How Important are Your Life Stories? 1

Old Woman of Almolonga

The article, “The Centenarian’s Secret,” in the 5-Minute Memoir section of February’s Writer’s Digest Magazine caught my attention. In it, author Diane Speare Triant describes her chance meeting with 103-year-old Nelson McNutt and of subsequently writing and publishing an article summarizing his life story. After his death two years later, Triant was given access to the man’s house, and there discovered a stack of letters written to McNutt’s grandmother from her brother during the civil war.

The letters gave a first-person account of the Civil War, revealing a story of historical significance, which Triant subsequently published in The Boston Globe Magazine. I was struck by the fact that this story could never have been published for a wider audience had those letters not been written, cherished, and saved. How much more of their lives — the soldier and his sister — could we have understood, had they chosen to record more in writing?

Of her experience, Triant writes:

Now, as I contemplate the experience, one common thread emerges — the power of writing. … Our profession does far more than craft words prettily — it records the very voice of humanity. Stories live forever.

How much of your story will you leave behind?

Do you have letters or diaries or other written materials from members of your family kept in shoe box, tucked away in a drawer or in a closet? How might you contribute to the rich history and legacy of your family by unearthing the letters and writing your ancestors’ stories?

How might you contribute to the rich history and legacy of your family by writing your own stories?

If you’ve been putting off writing your stories because you’re “not a good enough writer,” or because your life is “not interesting enough,” allow me to encourage you to dust off your memories, get out that pen, and write. Today’s mundane is tomorrow’s history. Don’t let the world lose yours.

If you would like personal instruction with a group of like-minded writing adventurers, consider joining my eight-week online course, “From Memories to Memoirs.” In this moderated self-study course, you will learn how to record your memories as engaging stories and create a legacy of memoir.

Whether you enroll in a class or not, I invite, encourage, and challenge you to begin writing your life stories today.


Woman in traditional clothing photo by: Tom Bellart

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One thought on “How Important are Your Life Stories?

  • patsy ann taylor

    I also read the WD article. The idea of five minute memoir works for me. Journals and diaries left behind are the best version of history I can think of. No sanitizing or PC editing as the writer expresses his/her views of the day. The journaling I do will not shake the world, but I hope will give a taste of how it felt to live in these times. And, maybe my family will share those feelings as they read.