Stop Procrastinating! Write your family stories now

I write excruciatingly slow. Why? Because I am a professional procrastinator.  I have a horrible habit of writing a few sentences, only to get up to refill my coffee cup, then sit back down to write again, only to get back up within a few minutes.

Why do I do this every time I write? 

I feel

  • overwhelmed by how by the writing process
  • uncertain on where to start
  • awkward and shy about your writing skills
  • anxious about being judged
  • there isn’t anything interesting to write about. My family was just an average, ordinary family. 

What do all these excuses have in common? Fear. Fear leads to procrastination. It is fear that holds us back.

Moving past fear is hard. Really hard.

I know. I have let fear control my actions for too long. For example, I delayed as long as I could naming both my children. I finally relented when a nurse threatened not to release me from the hospital until I completed the birth certificate. In my defense, I wanted to be absolutely certain that the names were the right ones for them. 

Don’t be like me. 

Take a moment to identify the fear that is holding you back. When you have identified it, you can create a plan to move past it.  

The easiest way I have found to combat fear is to take action. Any forward momentum is better than standing still. Start small.

If you are overwhelmed

  • Start by writing what is overwhelming you, much like a brain dump. From that, create a list and put the lists in order that makes sense for you. Create a plan from your lists. Only focus on one item at a time.
  • This is what I did.
    • I wanted to focus on family members that I had numerous photos of. I started with the list of their names. I prioritized that list in order of how much info I had on each person. Under each person’s name I jotted down things I wanted to write about. Since I prioritized my list, I only focused on the one individual instead of the whole family.

If you are uncertain and don’t know where to start

  • Start with the person you know the most about. That could be you, a spouse, sibling or parents. Jot down whatever comes to mind about that person. Later you can fill in with sentences and structure.

If you feel awkward about your writing ability

  • Get clear on why you want to write and share your family stories. Returning to your why will help when you feel awkward and shy.
  • Your writing style won’t be judged. Why? Because the reader’s attention will be on the family story rather than on your writing ability. Keep the goal in mind: getting the stories written and out there.

If you are afraid of being judged by your family

  • You don’t have to tell anyone what you’re doing. Overtime, the more you write the more confident you will get. 
  • When you are ready, tell a trusted family member. 

If you think your family is just an average ordinary family

  • Remember: Not every family story is going to be filled with action, adventure, comedy, romance and drama. Sometimes stories are just about ordinary people living their lives. Tell these stories anyway. 
  • The ordinary story allows us to compare and contrast to how we live today. That is how we learn to relate to our family.

So your homework for today, identify what is holding you back from writing and telling your family stories. Then create a plan to move past that fear. This is your time to get the stories told.

Happy Writing.

8 thoughts on “Stop Procrastinating! Write your family stories now

  1. I too go through cycles of writing and doing random tasks, all within minutes. I can’t really ascertain the reason, but I think it’s because I’m just lazy. Thanks for this helpful post by the way! I loved it.

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    1. Thanks, Stuart. I’m glad the post was helpful. I wonder if when you drill down to the root cause of procrastination is it really laziness. Let me know. In October I’m starting my writers group on Facebook. The goal of that group is to keep you accountable on your writing journey. Good Luck!

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  2. I blog my family history – this makes it easier (though I still procrastinate) as I’m telling stories in small chunks…Hopefully one day I’ll be able to bring together pieces about the same families (I range all over) into coherent narratives. For now, while I’m still working full time, this works for me. I have a couple of relatives about whom I want to write longer studies, but while my mum and uncle are still alive, I’m holding off as the circumstances of the lives on which I want to focus are a tad rough at times.

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    1. Hi Teresa, I’m so glad that you are writing down the stories. I don’t think it matters whether its memories, short snippets or long studies. The important thing is that it’s being written to share with the next generation. Starting in October I am starting a writer’s group where there will be opportunities for accountability and to share your writing if you choose. Stay tuned.

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      1. For a long time I felt I had to just write the whole book at once and, having completed three fiction manuscripts, I knew how hard that would be, especially as I quickly discovered that one book alone can’t cover one’s entire family history given all the various lines and branches. Then I found people blogging their family history and jumped on board 🙂 Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is a great tool for those new to writing as she provides specific prompts each week.

        Your writing group sounds intriguing – I’ll watch for it 🙂

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      2. I love the 52 Ancestors in 52 weeks program. Amy Johnson Crow does such a great job on bringing awareness to writing family stories. Her blog and website are fantastic as well.

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  3. Great post and so true. I tell myself all of this every week when I sit down to write my blog post! My solution is to start a draft the old-school way — by hand in a spiral notebook — and let the ideas just flow. Later, at the computer, I fill in all the details, references, add photos, etc. to finish off the post.

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