I don't suggest everyone follow my lead and write their life's experiences, but when you think of the history that will be unknown by many of your family members generations to come, I wonder if you wouldn't get the fire started underneath you.
I'm teaching the second part of a two-part series of "Mining Your Memories --Writing Life's Experinces." It is a free course held once a month for four months and is divided into two parts: birth through elementary school and middle/junior high to young adulthood.
Because I am a self-starter, I have been writing various stories of happenings in my life thoughout the last 15 years. I realized early that some people need to be pushed. They need reason and a prod of their memory banks. I always thought of my brain as being like the post office boxes from the rear: series of slots where adventures, experences, important dates and such were slips of paper lying inside the slots. When the slots got full that part of the brain shut down until another slot opened up. In class I direct the adults to think by giving them situations or key words that put themselves into a time frame when they can remember a place and activity.
So with the support of a local library I set up free classes and have had good results.
For example, when we entered seventh grade, we signed Valentine cards with trite sayings we haven't used since that time: "Be mine to the end of time,""You are my sunshine." We began with everyone writing their own obituaries. Yes, I emphasized a good obituary is self-written and should be an historic account of themselves. In elementary school we drew a houseplan where we lived at that time. That alone prompted many stories from the class. One student called his "My House of Memories".
There are lots of books one can follow, but sometimes sitting and reading the hundreds of questions printed one after the other becomes daunting. We discuss the time period, putting ourselves into elementary. junior high and high schools by describing what the buildings looked, where one's classes were located, who the teachers were, favorite classes, etc. We remember polio shots, favorite music, how we dressed, the way guys wore their hair, and the like. Remembering is the best way to appreciate the past.
We are in a small way contributing to the mass history of the 1930s through the 1970s. You may not ever read these accounts, but hundreds of family members will.
I felt comfortable about starting this class and sure enough in the middle of an hour someone will speak up and say, "I can't believe I can remember this." I hand out personal essays of friends who've captured that time and period, thus giving the class an opening that allows them to remember.
This is fun for me and for them. At the same time at home I'm typing as fast as possible to write the same assignment. From the accounts we write we'll find nuggets of stories we can expand on and create funny incidents to captivate their grandchildren, neices, and nephews. Learning to tell the story is just as important as writing them.
Eventually a small group will continue to write and our goal is to see that everyone prints up his own life's stories in a manner they can distribute and leave as a legacy.