Last year, I started writing a book about how to write your life stories, scrapbook style. I was so excited about this project because I'd been teaching people for six years how to write or "journal" in their scrapbooks. I'd seen people's lives changed because of the stories they wrote in their albums. Most people I worked with always said the same thing: "I can't write." But they did write once they understood the formula.
Of the many talents God gives us, I was blessed with writing and creativity. I haven't always cherished my talent and have in fact coveted other people's gifts a few times. It took me so long to figure out that I was supposed to "share" my gift.
And I thought that's what I was doing when I finished the entire first draft of A Life Message Scrapbook. But then something happened. Maybe I should say, nothing happened. After letting it sit for a month or so, I set out to do a first edit, but I just couldn't make it work. It was as if none of the words made sense anymore, and I resented the time I'd put into it. Finally, I put it back on my shelf and went on to a new project, which turned out to be a novel. I'd never in my entire life planned to or wanted to write fiction, but I did manage to force out 30,000 or so words. I'm not sure they're good words, but I did write them.
Then the novel died on me. One day I went to the keyboard and I couldn't do it. I couldn't get any words on the page, even though I had an impressively detailed outline in my notebook. So onto the shelf went the novel.
And into a dark drawer empty of any creativity went my writing altogether.
I'm not sure how or when exactly I began crawling out of the hole, but I saw the sun one day and my fingers grabbed my notebook and let the words out.
As I filled my journal with the story of what it was like in that deep pit, the creative part of my brain begged to get back to work. There was something waiting that I wanted the world to know. And I realized it was God's call to me that I had been trying to ignore. When I wrote that first draft of my book, I'd thought I was writing the words God gave me, but turns out I was writing them for the wrong reason.
During my depression God was still speaking to my heart. If he hadn't, I'd still be in that pit. He wanted me to tell his words for his reason. What better way to teach me than to stop me right in my tracks and allow me to experience an absence of writing. I've been writing since I was a child and first learned how to make words out of letters of the alphabet and then make them into sentences. It's what I've always wanted to do. It was the only thing I ever felt I was good at. When bad things happened in my life, I wrote. When good things happened, I filled notebooks with words. When I was angry, I reasoned it out by talking to myself on the page. If I'm not writing, I'm depressed. God needed my attention. Sometimes he has to stop me in my tracks to get it.
He gave me this huge blessing, to be able to put words together, but who was I doing it for? I wanted to get published, see my book on the shelves in bookstores. I forgot the reason God gave me the talent to begin with. It wasn't about me. It's never about me. It's always about him and his message and how we, his people, can get his message out in the open and help our fellow humans.
And when God gave me the chance and the inspiration, I failed. I failed because I was not using the ability for the right reason.
My message is: God wants YOU to heed an important instruction that's in your Bible.
I'm supposed to tell you about it and instruct you how to do it if you don't already know. If you do already know, I can encourage you and maybe inspire you with some ideas.
"We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done." Psalm 78:4
"Only be careful and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them." Deuteronomy4:9
"On that day tell your son, 'I do this because of what the LORD did for me....'" Exodus 13:8
YOU HAVE A LIFE STORY TO TELL!
When I found out about scrapbooking the first time at one of those famous, awesome Creative Memories' classes, the first thing I thought about was how I could write about the pictures so I could tell the stories my family needed to know.
Yes, I know, I'm not a normal person. Most people just see it as a way to get their pictures in albums, plus it's fun, addictive, and creative. You get to "play" with paper just like when you were a kid and cut and paste and decorate. Then everybody looks at what you create.
I LOVED my pictures! Still do. What joy I had arranging them in beautiful albums on beautiful pages. However, I started out right from the start, the first night at home after that first class, writing stories. The memories came flooding back as I put the pictures on the pages. On some pages I didn't even have any pictures to go with the story I wanted to tell.
For instance, and I am giving away my age here, I lived through the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. It was a pretty big thing in my family and in the city where I lived. It was big in the whole USA, but in my little world in Cincinnati, Ohio, in a totally Catholic family, it was intense. I was young, and it was the first "real" historical event I saw first hand. My city was in mourning. My family was in mourning. It was crushing to every American that some unknown person named Lee Harvey Oswald could shoot one of our leaders in broad daylight. We were in shock as well as sorrow. We were "changed."
I wanted my children and their children after them, all of my future generations, to know how I personally felt when this happened. When they read the lesson in their history books someday, I wanted them to hear something real that happened to someone in their own family. The personal account that they wouldn't find in the schoolbooks. And when 9/11 happened , into myscrapbook it went. I didn't have any pictures of our family for that event, but I got some astounding internet prints. I wrote where I was when the planes hit the Twin Towers. What I was feeling. How my very first thought was wanting to be with my family. I wasn't sure I would ever see them again. It was a monstrous event that zeroed in or what was really important in our lives. I wanted my kids and grandkids to know it was them I thought about at a crucial moment in history.
Why this was important to me I didn't know then. I just knew it was. I know now why it's important. Because God tells us to tell our stories. He had recorders tell the biggest story ever written. His story, the Bible. Jesus told stories here on earth to teach the people because he knew they would listen to a story but maybe not a preaching. People love stories. I remember as a kid listening to my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles tell stories. Stories about the Great Depression were my favorites. You "learn" about your family through stories. What kind of people they are, their morals, their beliefs, what's important to them. I heard the story of how my father dropped out of school to help support his mother and younger 4 siblings during the depression, so they would have food to eat. How my grandmother, even after my grandfather left the family and never came back, refused to ever have a relationship with or marry a man because she believed once married always married.
Instilling those kinds of messages in our children and grandchildren is hugely important. It gives them something to fall back on and hang onto throughout their lives. We can "speak from the grave."
And, yes, the stories can be passed down from one generation to the next by just audibly retelling when the family gets together, but think how personal and meaningful it will be for them to pick up a book you've created. It will be like you talking directly to them. Telling them what's held you together through it all, the stories of God working in your life, the lessons you learned. It will change lives.
Now you know why it's important and why God wants you to do it. But how to do it? Back to the beginning. "I can't write." If you are reading these words and understand them, if you are able to read, you can learn to write. If you talk to your friends and family and share stories of what's going on in your life, you can write.
Can you write a blockbuster book? Maybe not. Will you be able to write a magazine article or short story that millions will read? I can't tell you that. I have no way of knowing that.
But you can write stories for your children and family. It will be the biggest blessing you can imagine that will last forever.
We will do this simply and in order. It is, whether you believe it or not, a FORMULA. I heard John Grisham a few days ago on the Today Show, and when questioned how he writes his books he said he works from an outline that sometimes takes longer to write than the book itself. We will not be writing book-length outlines, but we will be using his method, and the method of numerous world renowed authors, only in a condensed manner. It's the same way you and I learned to write essays in school, the same way our children learn today.
"But I hate to write. I hated those essays in school." Maybe you do and you did. But I guarantee you that as you begin to recall the stories you want to share for eternity you will easily write them and have fun doing it. You will answer simple questions in this book and write the answers in your own words. That's one way we'll get the stories out. Another way will be to journal. We'll use a cheap notebook you carry with you in your pocket or purse and have on your bedside table or nightstand, and you'll "play" with words and memories in this book.
You might want to use a computer to type your stories, and I can give you tips to help you with that. You might be saying, "I hate my handwriting." I can only tell you this. My mother's handwriting was not the most beautiful or best. My sister's was even worse. They are both gone now, and anything in their hand is precious to me. Do you have an old cookbook or recipe that someone close to you scribbled on, leaving instructions on how to amend the recipe? I'll bet that handwriting is beautiful to you. And your writing will be as precious and beautiful to your descendants. They will treasure it among their most prized possessions. Besides, writing in your notebook will give you a chance to "perfect" what you write first. You will be able to use "journaling boxes" to get it right before you put it in your album. You can make all kinds of journaling boxes or you can buy them. You can even use index cards.
What about digital scrapbooks? I do those too. I love all forms of scrapbooking and album making. You will use whatever you're comfortable with and love the most. I will show you how to do digital for free if you have a computer and if you can't afford any of those frilly software packages on the market. If you use one of those software programs, that's fine too. You've already got a head start. There is a vast array of options today for digital scrapbooking. I'll give you a list of some of the best you can access on the web, if that's your cup of tea.
If you want to work in a plain old binder, we can do that too. You'll need to know how to make your book stand the test of time and preserve your beloved photos and stories.
This is a book on Writing Your Scrapbook Stories primarily. That's the number one order. You'll get some good tips and techniques for the creative part of putting pictures and memorabilia on pages too. Where needed, I'll have resources listed for you on every aspect of scrapbooking and album making known to me.
If you're ready to get started, stay with me. Let's learn how to write Your Life Message!