We live in a day and age where we are constantly poked and prodded to “upgrade” our lives by getting this new gadget or purchasing this new program.
As well, even in our book writing endeavors, we sometimes believe that we will create a bigger impact if we focus our writing on promoting this new concept or this new approach.
While a lot of positive impacts can be made through writing books about those topics, and there is certainly a time and place for them, I want to discuss the unique value of writing books in the historical category.
Because what happens when we focus only on the hot, new, trending topics, we tend to forget about the importance of keeping history alive. And then we forget to write that family memoir, that biography, or that autobiography.
And we lose that opportunity to not only educate, but to also help, encourage, and inspire our readers in the unique way historical writing fosters.
And these distractions—and I call them such because I believe that we are naturally social beings and it is in our nature to connect and interact on a deeper level than society often wants us to—can derail our innate desire to share our stories to help others.
As a result, this can create a variety of creative blocks in the writing process and may even subconsciously convince us to not start writing that memoir or autobiography.
So, let’s look at what the actual value is of keeping history alive:
- There is so much we can learn from those who came before us—be it two decades or five centuries ago. History is one of the best instructors and all of us, both as individuals and as a world culture, can be helped, encouraged, inspired, and challenged by it if we choose to keep it alive.
- Reviewing historical events and the people that came before us affords us the opportunity to share with others our unique interpretation of those events and individuals, which can, in turn, inspire others to self-evaluate and improve their own lives as they relate to that point of reference.
- On a personal level—writing your family memoir or autobiography, for instance—keeping history alive means you now leave a legacy of things like lessons learned and mistakes to avoid that can guide and encourage those who follow.
And these points can be a huge motivator and stimulator for writing things in the historical space.
But if you’re still not sure how these points challenge your own writing goals, I encourage you to think about this:
- What content have you read, either recently or in the past, that positively impacted you?
- Did the author have more experience in the niche they were writing about than you do?
- Did the author share an experience that you have not had?
- Did you learn anything new from what you read?
- Did it urge you in any way to re-evaluate or re-consider the beliefs and perspectives you previously held about the topic?
The point here is to showcase how much of what we read has the power to influence our lives in general and our perspectives in particular (hopefully in a positive way).
And being aware of that helps us see how writing things like your family memoir or your autobiography can positively impact your readers. Because when you share things about your past—aka your history—you can both enlighten others and give future generations something to latch on to.
As well, writing either (or both) your family memoir or autobiography really gives you insight about yourself as you research where you came from and review aspects of your past you might not have thought about in a while.
I experienced all this when I wrote my own family memoir. Before deciding to research and write my family memoir, I knew a few basic things about who I was and where I “came” from:
- My ancestors on my mom’s side were from Italy
- I had many great aunts and uncles, and many cousins (some of whom I never had occasion to meet)
- I was stubborn and hard-headed by nature, though I never knew, or thought about, where that characteristic came from
- I was determined and refused to quit once I set my mind on something, though I never knew, or thought about, where that mindset came from
Once I started researching my family history, I learned my ancestors started building their family way back in the 1800s in a town called Laurenzana, Italy. My great-grandparents managed wheat fields to sustain their existence and they handmade pasta, went to church religiously (no pun intended), and had personal stylists and hairdressers.
When my great-grandfather was in his early 20’s, he decided he wanted to make better of himself and sailed to America to work, save money, and ultimately build a better life for himself. Perhaps that’s where I got my determination and refusal to quit, ya? And probably where I got my hard-headed nature, to boot.
(Side note: my great-grandfather was once bullied at a factory in NYC he was employed at and prior to work one day stuck a fire poke up his pant leg to defend himself against his aggressors. I’ve, as well, been known to throw a sharp punch and hold my own in the face of aggressors … same genes much?)
My great-grandfather later married my great-grandmother and they decided several years later to immigrate to New York City as a family. I learned that for a long time my great-grandfather, and even a couple of my great-aunts, worked hard at odd jobs on the streets of NYC to make ends meet while my great-grandmother stayed home to raise my younger great-aunts.
Their thirteen children later went on to grow the family that ended up spreading throughout all 50 states. Part of which was ME! But I only learned all this once I actually sat down and started exploring where I came from and learning about those who came before me.
And I was only able to learn so much about myself by first learning about them!
Here’s the thing: writing a book in the historical category doesn’t mean you’re signing yourself up to be a historian or that you’re even naming yourself as a history “buff.” It simply means you see the value of keeping history alive for yourself and for the benefit of those around you.
Exploring history (yours or someone else’s) can be a really exciting thing. And telling your story can be just as exciting for your readers.
So, what’s actually keeping you from writing your family memoir? From writing your autobiography, or the biography of someone you know?
If you have questions about how to get started on writing a book in the historical space, please feel free to contact me with any questions.