02 February 2013

FHWC: Day One - Why Haven't I Done This Already?

     Yesterday was the first day of the Family History Writing Challenge.  As I previously wrote, my goal is to complete my Albea Family book. I have started this book twice, but have never finished it. As I got restarted yesterday, I couldn't help but think about why I'd never finished, as well as the benefits of writing a family history book.

     The main reason I haven't finished this book is fear of inaccuracy. What if something in the content is wrong?  Did I come to an incorrect conclusion?  Is there some stupid typo that I'm missing?  Have I made a mistake that is about to be put into print forever?  I think we're all scared of this. We know there is no reassurance that the book will be 100% accurate.

     Heck, I've found big mistakes before. When I first started my Albea Family book, I realized that I'd miss-attributed census records to my 6x Great Grandfather that actually belonged to his son.  I found this because I was writing the book. When you have to write out a narrative, you have to think about what you're writing, often in a different way that when you first found the "fact" and decided that it was "true."  When a fact or document doesn't fit with the rest of your narrative, you are more likely to notice it than when it's just a note in a family file.

     You are also more likely to notice the holes in your research by writing out a narrative. Maybe you assumed a fact, but when you went to write it out and cite the source, you realized you didn't have a source. You maybe you went to write about an ancestors occupation, but realized that you only knew he was a "farmer." But what did he farm? How prosperous was he? Did he employ people or was he himself employed?

     As for the typos, there are a few options.  You could hire some one to proof read or edit your book. This depends on what you intend your book to be.  If it's your life's work and you hope to see it in libraries one day, this is certainly an option.  I don't have such lofty aspirations for the book I'm currently working on.  I'll read over it multiple times, perhaps read the content aloud to make sure that the sentences all make sense (for example, I had to re-read this sentence three times before I realized I'd use "allowed" instead of "aloud.")  I might have a family member review it.  But I know it probably won't be perfect - just as close as I can get it.

     In the end, I just have to trust in my research and trust in myself.  I'm not going to rush, but I am going to stop procrastinating.  My book won't be perfect, but it will be done.  I will have accomplished my goal and will have a finished product to be proud of.

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