We hear it every day. "I want to record something of my life, but I'm just so darned busy." It's the number one refrain we hear (aside from "my life's just not that interesting," which is a subject for another post). Many of us get hung up on the fact that when we write something, it has to be BIG -- a comprehensive single volume that will take years to complete, so we might as well wait until retirement. (Except that we mostly hear the "I'm too busy" refrain from folks who are retired already!) So here are a few "cheater" ways to record some life stories.
Write a memoir on your lunch hour
One of our favorite clients from a few years ago, Jerry Mortensen, taught us a lesson about squeezing something important into a busy day. Jerry had been scribbling down a little story about his life on whatever piece of paper was handy, whenever he had a few extra minutes. Then he'd shove it in a drawer. After a few years of doing this, he had quite a collection of stories! Because the stories were written so spontaneously, they were fresh and funny and absolutely delightful. He gave them to his daughter, who typed them up and brought them to us with a few photos. Jerry was worried that he had "done it wrong," because he hadn't really thought it out or made an outline. He'd just write down stuff as it came to him.
Jerry's book was completed in time for a birthday party held in his honor. Some of his family members had devised a clever "This is Your Life" kind of party game from Jerry's stories. The grandchildren ate it up, competing to see who knew more about Grandpa's life. Hilarity ensued and a good time was had by all.
A short time later, Jerry passed away quite suddenly. Overnight, those stories that Jerry tucked away in a drawer, a few minutes at a time, took on new significance as a legacy for those he left behind. (Most families aren't that lucky--sadly, most of us die with our stories untold.)
We have since had quite a few clients who have scribbled their stories on a legal pad during their lunch hour or while waiting in the doctor's office. Their finished books are proof that you don't have to wait until retirement or until you have a month's vacation to get this started. Just a few minutes will do.
Focus in on a narrow scope
Who says you have to write the whole story all at once? Not us, certainly. Doing a short book about a narrow time period, a single experience, or a correspondence is a great way to record something, which is so much better than nothing.
A friend of mine once created a book of lunch bags. Her devoted hubbie was in the habit of writing an adorable note on a brown paper lunch bag every day before filling it with goodies and sending it out the door with her. She kept them all, photographed them, and made a photo book from it. What a great love story! Do you have a stack of correspondence from a loved one? A collection of emails from the two years your son spent in Honduras? Postcards from a special trip? Any sort of memorabilia that tells a story can be scanned and put in a book with very little additional narrative.
I've known more than a few couples who take a voice recorder with them on a long car trip. Interview one another while you're driving and you'll be guaranteed not to fall asleep at the wheel. When you get home, have the stories transcribed and do a little editing, and voila! You have a memoir.
A day in the life
Here's a great idea for a relatively quick memoir project: look over your old planners, diaries, or calendars, and write one story about one significant thing that happened to you in one year. Then pick another year and write another one. If you write one story for each year of your life, you will have an amazing overview of some of your most significant moments.
I know some devoted moms that make a photo book each year for their families, adding a few photos, a few stories, a few moments that made that year special. This collection of little family yearbooks will be priceless for those children when they are grown, and for their children's children when they are gone.
These people are all busy, yet they managed to make a little time for something they felt was important. What's your excuse?