Ready? Set? Stop!
Get Ready to take note of your life.
Tip: These short entries are essential to you as a Legacy Giver. Index cards come in really handy for this part of the process.
It is the job of these scraps of information to nudge the full memory out of your heart and mind later. Some of them won’t seem important at first, but as you review your notes, details will emerge that will clarify the story’s purpose.
If it was important enough to remember, the deeper meaning will emerge over time.
Here’s one memory that I knew mattered. The nudge came from a photo I found in an old album. I wrote:
Picture of Daddy pulling me in the wagon – cute kid – cute daddy – beautiful Cindy. The wagon was red. I loved it – except for that one day when the kids called me stupid. Gotta write about this hurt. The question that keeps circling my brain: what’s in your wagon?
That was it. From these few words, this story grew into a public presentation I’ve shared with hundreds of listeners titled, “What’s In Your Wagon?” Those who have heard this message range from highly paid professionals to a group of homeless women. Their responses still amaze me, because sharing this memory inspired them to share their stories with me, and their stories impacted my life.
When a memory stands out in mind, my next step is to “hub it.” I write the thought in the center of a piece of paper or put the photo there and draw six to eight lines out from it. These “spokes” expand the memory and clarify the story. Here is my “hub” for this part of my Legacy:
Then I asked myself, “Why does this memory mean so much?”
When that nudge in my spirit keeps elbowing me, I know I’ve discovered a Steamer Trunk story – part of my life I want to live beyond me. That’s when I dig deeper.
Get Set. . .
As your stack of index cards grows, or your notebook fills up with memories, it’s normal to become overwhelmed and wonder how you’re ever going to sort them out. Try not to force it. The stories may not come in the order you lived them, and that’s okay.
When you review your entries, highlight the ones that cause a twinge in your heart. Don’t take a lot of time to analyze the feeling – recognize it, mark the story, and come back to is often.
There will come a time when you will be ready to put the memory onto the page. Many people describe this as a need, drive, or passion. Sometimes all I know is this is a life story worth telling right now.
But first. . .Stop!
It’s About Time
Commitment is essential to getting your Legacy written and into the hands of the people who want and need it.
If you want to leave a full Legacy, it’s important to schedule a time to write. Some people give their stories fifteen minutes three times a week. (You can accomplish a lot in a small amount of dedicated time.) You get to pick.
A question people often ask is, “How long is this going to take me?”
There is no concrete answer. Some people will be satisfied with their Satchel Story while others won’t be happy until they’ve added a few Steamer Trunk stories to their Legacy. Others will keep recording until their ability to write or speak ceases.
Trust yourself. If the desire to continue resides your heart, welcome it and see where it leads you.
- Write at a time of day that is easy for you.
- Make it fun. Prepare a favorite beverage, light a candle, listen to music that inspires you, and if you have a picture of that time of your life, look at it.
- Some people like to take a short walk to help them switch gears from the demands of life to preserving your life’s stories.
Three Legacy Givers shared their processes with me and gave me permission to share them with you.
- “I set aside thirty minutes a day, five days a week, first thing in the morning to work on my Legacy. After I complete a story I get out the photo or memento I’m going to write about next. I put the picture in with my stack of index cards where I can quickly stop and write a note. When I sit down to write that memory, the words move from my mind to the page with energy. I polish my life stories the same way.”
- Another Legacy Giver prefers a combination of planning and impulse. Evening is his favorite time of day, so he has given up his TV hours to create his Legacy. When ready to write, he picks a picture or a random note and writes fast for two hours, or as he puts it until he runs out of steam. He may or may not read this section right away. It depends on his schedule and how much energy his story took. If he feels like the writing is getting hard or blah, he switches to polish mode. He finds a story that he wants to work on and edits it using the same “fast and furious” method. This acceptance of his impulsive nature is a huge bonus. He sets aside the time with great care but allows himself the creative freedom he needs to get his story written.
- Not long ago, an elderly man wrote to me (I use the word elderly here with the greatest of respect – he was well into his nineties) after reading an old copy of Your Life a Legacy. He was still writing his life stories about war and farming. He still lived on his farm and often went out to the now empty barn he spent so much time in as a younger man. It was in that place and the fields he farmed that helped him recover from the wounds, so many soldiers hide deep inside. He had outlived most of his family and didn’t see the ones surviving but still, he persevered. Along with the photos his wife took, he decided to give copies of his Legacy to a veteran’s group and the local historical society. What a gift!
Picking a Place to Write
I’m often asked where I write. That depends on my workload and my need for a mix of solitude and social noise. I might be writing a legacy story in a local coffee shop while eating lunch, writing in my journal while sitting on our John Deere Gator by our bullfrog bog, at my office desk, a picnic table at a favorite park, or on my laptop snuggled into my favorite chair with my dogs sleeping at my feet. The weirdest place I’ve worked on this project? A parking lot. A memory crossed my mind, and I knew I had to get it into written immediately. I parked knowing I had more than an hour before my next appointment. Instead of running the errand I had planned, I switched gears. The item I was going to purchase could be ordered online and would arrive in plenty of time for my deadline, so I took that hour to save a story. Sometimes I have to pull my cart over in a grocery store when an item prompts a memory.
Anywhere you are, other than driving, can be the right place to jot a few words down or write a Legacy story.
Tips: Think about a few of the places think you’d enjoy writing and have a few index cards with you for quick notes.
If you ’re out of town, can you find a coffee shop and take some time with your memories? Considering the possibilities now makes it more likely you will implement them later.
Putting Your Legacy in its Place
Decide where you’re going to “put” your stories. Will you hand-write your Legacy in a leather-bound journal or do you prefer to enter it into your computer? Do you want to save your life stories by audibly recording them? Or do you want to leave a video legacy behind?
Again, you get to pick the way that works best for you. How cool is that?!
Your Life Matters!
One of my favorites is; On the Road With The Oak Ridge Boys. Yeah – I’m a fan.