Facing Change and Challenge

In 1952 I travelled from Glasgow to Wellington, New Zealand, on the ship ss Captain Hobson with my parents.

After leaving Panama, my father became seriously ill and spent the rest of the journey in the ship’s infirmary.  Then, on arrival in New Zealand he was rushed straight to Wellington Hospital where he hovered between life and death for six weeks. Thankfully he survived the ordeal but by that time the position he was promised in New Zealand had been given to someone else.

It was a rotten start to my parents’ new life Down Under.

Reflecting on what triggered this particular incident, I suppose it could be because I’ve just written an article for a magazine about the importance of recording people’s life stories.

Clients often ask whether I intend writing my own story one day, and like many people, I usually respond by saying “I haven’t got time” or “well, I’m not famous so who would want to read my story?”  Yet, when you think about it, as the little extract above proves, we all have special memories with which to weave the intricate fabric of our lives – and our individual stories are an important link in the ongoing chain of our family history.

Being a migrant myself, I have a special interest in writing about people who arrived in Australia and New Zealand as early settlers and who overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles to achieve happy, successful lives. Just as my parents fulfilled their vision of emigrating to New Zealand and establishing a better life for their family, I talk to many ordinary people who have lived challenging, but interesting lives; whose courage both inspires and encourages me in my own life journey.  And fame has nothing to do with that.

In 2012, I fulfilled the first of one of my treasured life goals – to travel the world, talk to people and write their stories.  I house-sat in Auckland, New Zealand, for a friend who was holidaying in Europe (following her own dreams).  It was incredibly challenging because not only did I return to the country where I grew up, I lived in a city I hardly knew, inhabited an unfamiliar house, drove a different car and lived alone.

It was quite testing at times, but as I extended myself, meeting and making new friends, I believed I was also enriching my life.  And taking this leap of faith proved extremely fortuitous in many ways, because it included the privilege of writing a memoir for a lady in Auckland.

I always admired my Dad’s fortitude and that he was still operating his grain and seed business six months before he died at age 83 – and I hope I can continue to follow my dreams, embrace challenge and enjoy a productive and worthwhile lifestyle for many years to come.

 

Writing your Story – The Process

Your Own Experience

There are no hard and fast rules as to how you tell your life story because that’s all part of your individual experience. And, personally, I like to create a different style for every family memoir I write.

Breaking the Journey

During a flight back to Melbourne from interviewing my lovely New Zealand client in 2003, I considered how I might present her story. Rather than just do a predictable historical walk-through, I decided to ‘break the journey’ into what I felt were interesting chunks of information. This meant considerable re-organising of material once it was transcribed, and this editing proved to be a very lengthy process. Ultimately, however, I felt that future readers would find the stories more interesting and entertaining.

Keep a Journal

You may be keen to tell your own life-story, so of course it would be a good idea to keep a diary or journal where you can record events as they happen. There are also many journalling and memoir-writing courses available. As always, I believe that motivation is the key.

If you decide not to write your story yourself, I suggest employing a biographical writer who will most likely wish to interview you. This is a very intimate process, requiring sensitivity on the part of the interviewer.

Face-to-face or Telephone?

These days, with the advantages of the internet, Skype offers a wonderful way to conduct interviews.  Please feel free to contact me by email tina@writecreations.com.au if you have any questions regarding this process or simply include a comment below.

The Value of Sharing your Personal Story

I grew up in New Zealand and when we were kids we used to celebrate Guy Fawkes Night with a huge bonfire and the usual array of fireworks. What I remember most though, is that after the excitement of the fireworks display was over, all the children gathered around the fire with hot mugs of cocoa and listened to stories told to us by the adults. And during the years since, whether in the outback of Australia, the Sahara Desert, or in the remote Scottish Highlands, there have been many times when people’s stories have held me spellbound.

As human beings, we are fascinated by other people’s lives, as evidenced by all the reality television shows and racks full of “tell-all” magazines. Clearly, as the result of their life experiences, relationships with others and the world around them, everyone has their own unique story to tell. And it is by sharing those personal stories that we enrich the lives of others, who can often relate to our triumphs, struggles and difficulties.

How many times have you heard people say: “I wish I’d remembered to ask my grandmother more about her life” or “I wonder what life was like for my grandparents when they first arrived in Australia?”

Imagine the 95 year-old who rode to school in a horse and buggy, experienced the first electric light and lived through two World Wars. There is so much valuable personal history woven into long and eventful lives which should be shared and cherished by other family members. And we all want to be remembered, both for the good we’ve done and for the significant accomplishments in our lives.

There is satisfaction in a life well-lived – and remembered.

For more information please email tina@writecreations.com.au

 

Is there a ‘Book Lurk’ inside you?

So many people say they ‘have a book inside them’ but don’t know where to start.

The first creative writing course I attended was run by Melbourne writer Carmel Bird and I vividly recall her saying that first time writers tend to write about ‘mother’.

And it’s a great place to let the creative juices start flowing actually, because everyone has memories of their mother, whether good, bad or indifferent.

Unfortunately, writing is not a magical process, especially when that old bugbear called Writers’ Block often has a nasty habit of lurking over your shoulder.

But the truth is that every single person does have a story to tell.

Think back to when you were young.  I bet you can you recall your first day at school, the first time you fell off your bicycle or maybe even the first time you went to the dentist?

Whatever the memories  – happy, sad, painful or otherwise – they are part of your journey of life, unique to you alone.

And once you start to recall past happenings, you often find yourself on a roller-coaster of remembering parts of your life you thought you’d long forgotten.

As a family memoir writer, I always encourage others to record their family history while older family members are still living, because otherwise, valuable stories are lost forever.  Your family history is unique and future generations will love to read about how life was ‘way back when’.

Telling your story to someone else can often be an extremely therapeutic process.  You might only wish to talk about a certain event in your life that was important to you at the time.  Or your story could encompass a whole book.

Please feel free to email tina@writecreations.com.au if you would like more information on writing your family story or corporate history.

What memories spring to mind for you?  I  would love to hear from you so please add a comment below.