As an older blogger, I am delighted to have just stumbled upon a new writing thrill. A younger cousin of mine recently suggested that I help form a private family history website on Facebook.
I had really been missing the huge clan we used to have in my hometown. My mother had six sisters and they were best friends. There were numerous cousins, with family picnics on Lake Michigan where all of us jumped the huge breakers while hanging on to a precarious section rope on the beach. And there were all the traditional family dinners with standard menus, including whipped cream fruit salad.
Families were much larger then ... but now most of my relatives have died or moved out of our economically depressed area. Mom died a few years ago. at 88, and she had become incredibly close to my husband and I. She was the last of the Mohicans.
This much younger cousin I mentioned is part of a fading remnant of my once close, active and vibrant family in the area. She friended me after her father, my first cousin, died recently. When she suggested a closed family website to post pictures, it immediately struck me as a great idea.
I have some really old pictures from my Mom, and her sisters who died before her. I posted a few charming gems and tried to begin to explain our family's dim history. Since all of my older relatives are now dead, I realized that much of our history has died with them -- the background color, the stories and jokes. I began doing research on the wonderful free Morman website FamilySearch.org.. To my surprise, the younger relatives were excited and eagerly read everything I wrote. I never would have dreamed that they were that interested. Perhaps with divorce, two-child families, and all working mothers, they missed some of our huge gatherings for lazy summer days at the beach that were so frequent, and so easily arranged.
And I was instantly in love with the writing process of it! I felt an explosion of creative energy that I hadn't felt in years. I actually regained the effortless creativity I had had as a child.
As a younger writer, I eventually felt frustration with journalism writing. It seemed too mechanical with the style, limitations and rules. And I always froze up when writing under pressure. When I developed depression in my 30's, that seemed to make writing even harder and slower. I still loved it, but it took much longer.
But now, there comes this return of effortless inspiration! ... The stories pour out from nowhere, and fill me with joy. And my family keeps reading.
This reminds me of something I read in an absolute gem of a tiny book "Advice For Photographers: The Next Step," by Al Weber. He is a long- time professional photographer who also loves teaching adults how they can make it in the creative world at any age. I find it a wondrous bible of wisdom on creativity in general. He stresses that you have to go on and try new things with your art, or you get stagnant.
My family history blog gives me a whole new challenge as a writer. I feel totally freed, making it up as I write, having few ground rules. I also love my family, so it serves that need.
And also, amazingly, it is bringing my clan back together! I am interacting with relatives I never knew that well, or haven't seen in years. No longer confined to our hometown, our internet family now spans the whole country!