Make History! (yes you)
There will be many future historians writing and teaching about the 2020 global pandemic. The best historians are the ones who depend on real first-hand accounts of their times. One way to pass on what you learned from this time is to write it down – historians may thank you.
And there will be your future descendants who will want to know how their ancestors dealt with this difficult time as well. If you are lucky, you may know some of the stories your parents or grandparents – and if you’re really lucky, even further back. These stories connect you to the past, the future, the world. Now it’s your turn to share stories about a time that will affect us all, present and future.
I have been a ghostwriter for over 20 years, ghostwriting 40+ memoirs during that time. I know how important they are, and I also know they are sometimes difficult to write. When I was ghostwriting, I always prepared a list of questions, both detailed and general, that I asked my clients during our interviews so I could capture their stories in their own words.
I also wrote my book “Making History” about the 1930s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, & 80s, which includes many stories of the students in my classes on memoir writing, using these questions to help them remember.
I have put together a list of new questions about this time in history, since I too believe that in the future our time will be studied by historians — and also our descendants.
So here are some questions to help you write and remember what you did, felt, saw, and heard during the pandemic of 2020. The questions are not in any particular order, and of course you may think of many more. Be as specific as you want or can – the more detailed the better. Tell the stories!
When did you first learn about this virus? How did you learn – TV? On the web? Social media? Friend or family member telling you? How scared were you at first? When did you realize this was a big deal? What emotions did you feel at that time?
Who do – or did – you blame for this pandemic? Who do – or did – make it better or make it worse, and how? Are you happy with the leaders of government? Which leaders do you like, or don’t like? What have they done right, or done wrong?
How do you stay informed – TV, newspaper, social media, etc? How often do you check up on the news? Did you ever get the wrong information from some media? Which one? Which information source do you trust, or distrust?
Do you personally know someone on the “front lines” – like medical personnel, or delivery people, or people in government, or grocery clerks, and so on. Are you afraid for these people? Have you tried to help these people, and if so, how?
What are the hardest things about staying home? Are you lonely? Are you bored? If so, what bores you? What do you miss the most – your friends, your freedom, a special place that you can no longer visit? Do you have a plan to handle isolation and loneliness? How is it working? What is it missing?
What are the good parts about staying home? Do you like catching up on television shows – if so, what shows do you watch and why? Which do you dislike and why? Do you like to spend more time on your computer – if so, what sites do you visit often? Do you get more done on art projects or exercise, for example? If you live alone, do you have a pet, & have you and your pet become closer or have more fun together? If you live with other people (including children or mates) have you become closer? If so, what do you do together now that you didn’t have time for before this?
If you or your partner works from home, how did that manifest? What room did you or they work from? Did you set up a desk or table in a different room? Did you or they have an organized daily routine? If so, what is the routine? If someone you live with works from home, how did that impact your relationship?
If you have children at home, how are you and they dealing with schooling at home? What does your child miss? Are you afraid she or he is not getting the education he/she needs? If the child is your grandchild, not your child, do you worry about them? What’s your biggest worry for children? Will that lack of socialization, and the fear, cause them emotional difficulties?
What scares you the most about this pandemic? Are you afraid that you will die? Or your loved ones, especially elders or infirm people in your family? Are you scared you will lose your job? Are you afraid of financial difficulties? Are you afraid the Stock Market will crash and the economy will go into a Depression? Do you know anyone who have had these kind of problems/difficulties? What are you doing to try and protect yourself or your loved ones?
What makes you feel safe, or at least safer? A cup of tea? Your dog nestling close to you? Your wife or husband’s calm voice? Someone telling you a funny story? Doing something ordinary, like washing the dishes or paying your bills? Watching TV when doctors, or government people, discuss the virus? Reading positive stories on social media?
Do you personally know someone who has or had this virus? How close are you to them? Do you know how they were infected? How sick were or are they? Could you find a way to help them, and if so, how? How have they handled this crisis?
What do or did you do to try and stay positive? Sing a happy song? Listen to serene music? Dance in the living room? Watch a comedy? (which one) Give to charities? Learn a new way of communicating, such as FaceTime, or Zoom?
If you feel or felt depressed, scared, panicky, negative, how do or did you get over it? How long did it take to feel better? Did you read or see something positive?
Has anyone made you laugh during this time? Who made you laugh, and how did they do it? Tell the story.
How are your loved ones – parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, brothers, sisters, wives, husbands – dealing with this? Are they more positive than negative, or vice versa? Are they distracted, too quiet, too noisy, too sleepy, too tired? Are they handling this good or bad? How or why?
When this is over, what is the first thing you want to do? Where is the first place you want to visit? Who is the first person you want to hug?
How do you think this will be resolved? How do you think it will change the world, or America?
How will historians of the future think about the meaning of this time?
What have you learned about yourself?
Making History Memoir-Writing Workshops
These workshops teach participants a comprehensive, easy-to-use, and fun method of exploring the times of their lives against a backdrop of historical events. I lead them on a wild gallop through 20 to 50 years, from 1950 to 2000, exploring how they made a difference, what they contributed, what they witnessed, and how they can share their stories with others. They learn how to access buried memories through interactive techniques, sharing exercises, and non-critical discussion. They hear great stories from others and recount their own.
Based on my book Making History: how to remember, record, interpret and share the events of your life, the workshops can be customized to cover fifty years or twenty. I’ve been teaching these workshops for twenty years, at historical societies, genealogical societies, community colleges, senior centers, and others. For more detailed information and comments from past participants, click here.
If you are interested in attending or hosting a workshop, please contact me.
“How vain it is to sit down to write
when you have not stood up to live.”
– Henry David Thoreau