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Write the Stories Down

87. Write the Stories Down

I have written down pieces and parts of my life almost all of my eighty years. I think there are many benefits for doing this and it’s one of the reasons that I started a writing group in the fall of 1984. I called it “Writing Down the Stories of Our Lives.” My mother died in the spring of 1984 and one of the things that happened to me then was to realize that with her death, there were stories that immediately vanished. Some of them she told me and I didn’t write them down and after she was gone, I didn’t remember them well enough.

And so I encouraged others to join me in the writing. And they joined for different reasons and to write different things. One couple, older than I, had been asked by their children to write about the different places in the country that they had lived. They warned me that after they did that, they would leave the group. Well they stayed for five years (and hadn’t lived that many places).

They got caught up in it. Our process was that I would introduce some concept or idea, like how to get over writer’s block. Then we would do an instant writing and use some prompt. We would read those writings to each other. And then we would take turns reading what each person had written during the month and had brought to the group to read.

As the couple wrote at home in preparation for the group, and then read at home to each other what they had written, they discovered that even after over 50 years of marriage they still learned things about each other that they hadn’t known before.

Another reason for writing the small stories of our lives down is that many, many years later you can read details that you have forgotten.

I had that experience when I found my written account of my Eighth Grade Graduation Day. I went to School #45 in Indianapolis, Indiana and in those days we went to one school for all eight grades, had a graduation ceremony, and the next September went to highschool for four more grades. I must have written this account just a few days after the graduation so there was wonderful detail—what I wore, who cried and when, what the teachers’ names were—all things that had disappeared from my memory bank. Now none of this was crucial for me to re-discover but it brought back the details of a day that at that time in my life was a significant one. And sometimes you discover something about yourself that is important to know.

Of course it is a real possibility that future generations may discover your writing and be excited about the discovery. We can usually find birth and death dates, burial places sometimes, but it’s harder to find some of the small stories of our ancestors’ lives. So write.

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