“You are not taking all those smelly old things home!” the wife stated. The look in her eye brooked no room for negotiation.
“No, maybe a volume or two as an example,” the descendant concurred. He wasn’t interested in reading them, he explained. They were too dry, too factual. All they contained were weather reports, prices of various commodities, times and dates of meetings, and other banalities. “Now, I’d definitely read them if they were my mum’s journals,” he told me. “Her journals were full of stories. They told what happened. You learn a lot from them.”
He elected to take the pile of photo albums home, with the intention of scanning in two or three selected photos of each person. “I can put those pictures in my genealogy software and they’ll print out with the paragraph I write about each person. I tell just enough that future generations will know who the person is and where they fit in.” When he’s finished, he’ll return the albums, and a nephew can do as he wishes with the contents.
Since it wasn’t my family, and none of my business, I held my tongue as both husband and wife continued to insist that “Nobody wants to see more than a couple of pictures, and they’d be bored reading more than a paragraph or two about each.”
My heart yowled in disagreement! Yes, I’d rather see a paragraph or two than none, and any picture at all, but those paragraphs they refer to would only whet my appetite for “the rest of the story.” I pour over albums of pictures, following the evolution of a person from infancy to old age, even when the people are unrelated to me. I’m fascinated by the details of people’s lives. I want to know what they thought, how they lived, what their passions were.
A couple of days later I thought more calmly about the incident and drew a few conclusions:
- An extensive collection of “raw” and unorganized journals or stories will overwhelm many people, who are likely to toss the whole lot rather than deal with them. If you are a prolific journal or lifestory writer, do future generations a favor and write at least an overview of your life.
- The most effective plan is to write on two levels. Give an overview for the easily sated, and work in detail elsewhere for the inquiring minds like mine.
- You can significantly increase the odds of survival for your documents by livening up your facts and figures with stories to produce the sort of mind magnet that Grandma created in her journals.
Sharon Lippincott, aka Ritergal
Countdown: 15 more days until the official release of The Heart and Craft of Lifestory Writing. Advance orders can now be placed at Amazon.com for the earliest possible delivery.