Written by: Devon noel Lee
Panic set in as beta readers began reading chapters for my upcoming memoir “From Metal to Rhinestones,” the story of my teenage quest for a beauty pageant crown.
What if the readers hated the manuscript? What if the feedback said this project was not only full of errors but also not worth reading?
More and more negative thoughts filled my mind. And the motto I live by, “capture and preserve family history so they will know,” began faltering.
Would my children really care about this story? Would the effort be worth the time spent? Would any relative treasure the thousands of words I agonized over?
Or was it all wasted trees and megabytes?
Writing your life stories can be therapeutic. Writing a memoir can document the lives of the less affluent, less famous, and females, which historians greatly desire. Writing our stories help us understand ourselves and our family dynamics.
Indeed, writing has a broad range of beneficial side effects, yet few talk about the fear that sets in when you share your memories with others.
Here’s a simple piece of advice: STOP WORRYING!
Turn your mind around. What would you give to know more about your parents when they were young or when they met? What would you ask a grandparent that you’ve never met? What would you want your great-grandparents to explain about their life or life choices?
Chances are, you would give most anything and have a host of questions to ask. There may be an ancestor you’d gladly hop in a time machine to visit, even if you’re like me and would observe without interference.
Given how much you’d love to have recorded memories of your ancestors, why worry that anyone would hate the stories you thoughtfully preserved?
Stop worrying that your grammar is poor. Perhaps your voice always speaks in passive sentences. Perhaps you overuse the word ‘really’ or the phrase ‘prior to’. Perhaps you end your sentences with prepositions and forget where you should place a comma.
Perhaps your descriptions are too wordy. Perhaps you have incomplete comparisons or unclear antecedents. Perhaps this whole paragraph made no sense at all!
All of these stylistic faults may keep you off the New York Times Best Seller’s list, but guess what. Your family does not care if you ever make that list in the first place.
They will simply want your voice, your stories, and your life.
Take the time to capture and preserve your memories. As you then share the memories, worry less about possible imperfections. Instead, celebrate accomplishing something very few people ever make time to do. Recognize that a grammatically incorrect story is better than a perfectly formatted memory in your head.
As the feedback flowed in from my beta readers, they did discover grammatical errors and made suggestions for improvement. Setting the imperfections aside, the readers were very encouraging.
Few received more than one chapter to review, but nearly all were anxious to read the rest of the book. The best comment was, “your family will treasure this story so much.” And the reader is absolutely right.
My children are eager for me to finish compiling all the photos with the text. They want a printed copy in their hands to read how I became a beauty queen. Their excitement motivates me to finish this project.
Whenever doubt starts joining you on the journey of writing your life story, shove it into the opposite lane’s high-speed traffic. Crush doubt before it crushes you. Someday, your family will thank you.
If you need help getting started, check out another one of my posts: “Keep One New Year’s Resolution Today – Write Now.”
Devon Noel Lee is a family historian, author, lecturer and mother of five home schooled children. She’s a crazed Texas A&M fan and loves BBQ and Lemonade. Capturing and preserving family stories so her ancestors come alive is her passion.