Written by: Val Brennan
Is there anyone who has lived into middle age or beyond, who hasn’t at least had the passing thought that “there is something in my story worth preserving?”
Most people find reasons to push the thought aside as something they will do later, and way too often, later never comes.
In a pre-Internet world, that was understandable. Just about all of the options were time-consuming and/or expensive, yet a surprising number of people made extraordinary efforts to pass on their history, their stories, their advice and more.
In the digital world we live in today, it is so much easier to create and share our stories. There must be as many different ways to leave your mark as there are people interested in doing so.
The best part is that there are no rules, which means everyone can find a way to share whatever it is that begs to be told.
Here are a few of the most common themes I see:
1. Your Best Life Lessons
There’s no doubt that each of us has learned some life lessons that could save someone else the trouble if only they understood. Unfortunately, we’re not always in the right place at the right time to give our advice.
And even if we are, it is sometimes rejected in the heat of the moment.
However, if you package the entire experience of your life lessons as they relate to you, they might be better received and help more than one person when they find themselves in similar situations.
2. Things that have Inspired You
Some people collect quotes, articles, passages from books, parts of famous speeches, and other things that speak to their life’s philosophy. Others are inspired by music, art, movements, and causes.
Sharing the things that have inspired you will not only shed light onto who you are, but may also inspire someone else.
3. “Things” that are Important to You
Like it or not, most of us have material possessions that are important to us. Some of them are sentimental and some are not, but either way, they tell a part of your story.
4. Family Photos
The digital age is both a blessing and a curse when it comes to photos. Most of us take too many and never get them organized or shared properly. And then there are the albums or boxes full of old photos or slides that we rarely visit.
The good news is that the old ones are easy to digitize and there are endless wonderful ways to share photos.
You may have one trip or a lifetime of trips that have highlights worth sharing. Merging your memories with photos and maybe even videos can be fun for you as well your family.
6. Important Elements of Your Family History
Not everyone in the family is going to want to know every detail about their ancestors. However, if you take the time to highlight the best stories and the most interesting parts, it’s likely to be well-received.
7. Funny Family Stories
Many of these stories get told and retold at family gatherings. Collecting as many as you can from family members and putting them all together could be a hoot!
8. A Particular Event in Your Life
Of course I’m talking about a memoir, whether or not it is done in the traditional format. Some of us have pieces of our lives that are worthy of more detail and explanation than would normally come out in a typical post-Thanksgiving dinner conversation.
This can be therapeutic for the story-teller and enlightening for the audience.
9. Your Life from Start to Finish
This would typically come in the form of an autobiography, but that is not the only way. Many people choose this option and it’s a wonderful way to share the story of where you came from and the entire trajectory of your life.
Regardless of what you decide to share, there are more options than you can imagine for doing it. It can be as simple as photocopying your hand-written notes and stapling them together or it can be as sophisticated as producing a hard-cover book.
The internet provides even more opportunities. For example, you can share publicly or privately in a blog. You can set up an invitation-only Facebook Group, a secret Pinterest board, or a shared photo collection in Google Photos.
There are also websites dedicated completely to helping you share your life stories. Some of them, like America’s Footprints will help you create an online digital record that includes text, photos and videos, and will preserve them for long after you’re gone. Other sites will help you capture your stories and get them into a format that can be printed or shared as an e-book.
There is no right or wrong to what you choose to share or how you choose to share it, the mistake would be in not doing anything at all, if it is something that calls to you.
Maybe right now is the time to take a few minutes to define what it is that you want to pass on and start thinking about how you want to share it.
Val Brennan writes for MemoirHelper.com, a website that offers tips and techniques for sharing life stories and more in a variety of ways. She is also the creator of MemoirWorkbook.com, an easy to use tool that helps individuals write and share their memoirs or autobiographies.