Monthly Archives: October 2009

The Top 10 Posts of The Year.

top10I’ve written over two hundred posts since starting this blog fifteen months ago. These are the top ten, ranked in order of the most viewed.

  1. 100 Free Resources for Personal Historians.
  2. How to Interview Someone Who Is Terminally Ill.
  3. How Much Should You Pay A Personal Historian?
  4. Warning: Using Copyright Music Without Permission Is Illegal.
  5. 9 Essential Articles on The Art of Interviewing.
  6. Editing Brings Out The Gold.
  7. 8 Reasons Why Personal Historians Should Use Twitter.
  8. 20 More Free Resources for Personal Historians.
  9. Ethical Wills 101: Part One ~ How to Begin.
  10. 12 Key Tips for Successfully Working Alone.

If you enjoyed this post, get free updates by email.

Photo by iStockphoto.com

Share this post.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to Ma.gnoliaAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine

The Power of “No”.

NO

Saying “no” politely is a necessity if one wants to lead any kind of stable life. ~ Richard Chamberlain

The “N” word has a bad reputation. It’s seen as negative and mean. Many of us find it hard to say. But saying No will help you not only with your work as a personal historian but also with your life in general. I’m getting better at saying No but there’s room for improvement. The reality is that saying No is a healthy way of providing us with the space we need to be the best we can be. Saying No takes back control of our lives. You have a right to say No and feel good about it. Here are ten things where No can be the answer. Do you have any to add to the list?  Send me a comment. Love to hear from you.

  1. No to clutter. Physical and mental clutter fills space and leaves us less energy for the things we really want to do. Clean up your office and throw stuff out. Being mindful of the moment and focusing on one thing at a time will reduce mental clutter.
  2. No to worry. “I worry about scientists discovering that lettuce has been fattening all along,” says Erma Bombeck.  So what are you worrying about? Can you do something about it? Then do it. Action is a powerful antidote to worry. If your worry is something you can’t do anything about, then let it go. For every minute spent worrying we could spend that minute reflecting on the good in our lives. The mind can’t hold two thoughts at the same time.  Hold thoughts that are pleasing. Soon there will be little space for worry!
  3. No to the Gremlin. Our Inner Critic keeps us locked in  old beliefs and time worn patterns. Recognizing our Gremlins and saying No to them opens up new ways of interacting with the world.
  4. No to procrastination. When we think of tasks as difficult or inconvenient, there’s a tendency to procrastinate. When we give in to procrastination, we perform poorly and  are often under increased stress. One solution: break big tasks into small size pieces.
  5. No to time wasters. How is your time wasted during the day? Make a list of all the situations that waste your time and then zap them! You know what they are -  answering soliciting calls, listening to gossip, trying to find that document you filed  somewhere, surfing the Internet, and grocery shopping at the busiest time of the day.
  6. No to overwhelm. Taking on one more task or project can tip us into overwhelm.  Ask what you will have to say No to before saying yes to your next project.
  7. No to pleasing people all the time. “I really cannot give you the formula for success. But I can give you the formula for failure. It’s this: try to please everyone,” says  Bernard Meltzer. We all want to be liked. For some of us that means saying yes to everyone so that they’ll like us. It’s a no win situation. You can’t please everyone all the time and so someone is bound to feel slighted. It’s better to be clear who the people are that have a priority on your time and be generous to them than to stretch yourself thinly and satisfy no one.
  8. No to tolerations. Our lives are full of things that we tolerate. They  sap our energy and limit our potential. Tolerations can be big and small from tolerating an unhappy relationship to tolerating a squeaky door.  Limit your tolerations and you’ll have more room in your life.
  9. No to blame. Blaming others for our difficulties is not helpful. A better approach is to examine your strengths. Then ask yourself, “How can I use my strengths to improve my business and my life?”
  10. No to “toxic” clients. You don’t want to be around clients for whom nothing is right. You may think that you need every client you can lay your hands on but you can do better. Fire your “toxic” client and you’ll leave an opening for someone who really values your services.

If you enjoyed this post, get free updates by email.

Photo by iStockphoto

Monday’s Link Roundup.

Monday's Link Roundup

This Monday’s Link Roundup has some gems. One of these is Grandma taught our son a lot. If you read nothing else from my list, read this. It speaks eloquently of the power of passing on our stories to a younger generation. And close to my heart is a  link to the story about a Hospice in Florida that helps patients tell their life stories.

  • Native Americans learn about culture preservation. “Culture is complicated for Native Americans, and so is its preservation. Without a record, some tribes left no trace. Passing culture down through the generations gets more complicated by a tradition of oral history that makes some elders suspicious of recordings and photography.”
  • Altman’s Passions Shine Through.Robert Altman: The Oral Biography, …imitates Altman’s art. Mitchell Zuckoff, who had been working with Altman on a book about filmmaking when the celebrated director died in November 2006, took those interviews and cross-cut them with conversations with just about every person who figured in Altman’s life. The result is much like one of Altman’s movies: many voices overlapping, some in concert, some contradicting, all rushing headlong toward their version of the truth.”
  • Fairmont’s History Told Through Podcasts. “Fairmont,West Virginia is a known for having a rich history, but teaching that history to the younger generations can be a challenge…Main Street Fairmont is using a $20,000 Preserve America Grant to record an oral history of the town, which will be edited into mini documentaries and put online available for downloads.”

If you enjoyed this post, get free updates by email.

Share this post.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to Ma.gnoliaAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine

12 Key Tips for Successfully Working Alone.

home office desk

I’ve been self-employed  for twenty years. I’ve loved being my own boss. But it hasn’t been all sunshine and roses. There have been some real challenges and some hard slogging. Over time I’ve learned some things about working alone  and I’d like to share them with you. Maybe you’ve got some additional tips. If so, please share them by leaving a comment below.

  1. Create a home office. It’s important to keep your overhead down so don’t spend money on an outside office. Make sure your home office is a place where you can work without being disturbed. Close the door. The sound of barking dogs and crying children isn’t very professional when you’re on the phone with clients. It’s also important to make a clear mental separation between the place where you live and the place where you work in your home.
  2. Get a comfortable ergonomic chair. One of my best investments was a quality ergonomic chair. You’ll be spending many hours in your chair. You want to be comfortable and properly supported so that you don’t end your day with aching muscles.
  3. Set work hours. The quickest route to failure is to wander through your work day without any sense of a beginning or end to it. You don’t need to punch in at 9 AM but you do need to be disciplined about when you start.  Make certain to have a fixed time of the day when you stop work. Don’t keep pushing on until midnight.
  4. Look sharp. Get out of your PJs and bathrobe. It might be tempting to shuffle around in your rabbit slippers but it doesn’t instill a sense of professionalism. You don’t need to put on a suit but you do need to change into something that makes you feel sharp.
  5. Enlist the services of a bookkeeper. You need to set up a bookkeeping system to get a handle on your income and expenses. Hire a person who is familiar with the needs of the self-employed.
  6. Get insurance. Speak to an insurance broker to assess whether your home insurance adequately covers your home-based business.
  7. Be persistent. I like to remark that I’m not brilliant but I’m persistent! When I look back, I realize that I’ve accomplished a good deal because I seldom gave up unless it was  clearly a futile exercise. To succeed on your own you have to keep pushing ahead through the inevitable setbacks and road blocks.
  8. Join a business networking  group. Isolation can be a detrimental factor when working alone. Find out what local business networking groups are in your area and join one or two of them.
  9. Have passion for your work. One of the challenges of working on your own is that you don’t necessarily have “cheerleaders” to keep you motivated. If you don’t absolutely love what you’re doing, it will become increasingly difficult to get through the hard times.
  10. Don’t be consumed by work. It’s easy to go non-stop when you’re working alone. Make sure to take 10 or 15 minute breaks every hour. Schedule time for family and friends. Go for a brisk walk.
  11. Prepare a list. You need to have a plan for your day. It can be something simple like  writing down the three things you must complete today. I like to use the GTD approach to maintaining productivity. It helps to break big tasks into manageable pieces.
  12. Keep learning. This is critical because you need to keep on top of changing technologies and trends. Find time to take training programs and workshops, read books, subscribe to newsletters, and attend  lectures.

If you enjoyed this post, get free updates by email.

Photo by iStockphoto

Free Seven-Part Ethical Will Course.

hand and notebookOver the years I’ve run  ethical will workshops for hundreds of people.  If you’re thinking of doing your own ethical will but don’t know where to start, take a look at my free seven-part Ethical Will course by clicking here. [Note: Scroll down the page to get to Part One.]

If you’re a personal historian wanting to add to your  offerings, please feel free to use my course. All I ask is that you don’t alter my material and that you provide a link to my site.

If you enjoyed this post, get free updates by email.

Photo by Caitlin Heller

Share this post.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to Ma.gnoliaAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine

Monday’s Link Roundup.

Monday's Link Roundup

Happy Monday! I hope you’ll enjoy this week’s collection of tasty links. If you look no further than Great Storytelling challenge, you’re in for a remarkable piece of storytelling by Daniel Beaty. Don’t miss it! And for all of us who make presentations from time to time, don’t pass up Make Better Presentations. You’ll find a wealth of good information.

  • Library helps memoirists capture their experiences. “In Candace Thompson’s Lincoln Park condo sit hundreds of yellowed pages filled with the loopy cursive writing no longer in favor… But filtering someone else’s experiences into a book is no easy task, so Thompson enrolled in a memoir-writing workshop at the Pritzker Military Library that is designed to help fledgling writers capture their experiences and those of others for a historical record.”
  • ACT UP encore. “Created in 1987 by six gay activists, the Silence = Death Project soon came to symbolize a potent rising protest movement: The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP)…But to the dismay of Helen Molesworth, Harvard Art Museum’s Maisie K. and James R. Houghton Curator of Contemporary Art, many of today’s generation have forgotten the imagery, the movement, and its importance…She aims to change that with a new exhibition at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts titled “ACT UP New York: Activism, Art, and the AIDS Crisis, 1987–1993,” opening today (Oct. 15). The show examines the history of the movement through a series of powerful graphics created by various artist collectives that were part of the influential group.”
  • Contemporary Approaches to Heritage Planning. “Although heritage often appears to be an issue of saving significant buildings, there is another, equally important conversation that I feel often gets short shrift: the preservation of intangible heritage. Intangible heritage is the associative heritage that characterizes a community; it is made up of the stories and symbolic values that attach themselves to and come to define the built environment.”
  • 30 Old Books Worth Buying For the Cover Alone. “These are those books that catch our eyes, that demand to be picked up and opened, and that make us want to possess them. Enjoy these exquisite examples of beautiful books, and treat yourself to something lovely and collectible – most are surprisingly affordable. “
  • What is The Moth? “The Moth, a not-for-profit storytelling organization, was founded in New York in 1997 by poet and novelist George Dawes Green, who wanted to recreate in New York the feeling of sultry summer evenings on his native St. Simon’s Island, Georgia, where he and a small circle of friends would gather to spin spellbinding tales on his friend Wanda’s porch.”
  • Great Storytelling Challenge: Sometimes It’s All in the Delivery. “…rising to reader Raf Stevens’ challenge for me to present more examples of good storytelling in this space, I give you another one that is making the social-media rounds…, this one depends on spoken words. The spoken words give it a huge portion its power… The rest of its power comes from the delivery by actor, singer, writer, and composer Daniel Beaty, illustrating just how much a teller can bring to a story.”

If you enjoyed this post, get free updates by email.

Share this post.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to Ma.gnoliaAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine

What I’ve Learned About Getting “Truthful” Interviews.

old womanAmong personal historians the topic of honesty in interviews is a recurring topic. We want to ensure that our interviews illuminate the depth of a person’s life and not simply skim across the surface. Questions arise about how far we should go to uncover the “truth” of a life lived.

I’ve done hundreds of interviews in my twenty-five years as a documentary filmmaker and personal historian. The interview subjects have included political leaders,  prominent artists,  historians, the dying, and the elderly.

This is what I’ve learned:

  1. People will tell me only what they are prepared to tell me. No amount of clever or challenging questioning will change that fact. And I respect my  client’s wishes.
  2. The interview is not about me and my agenda. My focus is always  on my client and his or her needs.
  3. I must have the courage to ask  reflective and sometimes difficult questions. We owe it to our clients to raise questions that no one else may ask. “What have been the regrets in your life?” or “What are your fears around dying?” However, going back to my first point, I’m aware that asking the questions doesn’t always elicit a full response.
  4. I am not a therapist. My role is to help a person tell their story,  not to make them better. I’m aware though that through the process of interviewing healing can occur for a client.
  5. Clients will sometimes reveal information to me that they have told no one. Having revealed this information they may not want it preserved in print or video for the whole world to know and may ask that it be deleted.
  6. The degree to which people confide in me is directly proportional to the trust I’m able to establish. This means that in my initial interviews I cover soft, easy topics  like happy childhood memories or descriptions of a childhood home. Once the client and I have been together for a number of sessions, then I raise some of the more challenging questions.
  7. I’m not an investigative journalist. Getting at the truth is critical for an investigative journalist. Compassion can be an impediment to their work. I’m a personal historian and  my need for honesty is tempered by compassion for my client.

If you enjoyed this post, get free updates by email.

Photo by iStockphoto

 

12 Top Rated Family Tree Makers.

familytree2If you’re looking for a family tree maker, look no further. I’ve assembled twelve of the best. Some are free while others have a modest subscription price. You’ll find some of these programs are relatively simple and others have all the “bells and whistles”.  I haven’t used any of these products myself  so I can’t offer any personal favorite.

  • Family Tree Maker. “Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting on your family tree, Family Tree Maker 2010 can help you create a family tree faster, easier, and better than ever before.”
  • Family Tree Builder. “Family Tree Builder is a brand new, free, and original program for amateur and professional genealogy fans. Packing the most innovative features developed for genealogy in the past decade, such as Face Recognition Technology, Visual Data Entry, Immersive 3D Trees, and Online Family Tree Publishing, it is highly intuitive and a pleasure to use. Create your family tree easily or import GEDCOM, print great charts and reports. Family Tree Builder supports 12 languages.”
  • Legacy Family Tree. “…an award winning professional genealogy program that helps you track, organize, print, and share your family history. Includes source documentation, over 100 beautiful reports, expert merging capabilities, To Do list, pictures, videos, Web page creation, spell checking, Internet searching, relationship calculation, and name tag printing. Import/Export support.”
  • GenoPro. “… a specialized tool for drawing family trees and genograms. GenoPro’s intuitive graphical user interface quickly produces professional-looking pedigree family trees ready for printing or for pasting to any presentation software. GenoPro is more than genealogy; it can visually document an entire community, including emotional relationships and social connections among people.”
  • Geni. “…a private place to build your free family tree.” Voted “The Best Free Software 2009″ by PC Magazine and “50 Best Websites 2008″ by Time Magazine.
  • Simple Family Tree. “… enables you to create and/or view a family tree. It displays ancestors and descendants of any selected individual (it reads and writes files in Gedcom format). You can enter notes, events, marriage details, and an alternate name for each individual. Additionally, you can see the age, birthday, and view a photo of an individual.”
  • The Next Generation. “…a powerful way to manage and display your genealogy data on the Internet, all without generating a single page of HTML. Instead, your information is stored in MySQL database tables and dynamically displayed in attractive fashion with PHP (a scripting language).”
  • Genbox Family History. “.. a tool for managing family genealogy information and producing charts and reports, with support for multiple names, witnesses, event and source templates, a template preview complete with footnotes, and conflicting-event data.”
  • SmartDraw. “Simply input your information, and SmartDraw does the rest, aligning everything automatically and applying professional design themes for professional-quality results every time.”
  • Your Family Tree Website. “…consists of interactive pages that are generated on the fly. These pages consist of Genealogy Charts, Photo Albums, Relationship Diagrams, etc. They are automatically displayed when you click any name or photo in your family tree.
  • RootsMagic. “…a solid program with a crisp interface and simple navigation, easily winning Top Ten REVIEWS’ 2009 Bronze Award. It’s good for beginners who will appreciate the SourceWizard to make sure resources are formated consistently and the Home Page Wizard to easily create pages for the Web. If you want mapping, research and event management capabilities, compatible programs may be purchased on their website.”
  • Ancestral Quest. “Its format is perfect for the beginner and yet powerful enough for the most advanced genealogist. Easy data entry, keyboard shortcuts, scrapbooking, and excellent sourcing capabilities are just some of this genealogy software program’s wonderful award-winning features.”

If you enjoyed this post, get free updates by email.

Share this post.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to Ma.gnoliaAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine

Monday’s Link Roundup.

Monday's Link Roundup

This Monday’s roundup is a blast!  It includes  Mama Mia, family junk, the end of books, a writing contest, Ken Burns, and much, much more. I guarantee you won’t be bored!

  • Anthony Zuiker’s plan to bury books. “As a first-time author, Anthony Zuiker nurtures an ambition that is surely unique in the annals of literature. It is to make publishing disappear, beginning this season with the release of Level 26: Dark Origins , a thriller that he and his publishers call the world’s first digi-novel.”
  • Mamma Mia: Memoir Model. “…why do I claim this totally fictitious, over-the-top comedy musical is a model for writing memoir? Precisely because it takes isolated fragments of story (each song is a tiny story) and pulls them together into a coherent overall story, woven together with some added narrative to give setting, context, and consistent meaning. Furthermore, the songs are used quite randomly, not at all in the order they were written.”
  • People’s ‘junk’ can tell interesting family story. “A group of women in Austin have formed a Story Circle Network, which has sponsored Older Women’s Legacy in which they encourage women, who are generally the family story keepers, to use the stories about the origins and personal feelings about their junque as the starting point for writing their family stories for future generations. Men can borrow the method, too.”

If you enjoyed this post, get free updates by email.

Photo by iStockphoto

Share this post.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to Ma.gnoliaAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine

5 Reasons You Should Consider a Video Life Story.

videoMost people when they consider a life story project think of a book. There are a lot of good reasons for producing a book. But I’ll be honest. I have a video bias because producing video personal histories is my specialty. I also produce books  but video is my passion. To see a sample of my work click here. So why should you consider a video for your or someone else’s  personal history? Here are five good reasons.

  1. Video conveys the emotional content of a story. Watching someone choke up over a sad memory or laugh heartily at an embarrassing childhood moment powerfully captures a person’s innermost feelings.
  2. Video shows a person’s special little traits. One of the great strengths of video is that you can see and hear the person being interviewed. We are reminded of their uniqueness by the twinkle in their eye, their infectious smile, or their easy laugh.
  3. Video harnesses a rich array of  media elements. Videos weave together interviews, photos, family movies, archival stock footage, music, sound effects, and graphics to produce a seamless and rich tapestry of an individual’s  life.
  4. Videos are highly portable and easily duplicated. A DVD weighs ounces and can be shipped inexpensively anywhere in the world. Now with a high speed connection you can send your video to someone through the Internet. DVDs can also be easily and inexpensively duplicated.
  5. Videos appeal to a media savvy younger audience. Your children and your children’s children have grown up with computers, videos, and text messaging. If you want to get them to sit down with a family member’s life story, chances are they’ll watch a sixty-minute video before they’ll read a lengthy book.

If you enjoyed this post, get free updates by email.

Share this post.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to Ma.gnoliaAdd to TechnoratiAdd to FurlAdd to Newsvine