Each year around the month of November we see a lot of buzz around the internet about NaNoWriMo – or, as we speak it in plain English, National Novel Writing Month. It’s a challenge that has rapidly grown with followers since its inception in 1998, encouraging amateur writers to put pens to paper or click away on their keyboard or typewriters and create a novel during the month of November. The goal, ultimately, is to write 50,000 words and tap into your creativity. At the time that I’m writing this, the number of writers registered through NaNoWriMO’s website was just shy of 250,000, and it will continue to climb. It’s kind of a big deal.
Since I heard about this a few years ago I have told myself I would participate in it…one of these days. And why not? There’s a multitude of writing groups at independent book stores, libraries, and schools in almost every community that are holding workshops and acting as support groups for each other as they press on through the month to hit that grueling word count goal at the end of the month. Bloggers go crazy this time of year sharing their enthusiasm for NaNoWriMo, and it’s nearly impossible to walk into a coffee shop without finding an aspiring novelist furiously pounding away at their laptop to write just one more chapter in their science-fiction thriller or . Still, I have put it off, thinking maybe next year…
I’m really no novelist, but what I do have a passion for is history. Particularly, people’s stories. I have the time to commit to this kind of pursuit, so I really have no reason not to give it a go…maybe with a different twist…
I’ve heard my colleague David Jackson say time and time again that there are very few written accounts of daily life and experiences from the twentieth century currently held in the archives of the Jackson County Historical Society. He would know, he’s the Director of Archives and Education with JCHS. Want to take a guess at how many personal recollections about life during the Great Depression they have? The answer: ONE. And this is from a major event in our nation’s history, from a generation that is quickly dwindling. I, personally, would hate to see our history, through our collective memory, slip away undocumented.
The thing is, we each have this notion that our experiences are non-historical, that we haven’t made an impact on history ourselves. Perhaps, but I can think of a multitude of ways in which – just in the last 10-15 years – we have each experienced how our way of life has changed and shaped our experiences. For example, communication. When I was in middle school, my family had dial-up internet (those tones echo in my mind), and each of us were allotted a certain amount of time to spend online each day. At the same time, long before I got my first cell phone, all of my phone calls were made from our landline, and those calls also had a time limit so that others could use the internet or keep our one phone line open. Just take a moment and think about how much has changed since this scenario. I’m sure you have a similar story to tell.
Which brings me to my point.
This November, I propose a different kind of challenge. I’m calling it Five Minute Memoirs.
What if we were to each take five minutes every day for the remainder of the month, and write about your memories? They could be from your childhood, from yesterday, from any stage in your life. Tell about your daily life. Reveal a long-kept secret or pent-up memory. Where you were when a major event happened. Talk about the economy, in good times and bad. Something strange. Something mundane. Products you’ve used. Family traditions. Company parties. The sky is the limit.
At the end of the month, bundle them all together like essays, and consider sharing them with your friends and family. If you feel generous, share them with us and we would like to share them with our readers (with your permission, of course). You can send us a message through our Facebook page or email us.
Most of all, please consider donating your Five Minute Memoirs to your local historical society. If you’re not sure who to contact, we will help you get in touch with the right people.
So what do you say? Are you up for the challenge?
Past to Present Research, LLC