Now that you’ve found the perfect place to write your personal history and have carved out some quiet time in your schedule, let’s begin by deciding what you’re going to be writing about.
The assumption in this class is that you’re writing about yourself, but the techniques we’ll be using can be easily adapted to any family history project by asking the same questions of others instead of you. In any case, you’ll need to lay down a few ground rules.
First, who are you writing for? As you sort through the myriad elements of your life, it will help you decide what to use if you consider who your audience actually is. What do you think your readers will want to know about you?
Second, what time period do you want to cover? While it’s perfectly fine to cover your entire life, it’s possible that your intended audience is only interested in part of it. It may be a question of breadth vs. depth. Obviously, it takes longer to explore your entire life in depth than it would take to explore just a certain portion. Consider, then, the time you’re willing to commit to the project. It’s better to plan small and build than to plan large and not be able to deliver on your promise.
Third, where will the material come from? Even if you consider this a true memoir, welling up from your own thoughts and memories, you’ll need some prompting. We’ll go into prompts in some depth later, but it’s a good idea to make a list of those people, places and things that will evoke the memories you want to complete your project.
It’s a good idea to take these ground rules and put them in writing. Consider it a sort of mission statement. You can even write it that way, of you want. Then take your ground rules and put them at the front of a three-ring, loose-leaf binder. By being the first thing you see every time you open the binder, you have a constant reminder of what your task is.
In following lessons, we’ll be filling the binder with the memories of your life.