Memories are funny things. You may remember vivid details of some things that happened to you decades ago while details of more recent events are fuzzy or even forgotten altogether. Random bits and pieces of our past flit in and out of our memory banks at the most curious times.
True, some people have sharper memories than others. Some people are just better observers than others. As you work on your personal history project, it’s inevitable that you’ll find yourself frustrated by your lack of recollection of something you want to include, but just can’t come up with the necessary detail.
It’s OK to look for help.
Perhaps the best way is to talk to friends or relatives who either shared the same experience or who are at least knowledgeable about it. Their recollections may jump start your own memory or at least give you the details you need to include the story. Or, they may confuse you.
It’s very common for two versions (or more) of the same story to find their way into family lore. I always tell clients that the best way to make their version the preferred one is to get it down in writing first. If you find conflicting versions of the same story during your project, you’ll just have to determine which version is accurate to you.
The issue of what to include in your project must be a reasoned, personal decision. The best benchmark is to consider what is appropriate for your audience. What you include or leave out is ultimately up to you.
Humorist Will Rogers had this to say on the subject: "When you put down all the good things you ought to have done, and leave out the bad ones you did do - well, that's a Memoir!"
Monday: Gathering and using your own memory joggers.
This is Lesson No. 4 of a mini-course on how to write a personal history. The course will continue throughout May, which is Personal History Month. To get future lessons delivered to you, you may subscribe to our RSS feed or get e-mail delivery to your inbox. It’s easy. Details can be found in the column to the left of this post.