The cliché of watching someone else’s home movies has always been “It’s always just a saddening bore.” What’s surprising is that the farther we find ourselves removed in time and place, the more these old films have the capacity to move us, to entertain us, or simply to remind us of life as it once was.
From My Private Italy, Steve McCurdy
Ask around and you’re bound to hear this sentiment about boredom expressed with regard to reading life stories written by “ordinary” people, especially strangers. You even hear it expressed by people about their own stories: “My life is so ordinary. Nobody would be interested enough to read it.”
Hold the phone! Notice that McCurdy goes on to state that with time and distance things change. He went on to explain that old home videos have become hot properties now selling to strangers for premium prices on eBay. Various organizations are building archives for documentary purposes.
The same thing can happen with life stories. Some memories or stories, especially though without compelling drama or even a plot, may seem boring today, but brilliant fifty years from now. Ideally you will find a way to add drama and interest to any story, but don’t be deterred if all you can do is describe how you did things.
In fifty years, people are likely to be fascinated with how things were done “back in the olden days." For example, children today may be blown away to read simple descriptions of how kids amused themselves in the 1950s with no computers, video games, or cell phones, limited TV, and freedom to roam. Accounts of using a standard manual typewriter may sound as arcane as whittling quill pens out of goose feathers. Given the current pace of change, by 2050, what seems cutting edge today may have been supplanted by something far more advanced and they’ll wonder how we got along.
So, you see, even stories that are primarily documentary and lacking drama are worth writing, if only for the fun of remembering and creating a legacy of family history. Let McCurdy’s observations guide your purpose and path as you plan how to approach this adventure, or where to go next if you’ve already begun. Who knows? Your descendants could make a mint selling the collection of stories you couldn’t get anyone to read today.
Write now: Write a simple documentary story about some area of your daily life that has changed dramatically over time, for example how you helped hang laundry on the clothesline before you or your family had a clothes dryer, or how your family spent Sunday evenings playing canasta in the days before TV. Include details of how you did things and add reflections on differences between then and now if you wish.
Image credit: Jose Izquierdo, Creative Commons license