Posted by on February 7, 2017

Sometimes we can get into some less than productive habits that can keep us from being efficient family history writers.  Often these habits become excuses for not making any progress.


 Waiting for Inspiration

Many of us take our cues from writers we see in movies. The writer staring at the computer screen waiting for inspiration to strike. But what we have to remember is that writing is a craft that we must practice. Great stories don’t just appear on the page through inspiration. They come through hard work. We can’t wait for that story to happen. We need to write, we need to practice. The more we practice the better we become, the better our stories become. So don’t wait for inspiration to write your family history stories. Just write.


Stopping to Research

As you start writing it will become more evident that you might need a little more research. Especially, when it comes to social history to fill in the details and description of your story.  Many writers fall into the trap of stopping in the middle of their writing session to research. Don’t do this. Instead, place a marker in your writing to indicate that more details are required. Add the research to a research list you keep handy while you are writing. And then keep writing. Keep your writing and research as separate tasks. I like to write in the morning and research in the evening.


Seeking Perfection

Did you spend a lot of time this past week rewriting a single sentence or paragraph? A first draft is not supposed to be perfect, not even close. It’s about getting down the story. The perfect sentences and paragraphs happen in the rewrites. The first draft is about getting the big story down and producing pages, words, not rewriting them.


Giving in to Self-Doubt and Fear

Not a writer in the world that doesn’t experience self-doubt and fear. As writers, we all doubt whether we are good enough. We also have the fear of failure. It’s usually these thoughts that drive our excuses for not writing. I know the excuses because I used to make them.

  • Work was too stressful, I don’t want to thin about anything.
  • I didn’t get enough sleep last night.
  • The children, or the cat or your spouse needs some attention.
  • I have a tone of laundry to do.
  • I need to clean the house.

Excuses for not being good enough is a mindset. Fear of failure is a mindset. Ask yourself when you would rather be doing the laundry than writing why are you really procrastinating on the writing?

Writing is a learned skill. Sure not denying some have a more natural talent than others. But you can do this.

Don’t compare yourself to anyone else.

You are on your own journey. Trust that journey will get you to where you need to go.

Some of our greatest growth comes in the form of failure. But maybe you won’t fail. Ever think of that.


  1. Cynthia Young
    February 7, 2017

    It is true, I have found so many reasons to hold back on the writing. My favourite seems to have been worried about stepping into the shoes of my ancestor to tell their story without truly knowing what they experienced. This go round, I started with a letter to my ancestor to set out my intent and ask permission to imagine their life story. I have to go back to that letter every so often.

  2. Priscilla
    February 7, 2017

    You really hit the nail on the head with this post! Thanks.

  3. Elizabeth DuBois Hokama
    February 7, 2017

    I am a research geek. I need to know *everything*. Especially in places where I’m stuck.

    I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to write from inspiration, and when that strikes, I try to ride that wave for as long as it lasts. Sometimes, that wave is 30 single-spaced typewritten pages, and I get little sleep trying to fit it all in.

    But then it stops. Cold. Usually, it is because of a perceived need for more research. I have been staring at an 1820 Alabama map for days, and googling Fall Line Road. Again and again I don’t get what I want to find. There just is nothing! I must move on.

    Today, I am writing a placeholder for a large gap that I have. Because I am ready for the next big turning point.

  4. Carol Lee Enos
    February 7, 2017

    My big stopper is “how creative can I get?”
    Lynn says events and people must be real, but my scene has my Hessian ancestor escaping. The scene is better with no moon, but that’s made up. It’s better with him running along the riverbank, but that’s made up.
    Anybody else having this problem?

  5. Peggy Vasseur
    February 7, 2017

    I’d say stopping to research is one of my faux pas. I love to research. But when I go to find one little thing, it leads to another and another . . .

    Had to set all genealogy and writing aside today to take Mom to see the specialist. Really and truly. Tomorrow is a snowstorm, and so it the next. Depending on the storm, I’ll write on the computer or in my notebook. Soooo slow, writing by hand. How did writers get books written two centuries ago, with no internet and no keyboard or even a typewriter?

  6. suzannedelacour
    February 8, 2017

    I am absolutely struggling with how creative my creative non-fiction can be. I wrote for over an hour yesterday imagining how it was for my 7th great-grandmother to first meet her husband-to-be. Later I re-read my words and began to second guess myself in terms of the quality as well as lack of facts. On the other hand, my goal is to honor the courage of my ancestor so will continue to write.

  7. Linda Huesca Tully
    February 13, 2017

    Lynn, your post and these comments resonate so much with me. I, too, am a research geek with a journalist’s mind – must get the story right and accurate! I do struggle sometimes with that as I work on the “flow” of the story until eventually it falls into place. But I do write every day, and I finally published my latest blog post after two weeks of writing, researching, and re-writing. Thanks for your ongoing inspiration and support.