Everyone can become writers; start by jotting words on paper

Duane Dailey

Every person is a subject and every person is a writer. No one should neglect their job of recording their life. Then, record the lives of those closest to you.

Record your own history and that of your family. Who will keep and tell that story, if not you?

Without writing, history is lost. Stories told and heard evaporate in air, gone with the life of a person.

I bought a book Saturday at Yellow Dog Bookstore, downtown. It records thoughts of Henry David Thoreau. This book, one of 13, written by this famous author comes from manuscripts jotted in 1840. Ideas of a 23-year-old man in Concord, Mass., vibrate strong as when scribbled 176 years ago. Thoreau lives in his words.

Think of your power, writing lasting words. I’m talking words written in ink on paper, not jotted on Facebook. Let us not lose the art of writing. Many Facebook postings lack. We can do better.

Do you know the history of your father or mother? What about four grandparents? For many, it’s too late to write those stories straight from the sources.

I co-founded the Missouri Mule History project. The stories aren’t of mules, but mule owners and users. Those were people stories. I learned Missouri history hearing stories of over 100 mule people.

Dr. Melvin Bradley and I started that project when old mule people began to die. Their stories were lost.

Threads from our interviews were words of “thank you.” Old people told us: “My children never asked what I did.”

They told wonderful stories of time gone by, a way of life lost.

Every person holds similar stories from their early days. No one knows those stories.

This season could be time to start. End of year and start of new gives time to reflect. Set a quiet time to record your people. They can be young or ancient with stories to share. In a family, it’s an act of love.

You honor the past by handing down to the future. Family stories are valuable. From stories, we learn. It may be things to do; or maybe things to avoid. History teaches, if we listen.

If you make an appointment, by the time you arrive that person will have a story to tell. It shouldn’t be a hard interview. These stories from old people must be remembered.

Take a recorder, which might be your smart phone. It’s critical to transcribe digital words into typescript. 

Get them on paper.

Another way to get stories: Give a gift blank book. A 99-cent composition book becomes a rich heritage when people write their stories.

Each person can keep a journal of what happens now. Day-by-day jots become history tomorrow.

No excuses of “But, I’m not a writer.” Don’t fret about grammar; just get words down on paper. That’s the first step, jotting words on paper.

When I write this column, I worry not about spelling, grammar or logic. The first draft goes down fast before ideas escape.

English teachers when I was in school urged making an outline before writing. Bad idea. Just write. Real writing comes in rewriting. Never send a first draft. This column will reach at least draft four. Writing is in re-writing.

Do the honors to become family historian. Every person should be their own history writer. Keep a journal.

I recently read a book on creativity. The main tip was to find some brief quiet time each day to write. Just write. What do you think now? Later that jogs your memory to develop an idea.

Farm managers should jot down what was in farm history and on what could be. That starts a strategic plan.

Refine ideas and share. Someone you know would be shocked to get your letter now.

Do it.

But, edit first.

I write not from experience, but regret.

I share ideas every week. Sometimes, it spurs amazing responses. Try it at duanedailey7@gmail.com.