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WRITING YOUR LIFE STORY - Some Common Obstacles and How to Overcome Them
by: Carol M. Upton
"When the storyteller tells the truth, she reminds us that human beings are more alike than unalike... A story is what it's like to be a human being - to be knocked down and to miraculously arise. Each one of us has arisen, awakened."

- Maya Angelou

Many people who consult with me regarding their family histories are also adamant that they want to do the work themselves. I encourage that. Who knows your personal stories better than you do? Producing life story legacies through books or videos is a priceless gift that brings families together and enhances lives for generations to come. Let 2005 be the year that you start to weave the tapestry of your family's life in words and photographs!

Don't get bogged down with difficulties that prevent you from moving forward with your stories. Here are three of the most common life story writing challenges and some easy solutions for them:

"I can't seem to keep writing."

Consult a personal historian for a list of story-starters or a coaching session, so that you can get excited about your project all over again. Find a writing group to join or start one of your own that is devoted to life story writing and willing to meet at least every two weeks. Read some good books on the subject - "Writing The Memoir" by Judith Barrington is particularly helpful and includes a section on forming a group. Join an ongoing e-course to keep you motivated - Recollections offers one or you can research others on the Internet.

"I can't locate all the facts - birth dates, immigrant ship landings, military regiments, etc."

If you need help with research, Information Desk Librarians at the local libraries are a great help! A personal historian can also point you in the right direction. Often, all it takes is a visit to the right website or the location of the right genealogy book or magazine.

"I've got everything written down, but I'm not sure it makes sense."

This is where a good writer/editor, one who specializes in memoir and personal history, can come in. An editor can tidy up your work in a practical manner, assist with sentence structure and flow and otherwise make your words sing! The difference between a jumble of dry facts and a personal history is as near as your telephone. If you want to do your own editing but aren't sure how to go about it, an editorial consultation will help point you in the right direction.

Are you feeling stuck in some way that hasn't been covered here? Please don't be discouraged! There are many resources available to help you capture your family memories and those of your relatives - in print, on audio or video. I sincerely hope this is your year to begin such an important project!

Copyright (C) 2004 Carol M. Upton

About the author:
Carol M. Upton is a writer and personal historian whose work has appeared in The Vancouver Sun and Province, The Coast Reporter, The Cup of Comfort Cookbook, The Change Agent and several trade publications. Carol owns a business called Recollections and offers a free consultation and a free monthly newsletter called Living Legends, for those who want assistance in telling their family stories. Visit Carol at

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