A bona fide bookworm, my love of reading began in early childhood. Even though I possessed my own mini-library at home, I was always looking for new stories to read. Thus, I eagerly anticipated our occasional visits to the local public library.Read More
In answer to the title question: absolutely nothing.
The problem, however, lies in how you document them. Yes, photos provide visuals of where we were, who was with us and what it (and we) looked like. They’re incredibly important snapshots of our past – we treasure them and become devastated when natural disasters destroy them. But while it may be true that a picture is worth a thousand words, it doesn’t tell the whole story. And although a video records actions and sounds – most importantly our voices – it overlooks critical back story information.
That’s why I believe we should create telling experiences.
Telling, by definition, is effective and expressive. When you tell someone about finally getting that elusive hole-in-one on the golf course, your voice becomes excited and louder than normal, you use animated facial expressions and you might even incorporate arm gestures or reenact your swing in order to get your point across. In so doing, you generate anticipation and appreciation for your story that just might result in congratulatory slaps on the shoulder and high-fives from your friends. Alternatively, you will probably speak quietly, stand closer to the person with whom you’re talking, and use minimal hand gestures when sharing more sobering news such as the serious illness of a mutual friend.
Regardless of whether the story being told is happy or sad, you create an experience for your listener.
The same should hold true when you’re writing your life story. The goal is to hook the reader and get them involved in what you’re sharing. It doesn’t matter if you’re relating a family vacation, your climb to the top of the career ladder or the birth of your child – it should become a telling experience.
5 Tips to Achieve a Telling Experience
- Identify the challenge (e.g., agreeing on a vacation destination, statistical chances of attaining a hole-in-one, illness, etc.)
- Provide details (don’t go crazy, but do include enough information to set the scene and answer the basic who, what, when, where, why and how)
- Incorporate emotion – enable your readers to experience emotions by recreating your own through varied sentence structure, repetition, and/or strong word choice (avoid simply using an exclamation point to convey excitement).
- Share why overcoming the challenge was important to you
- Record what you learned from the experience
Once you have completed the above steps, put it aside for a few hours or even overnight. Then read it aloud – how does it sound? If you falter at any point while speaking it, then you know where you need to tweak it.
Ultimately, you must take the first step and start writing. Your legacy is waiting.
When it comes to staying healthy, we’ve all heard it before. You know: eat a sensible diet, exercise regularly, and get 8 hours of sleep every night. But did you know that reminiscing about the positive events in your life may actually improve your overall health?
When I recently stumbled across a back issue of Reader’s Digest, the article, “How Nostalgic, Happy Thoughts Make You Healthier: Boost your mood, ward off loneliness, and strengthen family bonds—all by thinking about your favorite memories” by Lauren Gelman (August 2013) immediately caught my attention.
The article stated that “Loyola University researchers discovered that thinking of good memories for just 20 minutes a day can make people more cheerful than they felt the week before.” I’m not a medical expert, but it sounds plausible to me. Why wouldn’t I feel happier after thinking about good memories?
This claim might help explain why people love to tell their stories. My clients often tell me how much they look forward to our next session. I had previously assumed it was because each of our meetings meant that they are moving one step closer to completing their goals, but perhaps part of it is also because our sessions revisit some of their favorite events and make them happier. (Disclaimer: I also encourage my clients to relate difficult moments of their lives so they can share critical life lessons to their readers, but I always strive to strike a balance between their positive and negative experiences. And generally, something good eventually comes from a bad experience as well).
The part of the article that I disagree with, however, is its advice to not write down those memories. It states: “‘There’s a magic and mystery in positive events,’ study author and psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD, told the magazine. ‘Analyzing the details—by writing them down—may remove some of that wonder.’”
Again, I’m not an expert nor do I have statistical data to back me up, but I believe that writing a memory allows you to extend your reminiscence, which in turn extends the duration of your happiness. While details might remove some of the wonder, I believe it’s much more important to document your experiences not only for your own temporary happiness and well-being, but also to ensure that a part of you – your memories and what’s most important to you – is preserved for future generations.
Thus, when you write your memories, you can reap physical and emotional rewards, and educate others in the process.
What do you think? Weigh in on the debate in the comments section!
Maybe your dad already has enough ties, grilling utensils, and sports paraphernalia. Maybe you’re tired of giving a standard Father’s Day card with money. Or perhaps you just want to give him something unique and meaningful this year. If any of these scenarios resonate with you, then consider giving dad something new: a tribute letter. Simply put, it’s a written document that relates your memories of him and why he’s important to you.
It doesn’t have to be sappy and sentimental (although it can be, if that’s what you desire). It can be humorous or matter-of-fact; let your personality shine through. It can span your entire lifetime and be chronological, or it can relate a select few memories in random order. And it doesn’t have to be professionally printed and framed. Just the fact that you’ve taken the time to record some of your favorite memories will mean a lot to your father.
Begin by jotting down some of your favorite memories of your time together, whether as a child or an adult – or both.
- What has he done that has meant the most to you?
- How has he supported you?
- What has he taught you?
- What’s something that perhaps he’s forgotten all about, or some small gesture that he might have considered insignificant but which had a lasting impact on you?
Don’t worry about length; just write what’s on your mind.
Of course, not everyone has a close relationship with their father for a variety of reasons. Maybe your dad wasn’t an active part of your childhood or maybe he was actually a negative influence. Regardless, you still have memories and you still learned things from him – whether or not he was intentional in teaching them to you. Maybe he wasn’t an ideal role model; maybe his actions actually taught you what not to do in life. Nevertheless, he is a part of your DNA and has impacted your beliefs and values. He helped to shape you into the person you are today. Maybe this Father’s Day is the time to share some of your most meaningful and positive thoughts with him.
One thing is certain: no one lives forever. Time is short and we should take advantage of the opportunities we have to let our loved ones know what they mean to us. My dad was not an emotional guy; he wasn’t someone who liked to share his feelings, and he certainly wasn’t prone to sentimentality. Yet a few days before he passed away, I sent him a letter in which I shared what I loved most about him and some of my favorite memories. When I called to ask him if he received it, I could tell that he was struggling to hold back tears as he simply said, “Yep.” Even though we didn’t talk any more about it, I know that he treasured that letter.
Ultimately, your life story is not about you alone; it also includes those individuals closest to you and your interactions with them. This Father’s Day, let your dad know what he means to you.
Have you ever written a tribute letter? Share your experience in the comments section.
First, let me define personal history. Whereas the term “family history” is almost universally synonymous with genealogy, personal history (also known as life story) is, well, more personal. In a nutshell, it documents your own life experiences and beliefs rather than those of your ancestors. This can be accomplished through a variety of ways: books, letters, journals, scrapbooks, video, blogs, audio recordings, or any combination of these methods.
I’m a bibliophile, so I focus on the written forms of personal history. So much can be learned from others, and written materials enable that wisdom to be preserved and provide readers with a glimpse of the authors’ personalities. When people write correspondence, you can almost hear their voice dictating what you’re reading. In journals, people often write about what’s most important to them at that point in time. If they’re farmers, the weather might be cited often because it’s vital to their crops or if they’re parents, entries might consist of children’s antics. Decades later, these reflections might seem insignificant to a casual observer, but to a descendent, it’s a literal piece of his or her past.
Consider how powerful it would be to read a book that was written by your grandfather; one in which he reflected on all of his most impressive memories – both celebrations and heartaches – and discussed what he learned from them and how they helped shape his beliefs. What a family treasure that would be!
That is exactly what you can provide to your descendents through your own personal history.
Of course, it’s not just descendents who can benefit from your life story; it can become a valuable research document for your local area as well. You don’t live your life in a bubble; you interact with others and live in a community. Your reflections can therefore serve as an important representation of what life was like in your area during a particular time period. Future historians will be grateful for your insightful commentary.
Writing a life story isn’t difficult, but it does require time, organization, and techniques to ensure accuracy, readability, and overall quality. You can write it yourself or you can hire a professional, but the key is to begin now. Although stories live forever, the opportunity to document them is limited.
Have you already started your life story? Leave a comment and let me know how it’s going!
If you have ever owned a camera, then you most likely possess numerous boxes and drawers filled with family photographs and original negatives. Despite your good intentions, they continue to languish in disorganized heaps rather than being artfully displayed in picture frames or creatively designed in scrapbooks.
Digital photos, too, can be reduced to mere clutter – they fill memory cards, slow down hard drives and get dumped into unnamed desktop folders.
What is the solution? How can you move from simply being the caretaker of those buried photos to being the curator of a display that can be enjoyed by all of your family and friends?
- Start Small
Even though this may seem obvious, tackle one stack at a time to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Recognize that looking at photos is an inherently slow process because memories are associated with each one. It is natural to stop and reflect for several moments before moving on to the next photo. Thus, you might consider videotaping the process so you can verbally and visually document the entire memory, rather than just labeling a name, place and date. This will make it much easier to expand on that particular memory and group of photos should you later decide to write your personal history or memoir.
- Gather Appropriate Supplies
When working with actual prints, always be sure to use archival, acid-free supplies such as pens, pencils (preferably no.4 or no.6), papers, photo albums and storage boxes. Not so long ago, it was common practice to simply write information on the back of a picture with whatever writing utensil happened to be within reach. However, the pressure of writing with the pen often causes an embossed version of the lettering on the front of the photo. Most people have also seen the detrimental affects of placing photos in old-fashioned cellophane-and-glue photo albums; the glue dries out, causing photos to fall out of the album (the glue itself sometimes damages the pictures) and the pages become brittle and yellowed. Archival supplies can be purchased at most craft and hobby stores, as well as online at specialty sites such as www.archivalmethods.com and www.gaylord.com.
If at all possible, take the time to scan each page of the old album before gently removing the pictures. This will not only safeguard the actual photos, but also preserve an image of the original handwriting and honor the time and effort it took a loved one to create the finished, albeit now defunct, heirloom. It’s also important to scan each of your loose photos from that heap in your drawer. This will digitize the images so that you can easily (and safely) store, share, and create prints from them. If you don’t own a flatbed scanner, a great alternative is a small mobile scanner (check out those offered at www.flip-pal.com).
- Photo Restoration
What can you do if a photo is cracked, the corner torn, or the color has faded? Thanks to today’s technology, you can try your hand at photo restoration with your own photo editing software. Most photo processing locations (including your local pharmacy chains and big box stores) also offer these types of minor restoration services. But what happens if your photos have experienced water damage? Contrary to popular belief, many of these photos can be salvaged. If you want to tackle the process on your own, check out the tips at http://www.scanmyphotos.com/blog/water-damage-dont-panic. You can also hire a qualified photo conservation professional.
Once your photos have been scanned, label them with as much detail as possible, and group all photos of a particular event in one folder (also appropriately labeled by event and date, if known). This should be done with both the physical pictures (placing them in acid-free albums or photo storage boxes) and the digitized versions on your computer’s desktop. Don’t forget to back up your pictures by saving them onto flash/thumb drives and/or uploading the photos to online photo storage sites such as www.smugmug.com or www.flickr.com.
- Create and Share
This is the fun part! After all of your hard work sorting, scanning, labeling, and preserving your photos, now you can get creative and produce tangible and/or virtual albums to share with family and friends. Online photo sites such as www.snapfish.com enable users to create customized photo books, calendars, gift cards and more. If you would like to create a photo book that includes large amounts of accompanying text, consider using a print-on-demand company such as www.blurb.com. Or, for those who embrace the Internet, www.pinterest.com can serve as a portal for family members to store and exchange photos, stories, and genealogical research.
Now that you have a plan of attack in place, go grab a handful of photos. Don’t expect to get through your entire collection in one day, but if you pace yourself and whittle away at it a little bit each week, you will soon have an empty drawer. Most importantly, have fun and enjoy the memories!
Have additional photo preservation tips to share? Please share them in the comments section.
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Dalene Bickel is an author, book coach and speaker who helps aspiring authors successfully write, develop and self-publish their books.
What My Clients Say:
I want to thank you for the smooth process you provided in the publishing of my father’s memoirs. Your patience and prompt responses with my questions were invaluable. Having had no experience, I felt I could trust and rely on your expertise, and we were thrilled with the final product!