Wednesday, January 10, 2024

The Gift that Keeps on Giving: Weekly Homework Assignments

For Christmas last month, my two daughters gave me a very interesting gift. They bought me a one-year subscription to a service called Storyworth. “Everyone has a story worth sharing,” is the motto of Storyworth, Inc. The service helps people compile stories about their lives, and then at the end of the 12-month period, they print a high quality hardcover book with all your stories. You can order more copies for an additional fee. 

The idea is to put your life’s adventures — hopes, dreams, experiences, etc. — in writing, as a way to share your stories with your loved ones and have something tangible to pass along to your descendants. 
When you subscribe, Storyworth sets up a unique webpage, where all of your stories are compiled throughout the year. The key to the service is this: each week they send a personal email with a question prompt; that is, a suggested topic about which to write.

Here are some sample question prompts: “How would you describe your grandparents?” “What’s one of the most beautiful places you’ve ever been?” “What’s one of your earliest childhood memories?” “If you could go back in time and start a new career, what would it be?” What’s your favorite holiday tradition?” “What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?” “What is the most scared you’ve ever been?” “What was it like when you got your first cell phone?” “What’s one thing you wish you’d known before going to college?”

So, as you can see, these questions are designed to make people ponder personal topics they don’t usually think about, and then put those thoughts in writing. Each week when the service sends out a new email, you’re supposed to give the question prompt some thought, and then sit down at your computer and type away. When that week’s rough draft is complete — whether it’s one sentence, one paragraph, or 10 pages — you then upload the text to your personal Storyworth webpage.

When my daughters gave me this gift, they said, “Dad, what we got you for Christmas is basically a homework assignment every week for the next 12 months.”
And that’s exactly right. Plus, what they didn’t mention is the fact they plan to keep the two copies of the finished product they paid for. In other words, I do all the work, and at the end of the year they each will own a copy of the hardcover book. 

My daughters know that I enjoy writing, even though I’m always whining about not having enough free time to do it. (Gee, Bill, do you think watching sports on TV for at least 25 hours each week might have something to do with that?)

I read some reviews online about the Storyworth subscription service, and a few warned that it’s not a good gift for everyone. Some people may not like to write at all, and others may not be comfortable writing about their personal lives. For these people, the gift could cause a lot of resentment and stress.

For me, the only concern I see is my genetic predisposition to engage in blarney. If you’re not familiar with the term, blarney is an Irish tradition that states: “It is far better to tell an interesting story than an accurate story.” I’d like to leave a collection of my personal experiences for my descendants, but I probably should keep the fiction to a minimum.

You’ve probably already figured out what I plan to give my two lovely daughters for Christmas next year. That’s right, the gift of homework. They each will be receiving a 12-month Storyworth subscription. And at the end of the year, I’m keeping the books. 

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