Today I am off to do my World War 1 Ancestor writing workshop that is being run by the Genealogical Society of Victoria.
I am so excited to do this course, and it seems like I have been waiting forever to attend. I was the first on their list to register, I was that keen.
I've also attended the regular GSV Writers Group meeting and found it very interesting and useful. The last meeting had a record attendance, which I hope reflects a realisation in the community that our history is being lost to us on a daily basis. The writing workshop was great and defined what made good writing for the purpose of genealogical history. The group participated in practical and common sense tips on what good writing is.
For me personally, I don't care too much about the quality. I think that the most important thing a family historian can do is to write the stories down. Just get 'em on paper! Do the best you can, sure. Read up on how you can improve, yes. But too often as writers we are paralysed by other people's judgement of our work. I say I am too old to worry about that now. I feel the urgency of time creeping on me. A couple of years ago a group of students of mine were puzzled when I referred to a record player, and I mentioned this at the meeting. Besides this general loss of social knowledge, there are stories that I know will die when I die, and that are essential to the story of my family. I am the only one who can tell my story.
So the truth is, I really don't care how well written something is. When I find a piece of writing about my family, it doesn't matter to me about the quality. I just turn cartwheels and thank my lucky stars. As a younger woman, just after my children were born, I also felt this urgency and asked my grandmother to write the family stories. How precious they are to me now! They are worth more than gold to me. I've asked my mother for stories too and she has written about her younger days and they give me an insight I could never otherwise have. I also have recordings of our voices as we discuss various photographs of her family. How amazing will that be for our descendants, perhaps decades from now, to hear us laugh and know exactly what we thought that day.
If a writer wants to get published, then of course, they have to make their manuscript publishable. There are basic criteria you need to fulfil. If you are too precious about your work, and cannot take any form of criticism, then don't try.
But don't let that stop you writing your family histories! Have fun with it. There are thousands of prompts on the internet if you can't think where to start. Allow your stream of consciousness to flow and get remembering on paper. Refuse to critique your writing AT ALL until you have completely finished. If you catch yourself evaluating, STOP IT. Evaluation stops the flow, just keep on writing without judgement. If you are writing for publishing, put it away for a week, then re-read it. Then re-read it again with a red pen in your hand and be prepared to use it. If you are writing for future generations, congratulate yourself. You have just done what hundreds of people say they are going to do, but never get around to doing. And your descendants will do cartwheels and thank their lucky stars.