Recording and writing family stories is a personal business. Until the moment you begin documenting your life to share with others, it’s all private. In the process you are touching on the raw emotions of life, one you’ve actually lived. So why would you hire a private consultant – a non-family member – to walk into your life for short but intensive periods of time and listen to hours of you telling private stories?
It’s natural to think you or a family member would do it all yourself. At some point along the way, the thought of all the steps needed to organize your stories and finish it as either a book, audio, video, or web product may stifle you into inertia.
Just as there are many types of personal historians [Link to blog on what is a personal historian] there are equally numerous reasons why hiring a consultant makes sense for you.
- Time Is Of The Essence
Sometimes a medical issue prevents you from getting to the projects you long planned to do yourself someday. Other time a loved one’s medical issues pushes you to eagerly capture their stories. End of life scenarios are a clear example of rushing to capture stories. Don’t wait or you may regret it.
Another example is when groups of people get together on occasions that are so rare that they can’t be duplicated, such as family reunions, weddings, coworkers gatherings, school functions, work events, sports anniversaries, etc. You have one shot to interview people and you, yourself, would like to be in the moment.
In these cases, hire someone to focus on the capturing stories quickly.
If you tend to start and stop projects for long periods of time, you may need some help with reorganizing your project, mastering the structure, creating timelines or themes, editing, or building out your stories more.
- False Starters
You have a project that you’d really like to start, but never do. Instead you just talk about, to the point where others don’t take you seriously.
- Where is the Starting Line
You know you have a project that you’d really like to start, but you have no idea where to begin.
- Doing something you really want, while you can
Many people feel that recording family stories is something they really want to do for themselves and if they wait any longer to do a personal history project they’ll be hesitant to spend the money down the road. Others express concern that family members will pressure them to not spend the money, either with a consultant or on a do-it-yourself project, even though this is something they really want to do.
- Ditching the I-Want-A-Copy Guilt
Whether you are producing a published or unpublished project, say a book, most people anticipate sharing their it with a finite number of people. Just because you produced it, doesn’t mean the finished product is free to anyone who asks for a copy. If you want to invest in enough copies for everyone you have ever known, that’s fine. If not, then a consultant can help you address this issue of asking for payment from people in your extended network. Delegate the hassle.
- It’s Heavy Lifting
From organizing a concept to outlining; creating timelines; developing structure; drafting questions; writing drafts; talking to family; storyboarding; editing; revisions; printing and publishing options; reading reviews; writing book jacket copy; designing covers; preparing photographs; ordering books; and asking for reviews, it’s a lot of work to do singlehandedly. It’s like running your first marathon. You don’t realize how far you have to go until you toe the starting line, thinking about all those mile markers and wondering if you are prepared enough to tackle this adventure. We all need a training buddy.
- Tightrope walking
Short deadlines make people daffy. If you need to get started immediately, bring someone in to help.
- Avoiding Family Drama
There are several examples where working with a relative can produce unnecessary hard feelings among the family. Sharing long stories from the past with just one relative – even if it’s meant to be shared eventually – may sound to others like you’re playing favorites. What happens is you start having fun with reminiscence. It’s intensive and enjoyable conversation. You’ll suddenly remember things you haven’t thought of in years. Over time these conversations become more animated. Those who were not there will wish they were or, at least, wish they were asked to be a part of it.
Controlling personalities are another problem. If you don’t want a relative demanding you tell only specific stories the way they want to hear them, don’t let them control how you tell your story.
In life review, sometimes hidden secrets are revealed. Decide if you want everyone to hear about it at the same time or allow the news to trickle out.
In these cases, a third party allows you the freedom to talk without judgement and easily answer follow-up questions.
- Too Many CooksInThe Kitchen
Tell people you’re writing a book of life stories and you’ll be surprised at how many experts surround you. As well intentioned as they mean to be the volume of thoughts, opinions, directions, and negative pushback can be dizzying. You already know it’s going to be a lot of work. Sometimes you’ll want to tune everyone out and just talk it though.
Know this before hiring a personal historian. Allowing someone into your life to work on recording your life stories requires a lot of trust. Make sure you’re comfortable with talking to that person before the work begins. Talk to their past clients. Review the contracts carefully. Know what your costs are and what additional charges may occur. Create a timeline with them, so you’ll know when to expect deliverables before it becomes final.
Hiring a professional personal historian can give you a greater sense of accomplishment and value as you see your project progress to completion.