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  • Writer's pictureDevon Noel Lee

How to Write Your Story When You Can't Write

Do you often hear, “You should write a book” after you share stories from your past? Or, do you have children asking you to write about your life, but you can’t do it?

Today, let me walk you through the process of writing a story about your life when you can’t do it.

Is it True You Can’t?

Growing up, I often said I couldn’t do this or I couldn’t do that. Finally, a frustrated mentor said.

“Stop saying you can’t!

Can’t means you don’t want to or don’t know how.”

Before taking advantage of my advice later in this video, you must determine which is it.

  • Do you not want to have your life story recorded?

  • Do you not know how to record your life story?

If it’s the first, stop reading and tell your family and friends why you do not want to record your life story.

However, if you think it’s because your story is not interesting, please ignore the Negative Nancy in your head.

This transcript comes for this video.

Many people would give just about anything to know more about their loved ones and ancestors. If you already have people telling you that they want your story, then please recognize they think your story is interesting and worth preserving.

Having stories on my shelves about my loved ones and ancestors help me feel a greater connection to something beyond myself. These books aren’t best sellers, but they are worth more to me and my family than any of the Top Books of 2020-whatever.

If you don’t know how to write your story, then let me suggest the following steps.

Talk Rather Than Write

Writing can be a difficult task.

In fact, when I started educating people about genealogy research, I didn’t like writing blog posts. Thus, I started the Family History Fanatics YouTube channel because showing and telling were much easier.

You might find it easier to tell your stories rather than write them.

I know my Great Aunt Margie started writing stories about her life and her brother (my grandfather). Unfortunately, her arthritis made it difficult, so she switched to recording herself telling me her stories. It went faster, she enjoyed it more, and I LOVED hearing the inflections in her voice.

Therefore, find an audio or video recording device and tell your stories. Then, let someone else transcribe them so you don’t have to be involved in the ‘writing’ process.

And yet, you have started writing your story.

Use Photos or Memorabilia

Next, when you’re unsure what stories to tell, pull out your photo albums and memorabilia.

Then, share what you remember about the events captured in these pictures and souvenirs.

  • Don’t worry about telling your story in order.

  • Describe what you saw, heard, smelled, tasted, and felt emotional.

  • Tell the touching, frustrating, sad, and humorous.

  • It’s okay to brag a bit.

  • It’s also okay to be disappointed.

Simply share your thoughts in the audio or video recording.

Respond to Questions

This next step involves the assistance of those family and friends who want you to tell your story. Have them write out questions that they want you to answer. Or, have them request which stories they’ve heard that they want you to tell.

Again, my Aunt Margie enjoyed responding to questions I had about her childhood, how she met her husband, walking the neighbor's cat, and so much more.

After each recording session, I would listen to what she wrote and ask follow-up questions. For several years we exchanged questions and responses.

It was awesome!

She didn’t have to think about what I wanted to hear. I asked lots of questions. By so doing, she shared even more stories I hadn’t heard before.

I loved hearing, “Oh, I should also tell you about…” before she shared something I hadn’t known to ask.

↪️ Do you want to write a family history book?

Grab your copy of this FREE Writing Guide:

laptop and writing notes with title Free Guide: 5 Steps to Quickly Write Family Histories

Consult Writing Prompts

In a previous post, I shared why writing prompts aren’t exactly helpful. However, after you’ve used photos and memorabilia and responded to questions and story requests, you can consult lists of personal history writing prompts.

Perhaps you will find questions or suggestions you and your relatives haven’t considered.

These suggestions might trigger details that we shouldn’t forget.

If that’s the case, use your audio and video recording device and share your responses. Again, you’re ‘writing’ without having to handwrite or type. It’s a win-win.

Turn Recordings Into a Book

Once you have recorded all of the memories using the suggestions I had before, what then?

Well, it depends.

Do you want to compile and revise the stories into a book?

If you don’t want to go through that laborious process, outsource it!

You can ask family members or hire free lace ghostwriters to take your recordings and turn them into a mansucript.

Once they’ve finished, you can read and add commentary to their work. Thus, you’re still involved in the process and telling your story. The writing burden has simply shifted to their shoulders.

If you want to take your recordings and turn them into a book, check out the writing tips I share on this website. Start with posts about drafting your story, then editing and enhancing it, and finally publishing the final product.

More Family History Writing Tips

Continue your learning journey with these tips:

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