Voice Your Life, One Story at a Time

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FAMILY STORIES HELP US UNDERSTAND who we are, where we’ve come from, and where we’re going. Our stories remind us that we can and will be remembered. They show that we matter. By sharing our stories, we learn from each other and strengthen family bonds, connecting past, present, and future generations.

from: Story by Story: 15 Projects to Write Your Family Legacy

Sound good? Are you ready to capture your stories, either for yourself or to share with others? Great!

But, with so many stories and so little time, you may be wondering where and how to start. That’s where I was a number of years ago, when I was spurred to write my family’s stories for my daughter and future generations. Yet, almost immediately, I bumped up against some hurdles. For one thing, I didn’t have hours at a time to spend writing. Then, when I did have time, I didn’t always know how best to use that time.

I didn’t get very far; that is, until I had the idea to start small and start with myself.

In snatched moments, I jotted down memories as if I were reliving them right then. Often, I used photographs and mementos as starting points. Sometimes I wrote a letter to a future family member, letting them know my hopes for them. Always, I wrote quickly and without editing myself, allowing whatever came up to make its way onto the page. It wasn’t long before I had a collection of anecdotes.

From that simple beginning, my family legacy took shape. I knew that instead of writing 
a whole book all in my own voice, I wanted to create a collection of many family stories: Stories that could each stand on their own. Stories not just from me, but from other family members too. Stories that we could share with each other—stories that could help us learn from each other. Finally, I wanted lots of different ways to capture and share our stories, options that were inviting and doable.

Based on my own practice, I created a legacy writing workshop that I have taught to hundreds of people wanting to ensure that their family stories live on. My approach consists of story-based projects. Each project results in a different kind of family story— from a single memory to the soundtrack of a family’s life, from individual lessons learned to family sayings shared over years. Many of these projects take only fifteen minutes, yet my students are often shocked at the insightful and meaningful stories they produce.

Now my story-based project approach is available in my how-to book, Story by Story: 15 Projects to Write Your Family Legacy.I guide you every step of the way, from brainstorming story ideas and addressing fears, to trying different projects and inviting others to write and share their stories too. It’s easy and fun, and it all begins with one story!

Try it!

Here’s a place to start: Who am I?

Write for 5 minutes, without stopping or editing yourself.

What did you find? 

Perhaps you wrote about who you are in this world, your roles and responsibilities. Maybe you wrote about your interior self, your values. There’s no right or wrong way to do this! Try coming back to this prompt multiple times and then gather your responses into a single piece. You are well on your way! 

Each month, I’ll offer suggestions on how to write your legacy, one story at a time. To see my full offerings, including writing workshops, visit voicedlife.com.

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Selected Projects from the book:

Each project has five parts: a description, a list of benefits, how-to instructions, variations to adapt the project to other storytellers or situations, and an example from a finished project. Here are some examples!

Three-Question Springboard: Three questions to get you started. Page 31 

List of Favorites: Simply a list of what you love. Page 35 

Family Sayings: Anecdotes of your family’s repeated truisms, advice, and admonitions. Page 39 

Captured Moments: Stories of a specific moment in time. Page 45 

Gratitudes: What you are grateful for, why, and how you show it. Page 53 

Soundtrack: A compilation of the music and sounds of your life. Page 71