Today’s article is courtesy of our guest author Lisa Alzo, with special thanks from Legacy Family Tree for allowing us to reprint this article.
Does the thought of writing your life story scare you? Even just a little bit? Perhaps you struggle to find the right words, don’t know where to begin, or worry that nobody will want to read your finished product. Often, just the very idea of sharing intimate moments through memoir can stop us before we even put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. As genealogists, we often focus our efforts on chronicling the lives of our ancestors, leaving our own stories to wait until another time.
So if the thought of writing freezes you with fear, or conjures up a litany of excuses (it’s too difficult, not enough time, unsure of where to begin, etc.), here are five fabulous digital tools to help you get your story out there.
- Day One Journal(Mac App $9.99; iPhone/iPad $4.99). Many writers like to keep a diary or journal, and the entries often serve as the outline, or even the meat of the memoir. The Day One Journal takes the diary/journal concept virtual. This app is easy to use, and works well for ideas or making thatmemory list. The bonus of keeping a digital journal with Day One is that, at any point, you can effortlessly search through your entries, email them, or sync through Dropbox. The app also supports tags, photo uploads, and more. The convenience of this handy app is a great step to move your memoir forward, and makes it easy to turn your notes into a book. [Note: Android users might like Day Journalor one of these alternatives]. [Note: this app is a personal favorite of mine.]
- Dragon. (Windows, Mac, and App versions-cost varies from free – $199.99). Some writers find it easier to dictate a story than type it. Dragon turns what you say into text. While there is a bit of work required to set it up to recognize your speech, and results will vary, this program is quite useful when you are unable or don’t want to type. Whether you choose the full computer version of Dragon, or its mobile appsfor Android, iPhone/iPad, this tool gives you a way to tell your story like you are sitting across from your best friend or a favorite relative.
- Saving Memories Forever(iPhone/iPad; Android. Free, and premium versions). Many writers turn to writing prompts to help jumpstart a story. The Saving Memories Forever App works like a series of writing prompts–only with audio. Start by creating a free account and adding yourself as a storyteller. Use the prompts (Childhood, Teenage Years, Adult, etc.) to record your story in your voice, and then start writing from your answers. There is a new feature called theaudio diary (perfect for memoirs). You can record stories with a free account, but if you want to attach pictures and text files you’ll need to go premium.
- Vine(free iOS, Android, Windows). Vine is a mobile service that lets you create and share short looping videos. Download the app, then set up your profile (or use your Twitter account) and your posted videos will appear there for others to follow, or you can share via Twitter or Facebook, or you can opt to protect your posts until you are ready to let the world view them. Vine videos are short and sweet—a great way to practice saying what you want in less words. This app is great for capturing current life moments (in very short segments) as they happen. You could also use it to reminisce on a trip back to see your childhood home, or record memories about a favorite toy, family vacation, etc. Search for “memoir” to see how others have used this tool.
- Voyzee(iPhone/iPad, Android; free). Voyzee is an all-in-one mobile storyteller that lets you combine your photos and movies, and even your own voice into one shareable story. Voyzee’s tag line is: “Your Story. Your voice.” What could be better for the Memoirist? In the simplest of terms, a memoir is really an album of the many snapshots of our lives. You can use Voyzee to take those snapshots to storyboard your memoir, combining voice-over narration, photos, videos, captions, filters, and more to create a full story, a beginning, middle, and end. Voyzee even has its own social network where you can share your movies, and follow other users, or you can share via Twitter, Facebook, email, etc. Watch this cute Voyzee video to see you are never too young to start writing your memoir!
As always, users should carefully read the Terms of Service (TOS) for any online app or tool before signing up or using it.
Once you find the right digital tool(s), you can jumpstart your memories by downloading a copy of my free Life Stories Writing Guide (Lulu.com)— this handy guide contains questions you can use document your own life story and/or to interview others about significant life events to gather, preserve and share precious memories, or to leave a legacy for future generations.
Remember: All of the technology in the world can’t replace creativity. You still have to write your memoir. While these digital tools and apps should not be used in place of writing, they can certainly jumpstart the process, and hopefully help you to overcome your fears of what to write, or how to say it, and provide new ways for you to get it done!
Lisa A. Alzo, M.F.A., is a freelance writer, instructor, and internationally recognized lecturer, specializing in Slovak/Eastern European genealogical research, writing your family history, and using the Internet to trace female and immigrant ancestors. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition from West Virginia Wesleyan College in 1987 and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Nonfiction Writing from the University of Pittsburgh in 1997. Lisa is the author of nine books, including the award-winning Three Slovak Women, and hundreds of magazine articles. She has publishedAncestry Magazine, Discovering Family History Magazine, Family Chronicle, Family Tree Magazine,Internet Genealogy, Reunions Magazine, NGSNews Magazine, Western Pennsylvania History Magazine, and The Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly. Lisa is a contributing editor for Family Tree Magazine, and teaches online courses for Family Tree University and The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. She is frequently invited speaker for national conferences, genealogical and historical societies, and webinars. An avid genealogist for 25 years, Lisa also chronicles her family history adventures on her blog, The Accidental Genealogist <http://www.theaccidentalgenealogist.com>. Visit <http://www.lisaalzo.com> for more information.