It might be an exaggerated figure, but author and blogger Randal Wright estimates that 99.9% of people don’t keep detailed personal histories or journals. Assuming you’re in that majority, why aren’t you writing your life stories down? People offer plenty of excuses: too little time, laziness, the feeling of being so far behind it’s impossible to catch up. Life is so full of amazing life lessons that could provide our children with some amazing perspectives. Shouldn’t we be recording them?
Dr. Wright spoke at the 46th Annual Family History Conference held at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah on July 29-August 1. It was the birth of his first child that inspired him to start writing down his life lessons. However, he soon felt overwhelmed with the enormity of the task. After all, everything in life can teach us lessons. So he devised a simple strategy that he shared to make things easier: carry a notebook with you everywhere and record important moments in three word blurbs that brings them easily to mind. Later when you have more time, elaborate on those three words. This should take only 10-15 minutes, but the story will be recorded for you and your posterity.
For example: “Uncle Charles’ Ear” is the caption on a humorous photo he showed. On a vacation years ago, his Uncle Charles shot three film rolls’ worth of photographs capturing a long trip across the Canadian Rockies. Once developed, he discovered that every picture was worthless: he had held the camera backwards, snapping close-ups of his forehead and ear in each shot instead of the beautiful Canadian landscape.
The enormous disappointment he felt taught Wright some valuable life lessons, including “read the directions” and “look forwards, not backwards”. The words “Uncle Charles’ Ear” quickly bring to mind the full story and its moral.
Here are some tips for writing your own three word personal histories:
- Use specific words, such as a person, place, or thing in your title. Say “Jane Dress Fiasco” rather than “I Didn’t Think”, which could imply endless situations.
- Use key words that will jog your memory of the event.
- Spend 30 minutes or less writing down each memory and the lesson(s) learned. Always ask yourself, “What can I learn from this event?”
- Incorporate this method in other everyday tasks, such as scripture study. A three word blurb regarding a personal experience, when written next to a scripture, will remind you why that verse is important to you.
If these tips and ideas don’t inspire you to start writing, chew on this quote for a while:
“If a man keeps no journal, the path crumbles away behind him as his feet leave it; and days gone by are little more than a blank…A man might almost as well not have lived at all as entirely forget that he has lived, and entirely forget what he did on those departed days…” (Frazier’s Magazine, July-December 1859, p. 147) Now go get writing!