Stepping Stones Blog

Milestone Memoir: Steps 2 and 3

Steps 2 and 3:  Brainstorm “Chapters” and Find Photos

As I mentioned in the Introductory Post, Milestone Memoir is my vision of marrying one picture (worth 1,000 words) with one personal essay (500-1,500 words) to create a meaningful narrative for future generations.  

This method varies from traditional scrapbooking in that it places more emphasis on the written word, and less attention on decorative elements.  While journaling is always encouraged, many scrapbookers treat writing as an after-thought.  We try to ensure that the 5Ws are addressed (who, what, where, when, and why), but we tend to focus more on the layout’s visual appeal.

Please note that I do not see Milestone Memoir as a replacement for current scrapbook techniques.  Instead, I see it as coming along-side your other photo preservation methods.  It is more of a hybrid of scrapbooking and storytelling – YOUR story that needs to be shared with others.

Over the next several weeks, I will continue to outline the nine-step process.  Last week we brainstormed a theme for our album.  This week we will brainstorm possible chapters and locate coordinating photos.

* * * * *

Writers are often categorized as either Plotters (those who give considerable thought to plot, characters, and structure prior to writing a single word) and Pantsers (those who jump right into writing without much forethought.  “Flying by the seat of your pants” if you will).  As you can deduce from this overview, I am a Plotter.  I like to know where I am going before I begin a journey.

It isn’t that you can’t begin this project right away, starting whenever and wherever the mood strikes, but for those who need a bit more structure, I will detail my typical process.

Since I learn best by example, I will use my Milestone Memoir projects to illustrate the process.

In brainstorming possible themes, I narrowed the focus to three separate albums.  I want to document our Holiday Traditions (focusing on Christmas, but including other annual celebrations as well), my parents’ stories (as best I know), and my memoir.

Upon further reflection, I decided that my memoir could be divided into two books:  Before children and After children.  I reason that life Before Children is purely “my” memoir – it is the story of my childhood and (hopefully) an explanation of who I am and why.  The story after children will be more my perspective on the life that others have witnessed from their point-of-view.

My first “Milestone Memoir” will be my story before children.

Now I am a concrete sequential thinker, which means, I like structure and order.  For me, the ideal structure for this particular album will be chronological.  I will start with birth (as best I can) and end with married life, working and living in New York City.

Since I want this to be my memories, I will start brainstorming key events I wish to record.  I could look through photos first, selecting the picture and then writing the story to match … but I feel that may be too limiting.  Our family did not take many pictures, and I want to be sure to include all pertinent stories.

For example… I am not fond of doctors.  Some would be appalled to learn that I had my first physical sixteen years after the birth of my last child – or that I refuse to have a mammogram.  However… this avoidance has to do with the fact that was on a constant dose of antibiotics from the ages of two to five; or that I had to take five pills a day for two years because my tuberculosis test proved positive; or that my confidence was betrayed by my doctor when I was in high school.

While these reasons are not meant to be excuses for my neuroses, hopefully they offer a plausible explanation.

However, we have no pictures of my childhood doctor – or my tonsillectomy hospitalization – or my pill bottle.  Instead, I can only find an ordinary photograph of that time in my life when I look “pale and sickly” – this is an opportunity to use an unimpressive picture to tell a particular story.

Does this make sense?  If I had reviewed photos first without giving thought to the memories I want to preserve, I would have missed this valuable story.

Once I have a list of possible chapters (which can change over time), I will then begin the process of reviewing old family photos.  I will warn you… this process can be a bit slow and tedious, but it is worth the effort!  If pictures are unorganized, be prepared to look at each one and attempt to file in a usable format for future reference.

But also, don’t miss the joy in this process.  Recall past memories (you may discover new chapters for the album), and relish the nostalgia of your lifetime.

Once I have found usable photos,  I will then scan them.  This not only provides a digital copy for future generations, but it also gives me the opportunity to edit them for a better printed image.

At this point, I have matched stories with photos and have a good workable outline for the book. I am well on my way to creating a memorable Milestone Memoir.

Next week I will discuss Step 4:  Narrow photos to ONE per chapter

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