Wednesday, February 15, 2012

my process for documenting life through words

Last week I talked about my process for documenting life through photos. I shared a bit about my process for what types of photos I take, when I take them, etc.

Next in my process is the stories behind the photos.

I am sharing with you my personal journey of documenting life through stories and how it helps me with doing Project Life. It doesn't have to be for you, I am just sharing my process of how I document life. It may inspire you or it may just get you thinking about how you want to start documenting life through stories.

My main goal is to help you realize that the stories behind the photos are just as important, if not more important than the photo! Without the stories, a photo is just a photo! It becomes a memory when the story behind that photo is documented.

This step in my process is probably the MOST important step of all, at least to me it is!! I personally think that no matter how many photos you take, if you're not capturing the stories behind those photos in some way than those photos don't have as much meaning. It's true a photo can speak a thousand words, but it can't tell you who is in the photo, where the photo was taken or why the photo was taken. All of that comes from the person who took the photo.

why I think capturing the stories behind the photos is so important
Have you ever picked up an old photograph that your parents or even your grandparents had and wondered, who is this in the photo, where was it taken or why was it taken?

If your parents or grandparents aren't there to answer those questions and no other family member knows, than all you're left with is a photo. Sure, you can guess or make speculations, but you'll never truly know.

I know the family historian in me wishes my family was better at capturing the stories. The stories are there, they're just trapped inside someone's mind, waiting to be told the next time there is a family gathering. That's when someone like me writes down the stories so that they'll always be documented! In saying that, I need to do this more often! I also need to get those people in my life, like my Mom, mother-in-law, etc to document their stories too.

A big part of why I capture life through photos and stories is because there are very few pictures of me growing up and definitely no stories have been documented, just the ones my Mom tells me. I don't blame my Mom for this, because she had her hands full with four kids, all of us very close in age. I have three older brothers. Not only that, it was a different time. Thirty years ago they didn't have the cameras and technology we have today. It was expensive to have a camera and develop film. A lot times my parents didn't have a camera. When they did, the photos weren't the best quality or were blurry! This is a big reason why I document so much about our life as a family and my girl's childhood. I want them to remember the early days of their life and be able to see pictures and read stories about what they were like when they were a baby, a toddler, etc. I honestly can't think of a better gift to give them! You think you'll always remember, but you won't! I personally think if you take a photo of something, you're  more likely to remember it and than if you document the story behind it becomes part of your memory forever!

(this is a stack of my journals, taken August 2009)

when my love for documenting life began
My love for documenting life with words came long before I ever knew what scrapbooking was. For me, it's always been about the stories, as taking photos wasn't something I came to love until my early twenties and wasn't something I became passionate about until after I had children. That's when I invested in a dSLR and really started loving photography!

Documenting life with the written word started when I was a little girl. I got my first diary, which I still have, when I was probably in grade 3 or 4. It's funny to read the entries now. I didn't write everyday, nor did I write a lot, but what I did write says a lot about me at that time. My love for documenting life through words became more important the older I got. In high school I wrote almost daily in my journal. I filled countless pieces of paper with random thoughts about my life as a teenager! As you can see from the photo above, I didn't always use fancy journals, a lot of times I just put lined paper in a binder and than transferred those pages to duo tangs and labeled them by month and year.

I continued keeping a journal up until I started blogging in 2006. By than, I had my first daughter and found that writing about our life as a family and about her on my blog filled my need to document life.This meant that I stopped writing in my journals and just blogged instead!

my blog
I started blogging on April 22, 2006. It was a month before my oldest daughter was born. I started it as a way to keep family and friends updated on her arrival and eventually about her monthly progress. From the moment I wrote my first blog post, I LOVED it!! That's why almost six years later I still blog all the time!! It's my way of documenting our life, so that no matter what, I can always refer back to my blog posts to learn about what we did. My blog posts are the basis for my Project Life pages. Without my blog, I don't know how I would keep track of the stuff I want to include in my weekly Project Life layouts or any of the scrapbook layouts I create, as I do create other layouts besides Project Life.

daily blog posts 
In 2009 when I started project 365 for the first time, I needed a way of capturing the stories from each day, along with the countless photos I was taking. For one, I always take more than just one photo, even to this day I usually have more than one!

I couldn't bear the thought that those photos would just sit on my hard drive, never to be viewed or appreciated or have the stories behind them told! So I made a decision to do daily blog posts and include whatever photos I wanted, along with the stories I wanted to share.

By doing this, I not only have the stories but my photos in one place! The great thing is, I can easily print all of it as a book!! I call them my modern day photo albums! I will share my process for printing my blog in a future post! It's not to be missed, because if you're like me and have been blogging for years and you have documented life like I have by blogging, you don't ever want to loose those stories!

(a screen shot of one of my blog posts from February 5 or day 36)

my process for capturing my daily stories and than blogging them
I use to be completely up-to-date with my daily blog posts, but working full-time doesn't allow me to do that. Instead what I do is I create a draft email at work than in the morning or when I need a mental break, I open it and jot down my thoughts about the previous day or even that morning, it all depends. By the end of the week I usually have some of the stories I want to include in my blog posts. I don't always get everything written down and have to go off my memory, which isn't a good idea as I do sometimes forget why I took a particular photo or what we did that day!

With that draft email sent home or sometimes just going from memory I than create my blog posts. It's at this point that I also edit any pictures I want to include. I usually do all my blogging on the weekend, usually on a Sunday afternoon.

Even though I am not blogging every day, I still create one blog post per day and publish it as if it was written that day. I do this because I print my blog posts and I want them to be dated. Blogger allows you to easily back date or future date a blog post. I use this feature a lot!

I could just transfer the info from that email directly to my weekly Project Life pages, but I usually have way more written content than a small journaling card will hold!!! That's why I blog, so that I can write the longer, more detailed stories. I than condense what I've written and include that on my weekly layouts.

Having these blog posts comes in handy when I've gotten behind in creating my weekly layouts. For instance in 2011, I didn't start working on my weekly layouts until July!!! Why? Because I wasn't sure I wanted weekly layouts. I figured I would just print my blog posts and that would be good enough. But the more I found myself and my girls looking at my 2009 book, I knew I had to create one for 2011 too. I wasn't worried, because I knew I had everything I needed in my blog posts!

do what is right for you

Daily blogging may not be for you! But if you're serious about doing Project Life, documenting life through words needs to be important and you need to find a way to capture those stories. You can write in a pocket book calendar, wall calendar, journal, emails, online journals (as there are others beside blogs), apps for your iPhone (which I think would be so cool).

However you choose to document life through words, just make sure you're doing it on a consistent basis. Maybe writing isn't for you. That's okay, no one said you had to write a novel. You can just include  point form thoughts or write something cute or funny your husband or kids said. Whatever you choose to write, just make sure you're writing :)

where is this blog I speak of?
I am sure many of you are wondering, where is this blog I speak of? I do have a separate blog from this one. I use to keep everything, like scrapbooking and personal in one blog, but I found that I needed them to be in two different places. Just my personal preference. Therefore, I don't publicly share a link to my personal blog. It's not that I include any detailed information on there, because I don't or that I don't want to share with all of you. I just feel that I already share so much through my scrapbooking that I don't need to share everything. I hope that makes sense :)

If you have any questions, feel free to leave me a comment and I'll do my best to answer. I am already getting a number of questions that I am holding on to and will address in a future blog post titled, questions answered or FAQ or something along those lines. Look for that soon!

I hope I have inspired you to start documenting your life with words!


  1. Great information! I've just started writing a journal in Dec 2011 to help me catch up with my days. I label all the photos but I was missing all the cute happenings day to day. And so far I've found it a fantastic way to keep up with my stories for PL. Thanks for such a great post.

  2. Hi Sheri
    I am wondering how you edit your photos? Which program do you use? I take a lot of pictures, but not always good ones! I need to learn to edit. Any advise?
    Thanks in advance,

  3. Hi Sheri - I'm so glad I found your site via Becky Higgins. I wanted to do exactly what you have done and set up a private blog / journal that I can add photos to and daily notes etc and be able to print it into a photo book etc. It was mainly a way to organise myself/photos and memories of life each day - and then be able to print a photobook based on these photos and journals. However I was a bit unsure as to how to do it (as I only want it to be available for me to see). I'll search through your blog (as I have only just found it) and see what info you already have provided, but any further help would be greatly appreciated - Thanks so much


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