In the last post, I talked about setting personal research goals, primarily in the form of giving yourself permission to work on your own research. Set aside whatever amount of time your schedule can afford and work on some of your own projects! Along with that research, you should also tack on some writing goals. That research doesn’t do a whole lot of good if it isn’t in a form that can be shared whether with your family or through publication. I challenge you to submit your work to be published. This can be at a national level, but if that intimidates you, try a local or state publication instead.
I can hear many of you saying “I’m not a good writer.” And to that, I say “pish posh!” That is what editors are for. Editors (whether they are a trusted friend, someone you hire, or that from a journal) make your writing better! Don’t let that “I’m not a good writer” thought stop you from doing it. I sit in my office every day and look at my binders and worry that someday I’m going to come to a point in my life when I don’t get that work published somewhere, anywhere, where it can be used by future researchers. (I used to say “what if I’m hit by a bus” until a friend was literally hit by a bus, don’t worry, she’s ok. Another friend told me to think “what if I win the lottery and move to a private island” instead. She’s right. That’s a lot more fun to imagine. But even then, I’d probably figure out how to get the internet and do genealogical research even on my island.)
Just get it down on paper (or computer screen)!
There are ways to do this. I have plans for a future blog series as well as a possible online group for writers (stay tuned!). There are local writer’s groups at many genealogical societies. Consider starting one if there isn’t one near you. At the very least find a genealogical friend or two who you get along with and who is also interested in getting editing/writing help. You can do this with friends you meet at institutes or conferences and use online means such as through email, Facebook, Google Hangouts, Zoom, or some other online communication system.
My writing goals for this year fall into two categories:
- Write one article per month, of any style: how-to, biographical sketch, case study, etc. (12 articles by the end of the year) for publication somewhere.
- Write one article for consideration for NGSQ.
I find I am working or writing a lot. I need to try to translate that into smaller articles that can be published in my local or state society quarterlies, or in larger national magazines. I also want to put the work I do into one of those personal research projects into an NGSQ-level article. They may not accept it but the goal is not in the accepting at this point. It’s in the submitting.
If you are interested in getting better at the act of writing (not necessarily the nuts and bolts of it), the biggest obstacle is the blank page. Just get started! Easier said than done sometimes, I know and understand. But sometimes it just takes some brute force to get going. Once you’ve got words on the screen, the magic of cut and paste, deleting and rewriting will help you make it “pretty.” Don’t worry about “pretty” when you’re getting started. Just get it out of your head. Worry about pretty later.
Let me know about your writing goals. Stay tuned for writing classes and groups in the future!