Wednesday 30 July 2014

Describing a life in 500 words

By the end of August I hope to have completed most of the text for the Website that records the cataloguing of all the graves in our local cemetery. As soon as it’s done I will post up the url because I’m starting to feel quite proud of it, but there’s a lot of hard work still to be done.

The original project plan was to select one or two of the older stones and research the life ‘behind the stone’. In other words we’d write up a short biog in no more than 500 words. In practice it’s almost impossible to describe a life in 500 words especially as we are including contributions made to the local and wider community, family, interests, career, and the journey that led to Leicester – particularly interesting as a lot of the graves are for people who survived pogroms and holocaust atrocities.

It soon became obvious that the word count was the least of my problems. There were too many interesting stories to tell. My job was to decide which names to include in this ever-growing list, but by definition, this also meant that I had to decide which names to omit because we just can’t produce over 900 individual stories. The problem is that everybody has got a story to tell. We may not all have had a long and dangerous physical journey to arrive where we are today but many of us have had long emotional journeys. 


I’m giving the researched stories side-headings but that made me think about me. What side-headings would I give to my own story-so-far? 

Teacher That would have to be there.
Writer I couldn’t miss that one off.
Mother Goes without saying but I’ve said it anyway!
Animal Lover I’ve rarely been without a pet throughout my life.

But would I include the more painful periods of my life? 

Divorce It can’t be ignored.
Family Illness I couldn’t omit my husband’s stem cell transplant, my mother’s long and final illness, my daughter’s recent major operation, and then there’s my own struggle with agoraphobia as a teenager.
Not a Good Traveller That is very much a part of who I am but would it find it’s way into my story-so-far?

I suspect I would gloss over the negative, play up the positive and provide the reader with a ‘rose-tinted’ version of myself.

What side-headings would you give your life’s story-so-far?