Updated: Jul 30, 2019
I always encourage parents to write a bit about their kids and families - because they will cherish your words.
This could be as simple as writing down the funny or adorable things your kids say. You could go a little deeper by keeping a journal about your kids (a photo journal is an awesome idea). It could also be writing letters or notes to your kids (even ones that you'll give them after they're grown up).
Most people love the idea of writing about their families, but aren't too sure how to get started. Or, they get started and then feel overwhelmed by it.
Here are some ideas to get you started and keep you going.
1) Different Forms of Writing
There are many ways of writing about your family journey.
Naomi has a notebook where she writes the funny things our kids say in the midst of everyday life.
I keep a journal of our family life. It includes everything from what I love about our kids to what we're struggling through as a family. The journal is a great way to keep track of our goals and progress as a family. I write often enough to make it worthwhile, but I don't obsess over how much I do it.
Sometimes photos of our life together is enough. But once in a while I want to capture something deeper in words.
Naomi and I both occasionally write letters to our kids. Sometimes they get those letters now, but most of them will be for when they are grown up.
Choose any form of writing that makes it easy for you to get started.
2) How to Get Started
Saying, I'm going to journal is easy. Actually journaling is not.
There are so many things that will hold you back.
Waiting for the right time will hold you back. Some people say, I'll do it when I have time. But unless you make time, you'll never just magically have the time.
Finding the perfect journal or notebook will hold you back. So many people think they they can only write if they've got the perfect notebook and pen to use. I wasted years not writing because I couldn't find the perfect notebook to use. Then one day I found it. Do you think I ever used it? Nope. Now I needed inspiration.
Waiting for inspiration will hold you back. Life is full and messy and wonderful. Don't wait for warm fuzzy feelings to help you write. Just write. If you wait for inspiration, you will hardly ever write.
Saying, I'll write it down later, means you never will. You should stop and write the moment you think of something.
Not knowing quite what to say will hold you back. It doesn't matter. Just write stuff down, anything! As time goes on you'll figure out how to be more intentional about what you're saying.
Start now and in 30 days your mind will be blown with how much you've written. Even if you only jot down one little thing per week. You've done something and your family will be grateful that you had the foresight.
3) Staying Organized
If you're super organized to begin with then you don't need my help on this, but most people are not well organized.
On the one hand it can all be very simple. Just write in one journal, keep it all in one place.
But if you want to keep your writing separate for each child or family member then you should probably have folders to keep stuff in.
Carry a little notebook with you to capture things spontaneously. When you're suddenly inspired to jot something down, you've got a place to write. Transfer it to your journal or folders later on (even if you never transfer them, it doesn't matter, you've captured something).
Personally, I've got countless scraps of paper with stuff scribbled on. Stuff about family, business, photography, stuff I'm reading, grocery lists. Scraps of paper are my modus operandi. Eventually, they find an organized home.
It'll take a bit of time to figure out the best way to stay organized. Go ahead, start messy and organize when you can. Just get stuff written out and figure out what to do with it later.
It's okay to be a little OCD, as long as it doesn't get in the way of actually writing. I use loose leaf lined paper, write with a blue clear barrel BIC, while drinking from the perfect mug. But I'm not so obsessive about these things that I let them get in the way of actually writing. I'll write on an old napkin from the glove compartment of our minivan if I have to.
4) And What If I Don't Know What To Say?
This can be the hardest part, but don't give up after the first try. There are many reasons that you might not know what to say.
If you come from a family that didn't talk much, it might be difficult for you to find words, even though you are compelled to say something.
You'll try writing about your kids, not know what to say, feel stupid, and feel dead inside. This will be a test for you as a person. Can you handle the discomfort? Are you willing to grow though this? Or will you give up, stay silent, and deprive your family of a legacy of words?
Don't try writing from the heart or trying to be poetic. Start simple. "We did this today as a family..." "Johnny said this today..."
Eventually, you'll be able to write some heartfelt letters to your kids or spouse.
If you're kind of introverted and withdrawn then you might find that a glass of wine and a couple episodes of Mr. Rogers will help get the words flowing.
Oh, you think I'm kidding?! Even a hardcore, Jack Daniels straight from the bottle, rough around the edges dad can't resist Mr. Rogers.
Relax and you'll find some words.
If you can't figure out what to say, just write what you wish you could say, or what you wish somebody had said to you.
Pour a glass of wine, pull out your imperfect journal, lock the bathroom door, and write about your family. A note to your kid can change the course of their lives. But do it quick, before they figure out where you disappeared to!
Hi, I'm Mat!
I discovered photography when I was a kid and have never looked back.
When I was little, my great aunt told me I should keep a journal.
I finally realized that photography and writing belong together.