you. It’s better to plan to spend a few minutes each day on your project than to schedule unachievable mega-sessions. This should be fun, not an endurance test. So find a slice of your busy day that you can devote to your project and stick to it as best you can.
You also should be finding a comfortable space to do your project. Ideally, it will be quiet and free of distractions, well-lit and cozy, the kind of place where you can relax and think fine, uncluttered thoughts.
Tomorrow we’ll start organizing and shaping your project. Hint: think three-ring notebook.