Earlier this week I had the unique opportunity to hear a presentation by Janette Quinn. She has a company called Living Stories, whose mission is to help people get their memories and stories down on paper.
This is something LifeLines helps people with too, but I think Janette is usually helping people earlier in the process. I often work with someone’s written manuscript, proofing, editing, designing, and/or publishing it, whereas Janette is actually helping people create that written manuscript.
She was speaking at a meeting of the Historical Society in my town, and her message really resonated with them. These are older people with a lifetime of stories to tell, and a vested interest in preserving the stories related to our village. But I think the idea of preserving their own stories was new to them.
“But I don’t have a story worth sharing!”
Janette revealed that there are a lot of people who don’t think they have anything to share. Older women especially, who have never worked outside the home, may consider their personal history unremarkable. But Janette helps them see that it is, in fact, irreplaceable. Her specialty is interviewing people in a way that gets them to remember their history and talk about themselves.
“Why is history important?” she asked us. “Because the history that we carry is wisdom.” Janette believes
Your story is irreplaceable
Yes, it’s nice to be able to leave your kids a financial inheritance. But money is generic. Your kids might just as easily become financially wealthy through a series of better jobs than what you ever had. Or as a result of smart investing. Or from the lottery. Money is money, no matter where it comes from.
But your personal history is something only you can share. Once you’re gone, there is no way to get those stories back.
Take a step
There are three ways I can think of to help you get started:
- Buy a book of “prompts.” A client of mine, John Geertsema, used a book like this to get his stories down on paper. His family gave him the book for Christmas because they loved the stories he told, and they didn’t want to lose them. I myself have used To Our Children’s Children, by Bob Greene, and there are many similar books out there.
- Get your family involved. You might not think your life is interesting, but share some of your questions and answers with your children and grandchildren. Ask them what they want to know more about. And listen, too, when your stories remind them of things they might want to share with you.
- Hire Janette. Honestly, I don’t know how much she costs, and she won’t be able to give you a price until she finds out specifically what services you’re interested in. To find out more about the process, visit her website: LivingStories.us.
Enjoy the journey
None of the clients whose personal stories I’ve published as hardcover or paperback books have ever regretted the investment they made in preserving their personal history. And none of their children have either.
In fact, most have found the process as meaningful as the finished product.
Because it was this journey of discovery that led them to realize the value of their personal history. Through the journey they learned that their lives are, in fact, a story worth sharing.
- Memoirs: enjoying the journey
- Sharing your personal story
- The Geertsema Chronicles: an exercise in successful autobiography