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As you write your stories down, you can add whatever structure to your memories you want. (Yes, I really do have a story about cheese.) Photos, keepsakes, clothing, and other objects can be wonderful memory triggers.Look through photo albums at relatives’ homes and see what stories come to mind. Plan a visit to a neighborhood or city where you once lived.Her words painted a vivid picture of him that made me miss him acutely.
If you make a general statement, think about the evidence you’d include if you had to prove you’re telling the truth.
For example, my cousin Natalie wrote, “I remember Grandpa always took very nice care of things.” If she had stopped there, it still would have been a true statement about Grandpa, but it became much more memorable when she added this detail: “If he used the weed eater, he’d wipe it off and put it back in the box.” Now tells a story about just how careful and meticulous Grandpa was.
It’s hard to summon stories on demand; our memories just don’t work that way.
If you’re using writing prompts or trying to answer a list of questions, read through them at the beginning of the week. You’ll be surprised what you can remember after you let a question marinate in your mind for a few days.
If you’re inspired to keep going, you’ll have a great framework for writing a thorough personal history.
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Add as many relevant details as you can when sharing a memory.What matters is that our stories get told, in all of their imperfect glory.Would you like to make 2018 a year to tell your family stories?It doesn’t matter how far behind you feel you are in capturing your personal history. Even if you don’t have time to delve deeply into the past right now, make a regular habit of capturing and collecting current thoughts and memories.The important thing is to capture them while they’re still fresh; you can always organize and rearrange your memories later.Walk around, notebook in hand, and see what memories surface.You can also use questions or writing prompts, like the #52stories project, to trigger memories and stories.In a notebook or a computer document, write down each year you’ve been alive. Now start adding in all of the big turning points that divide your life into chapters: being born, going to school, moving, changing schools, reaching religious milestones, learning to drive, graduating, getting a job, changing jobs, getting married, having children.Unhappy events like divorces and deaths will make the list too. If all you ever complete in your personal history is this list of major life events, that’s a better than nothing.If anyone ever says, “Yeah, you told me that one before,” that’s a clue the story is important to you. I know I told you to make a time line, but there’s no rule that says you have to write your life story in chronological order.You can use the time line for reference only, then write your stories in any order you want.