There seems to be a spectrum of family history writing, ranging from "I don't want to write anything" to "I want to publish the definitive book about my ancestors." No matter where you might fall in that range, there's a common fallacy that might be keeping you from writing your family history.
Why We Need to Write About Our Family History
With all that we have going on in our lives, why do we need to be bothered writing about our family history to begin with? Glad you asked.
Writing is an under-utilized research tool. When you take the time to organize your findings into a conclusion, you're forced to see what fits, what doesn't, and what's missing.
Writing preserves our work. When you write, others can more clearly see what you've done. They won't have to wade through your genealogy software, filing cabinets, binders, and folders to recreate it.
Writing connects us. Many people blog as a form of "cousin bait" — a way to let others know about their research interests in the hope of finding others with that same interest.
By the way, "writing" doesn't have to mean "book." It could be a blog, a handwritten notebook, a scrapbook page, a series of emails — anything that turns a series of facts into prose.
The Fallacy and the Failure
Too seldom do we stop our research long enough to actually write something. Instead, we just keep looking for more and more records. I think part of it is a fallacy that we tell ourselves:
"It needs to be complete before I publish."
Somehow, we convince ourselves that it needs to be "complete." It needs to the book, with all of the descendants accounted for, with their vital events, and fully documented.
This sets us up for failure. We either keep researching (and telling ourselves that we'll publish when it's "done") or we give up on the idea of writing because it seems way too daunting.
In either case, we're losing out.
What We Can Do to Write More Genealogy
First, we need to accept that there is no such thing as a "complete" genealogy. There is always something else to find. (Think there aren't some more people to find? Take a DNA test.) Even if you have managed to identify all of the descendants of an ancestral couple, for example, there will always be more you can discover about them.
Waiting to write your #genealogy until it's complete means it will never be written.
Second, we need to accept that "complete" doesn't have to mean all ancestors or all descendants. It's perfectly alright to write about one family, one person, or one event. Anything we write about is progress, not only in our research but also in preserving our research and connecting with others. (I've heard from numerous people taking part in the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge that writing on "smaller," more focused topics has helped them share with relatives who previously showed no interest in family history.)
This isn't to say we should do shoddy work. We should strive to be as accurate as possible. But we also need to accept that our work will have errors. We are all human and humans make mistakes.
We Are Our Own Worst Enemy
We miss out on valuable opportunities to improve our research, preserve our discoveries, and connect with others when we don't write. We need to pull ourselves out of the trap of "completeness" and just write something.