step one: decide with the DOABLE Approach to Telling Your Family’s Tales

Step One: Decide

If you have made it this far there is a good chance that you have decided that now is the time to commit to doing a story project. If you are still on the fence keep reading and hopefully you will be inspired to take on the challenge.

So how do you go about deciding just what this story project is going to be about? There are many ways to get there but we will help you through the process. You could be lucky enough to already have a person and/or project in mind. If so skip down to decide on a focus. If you already know what you want your story project to be about you can probably skip to Narrow the scope. Be careful about skipping all they way down to Pick a Medium because if your story project is too broad you might get discourage and give up before it is complete.


A good starting spot is to ask yourself why you want to do a story project? From the BYUtv series called The Generations Project they asked these questions to help people find their why:

  • What do you spend a lot of time thinking about?
  • What do you hope will happen to you in the next year or two?
  • Tell us a story about a life changing experience.
  • What is the biggest challenge you’re facing in your life now?

It is good to let these question percolate in your mind for a few days. Make notes and notice where your thoughts go. Listen to your intuition on what story project you want to do now.

Try looking at your family tree or start listing names of people in your family.  Here are some more questions that might help you decided on your story project:

  • Is there someone you are drawn to?
  • Is there a time in history that you are interested in?
  • Do you know an ancestor from that time period?
  • Is there a place in your family’s past you would like to learn more about?
  • Have you considered doing a story about your own life?

Again it might take you sometime to settle on a person or place or time that you want your story project to be about. Being thoughtful during this step will reap big rewards later on.


At this point you have probably come up with several possibilities for story projects. If one has come to the forefront then you are ready to move on. If not ask yourself more questions until you feel good about one. File your notes away for future projects. Just because you don’t decide on that project now doesn’t mean you can’t do it in the future. Chances are the project you have in mind is still rather broad in its scope and too big to tackle in a reasonable amount of time. Now is the time to narrow it down. Let’s say you picked a person. Now is not the time to take on telling their whole life story. Unless you are different from most of us you don’t have time or the experience to succeed in that kind of project. Instead pick a time frame to work on first. If you really do want to do that life history then keep that in mind and design this project to become part of that big future project. It is easy to think we can eat the whole elephant or maybe just one of his legs. A huge key to success in learning and sharing about our family stories is to break them down into palatable pieces.  Don’t try to write “War and Peace” here. A short story is more what we are after. Down the road if you want to you can combine lots of story projects into your “War and Peace”.


The next step is to bring focus to your story project. Go back to your “why” and how it relates to this project and what you want to do. Can this project be broken down into smaller pieces? You want to have a very tight focus on what this project is and how to accomplish it. I have a tendency to dream up the most elaborate projects but it is important to keep them from getting out of hand and grow into something that is difficult to get done and might not really carry out your purpose any better in the end. Now is the time to be honest about your available time and resources. It is better to break it up into several smaller project. You gain a sense of accomplishment which the completion of each story project.

Make notes and write a good description of what you want your story project to be. Give it some time and some serious thought. Always keep in mind who you plan to share your story project with.


Finally you want to pick a medium for your story project. Is it a book, an eBook, a video, a slide show, an audio, a song or something else altogether? There are lots and lots of possibilities. For many story projects once the first project is done it could easily be shared in another format. For example a book can be converted to an eBook. It might also be the basis for a video or slide show. Start with just one medium but keep in mind that other projects could spin-off from the original story project. Browse through our project ideas for some inspiration on the possibilities.

Are you still with me? Then it is time to move on to step two!

Gift Idea #9 – Write a Song

If you have the desire and/or the talent writing a song about your family or an ancestor would be a powerful gift to give your loved ones. Music is so amazing in its ability to tell a story, share emotions and connect people. I love music but I’ve never tried to write a song. I hope that one day I will be inspired to take on a project like that.

Below are two videos about a woman who, after searching and finding her great grandmother Emma, is inspired to write a beautiful song about her experience. The first video is only about 5 minutes long and the second one, an episode of BYUtv’s The Generations Project, follows her in more detail on her journey. It ends with her singing the song she wrote to honor Emma.

Searching for Emma

The Generations Project – Maile

Martin’s Cove Journal – Finished

Here are my finished journals for our family reunion in Martin’s Cove. On my prototype I used some scraps of mat board. But to keep the project on a tight budget mat board wasn’t practical for the real thing. I thought about chipboard but when I stopped at Hobby Lobby to see what they had I didn’t find any sheets of chipboard. What I did find was a package of 80# cardstock on clearance in neutral colors. It has some texture with coordinating core designed for sanding to make it look more rustic.

I cut the 12″x12″ sheet to 6″x8.5″ – two for each journal. Then using my wire binder punched holes in the journals and the covers. I didn’t want to use the usual wire to bind it together because I was looking for a more rustic, old-fashioned look. So I dug into my yard scraps and using a darning needle put the yarn through the punched holes is a criss-cross pattern and then tied a bow. I also tore the edge of the right edge of the front cover. I will have coordinating colored pencils at the reunion so that family members can personalize the cover of their journal if they would like.

I’m happy with how this project turned out. I kept it from getting too complicated (one of my challenges) and I kept it from getting too expensive to execute (another challenge). I hope that my family enjoys their journals and that the journals help them to connect with Mary Taylor in a new and more meaningful way.

Food and Stories

I was watching the Food Nanny on BYUtv recently and something she said sparked a thought. One of her philosophies is to have theme nights when planning what to eat for dinner. A favorite theme of the Food Nanny’s is Tradition Day. On Tradition Day you eat recipes that are family favorites. What a perfect thing to do, cook a favorite recipe and then share the story behind the dish or the person who introduced that dish to the family. Over time you could compile those recipes and stores into a wonderful family cookbook and family history book.

Heritage Recipe Book

I found this beautiful example of a family cookbook on Blurb, with some of the stories and history behind the recipes. My mom isn’t famous for her good cooking but I think that my extended family might be a good source for project like this. When I think of my grandma’s cooking, I think of fruitcake and banana nut bread. I wonder what recipes my cousins have that trace back to my grandma. Since I’m working on a Generations Project with my great-great-grandmother Mary Taylor it would be interesting to know what kind of recipes exist from her day. I don’t know of any recipes handed down from Mary but maybe some out there. But even knowing what kinds of foods she ate during her childhood in England and then in her later life here in the west would be very interesting.

I’ll have to think about this idea and see what percolates out. Do you have a family recipe collection? Are there fun or interesting stories to go with those recipes?