6 Tips for the Time-Starved Family History Writer

This is a guest post by Julie Cahill


  Julie Cahill

Genealogy has been a passion of Julie’s since 2007 and she has been a professional writer for as long as she can remember. She provides writing, editing, and design services to assist other genealogists in telling their family stories. Julie is working toward the American Records certificate through the National Institute for Genealogical Studies and has completed the ProGen Study Group program. She is currently the Recording Secretary and Education Committee Chair for the Illinois State Genealogical Society and Treasurer for the Letitia Green Stevenson Chapter NSDAR, and serves on many committees for each organization.

You can find Julie at one of her three genealogy blogs: GenBlogWriting Your Way to the Past, and Who Will Tell Their Story?.

  Writing your family history is an ambitious goal, but one that can be accomplished if you set your mind to it.  For most of us, time plays a big part in why we never seem to get around to writing that family history book or even shorter pieces for publication in scholarly journals.  Here are six tips to help you find time and make the most of it.

1.  Be Deliberate – Make a commitment to yourself to write each day for a minimum of 15 minutes (that’s an hour and forty-five minutes every week).  Doing so reinforces your desire to write your family history and keeps it in the forefront of your life.  If you don’t make this (or a similar commitment) your writing goal will fall into the background and you won’t make much progress.

2.  Make a Date – Put your writing sessions on your calendar, just like you would any other appointment.  When a potential conflict arises, either reschedule your writing session at another time for that day or learn to say “no” to other demands of your time.  

3.  Create a Distraction-Free Zone – You want to accomplish your writing task for the day and the best way to do that is to create a distraction-free zone.  Find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed.  Turn off your cell phone, close your email program, close Facebook, and ask your family (or roommates) to respect your quiet time. 

4.  Set a Timer – You want to use your designated time wisely.  When we sit down to write, we often spend more time thinking about what to write than actually writing, and before you know it, time’s up. Setting a timer (preferably a digital one that’s audible) will get you to stop thinking and start writing.  It also prevents you from watching a clock to check your time, which is a huge time-waster.  Set the timer, start writing, and stop when the timer beeps.

5.  Write Anything – No one said you have to start at the beginning or even write in any logical order.  Write whatever comes to you during your designated time.  And don’t feel that you must write complete sentences or even grammatically correct sentences.  As long as your getting the words out, that’s what matters.  As you pull more material together, you may want to designate one or two sessions a week to organizing and editing your work.  Writing is a process, and as long as you accomplish a part of that process in each of your sessions, you’ll continue to make progress and will eventually complete your goal.

6.  Grab a Buddy – Sometimes it’s hard for us to be accountable to ourselves.  If you’re one of those people (I admit I am), the best solution is to find a buddy.  It doesn’t even have to be someone with a writing goal.  You just need to find someone who will check in with you, motivate you, and keep you on track.  As long as you have someone you’re accountable to, you’ll keep your writing commitment a priority in your life and use your writing sessions wisely.  Perhaps they have a goal of their own (e.g., losing weight, furthering education, training for a marathon, etc.) where you could be their buddy in return.

I hope these tips are helpful to you as you work toward attaining your writing goals.  Best of luck!!