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Seventeen years after my Grandpa Bob passed away, my dad planned a family reunion at a park in northern Utah. Prior to the reunion, my dad invited his four siblings and their children to email him their favorite memories of Grandpa Bob. He compiled the memories into a 16-page document and printed a copy for everyone.
One of my favorite entries came from my cousin Natalie, who signed off with an apology: “I’m not a good writer so hopefully this all made sense. I’m sad my memory isn’t better.” I was surprised. The stories Natalie shared were interesting and specific, full of fun details and sayings that Grandpa was known for. Her words painted a vivid picture of him that made me miss him acutely. I didn’t notice any grammatical errors or misspelled words in that collection of memories because that’s not what matters. What matters is authenticity. What matters is that our stories are told—in all their imperfect glory.
In a December 1980 Ensign article, President Spencer W. Kimball promised Church members, “If you will keep your journals and records, they will indeed be a source of great inspiration to your families, to your children, your grandchildren, and others, on through the generations.” Would you like to make 2018 a year that you record more of your family stories? Let these simple writing tips empower you and inspire you to put pen to paper. No one is more qualified to tell your family’s story than you.
1. Tell Favorite Stories Aloud
One of the reasons my cousin’s words came alive for me is that her family members are all great verbal storytellers. They get together and reminisce and repeat some of the same stories over and over. This practice adds structure to fragmented memories, making it easier to write them down later.
2. Be Specific
Add as many relevant details as you can when sharing a memory. If you make a general statement, think about what evidence you could include to prove that you are telling the truth. For example, my cousin Natalie wrote, “I remember Grandpa always took very nice care of things.” If she had stopped there, the statement about Grandpa may still have been true, 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 that tells a story about just how careful and meticulous Grandpa was. Not only did he keep the original box for years and years, he also took the time to wipe off dirty lawn equipment before putting it away. I love that detail; I can picture him doing exactly that.
To read the full article on Family Search, click here.