Take Five: Don't leave without one

What is your legacy?

I'm aiming at your emotional hot button. I hope to persuade you to write a few pages of your life story, otherwise known as a memoir.

Please note that I did not suggest you write a book. This is too much to even think about. Think small to begin with. Put all thoughts aside about writing a long piece of your history.

You can begin anywhere you want about your life. Do not become trapped in writing about being born, going to elementary school and then onto higher grades. These parts of your life can come later.

Completely ignore what you learned in school about writing essays. Blasphemy, you say? Yes, I do say. Do not be concerned with punctuation, typos or revising as you write.

Just tell your story. Start in the middle. Or anywhere along the trails of your life — like maybe when your mom gave you cooking lessons after you burned out a treasured frying pan. How about driving lessons from your impatient dad? Did Uncle John take you fishing and forget to bring the worms?

Maybe you ditched school one day and got caught. Or didn't get caught. What did you do? And why?

Recapture your coughing siege and nausea attack when you tried your first cigarette or your first drink.

If you grew up on a farm, try not to write: “I got up and milked the cows, and then walked a mile to the general store to buy supplies.” Rather: “There were three of us kids in the small, two room home and all of us had assigned chores. My sister, Anne, worked in the kitchen alongside Mom, while my brother, Ben, and I planted the vegetables.”

You're telling a story. Don't get stuck with rigid writing rules. You are simply writing a page or two about some part of your life.

Be sure you include your older relatives in your research. Here comes the emotional part of this column. I waited too long. Writers have to write. This is what we do and thus, I am writing a memoir. But my parents, uncles, aunts and grandparents are all gone. My life story, even it were only a few pages long, as I am suggesting that you create, is not as rich as it could be because I don't have access to 150 years of family experiences. I urge you not to wait.

If writing is difficult for you, record your older family members. You don't want to delay getting your story and/or your family's story written or recorded. Maybe your teenage child can sit with Grandma and Grandpa for an hour of video recording.

No matter who you are, what you've done, or what you are doing now, you are the product of many people and events that happened both during your life and before you were born. Go through your scrapbooks, photos from a family vacation, or call a favorite aunt. The eerie thing is that once you start to write anything, it will lead to something else, some other idea, a random thought, a pleasant memory that you will also want to write down, and the words will begin to flow.

You must understand that stories about what has happened to you are important. You are the center of your own life, you are the best person to report what is significant about you, your grandparents, parents, your spouse, children and grandchildren.

Future generations may never know you personally, but they will have a record about you, written by you, for them.

Remember — you can begin with just a few pages.

This is a start toward leaving a living legacy.

GENE PEPPER is a published author and writer. Contact him by email at gpep@aol.com or phone (818) 790-1990.

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