An Unexpected Relic

While home for Christmas, my Aunt handed me a small black book, about two inches wide, three inches long, and no thicker than a number 2 pencil. It was worn but sturdy.

“Your grandfather was never much of a writer, but I guess he kept this journal during the war.”

She was referring to her father, who I never met, and World War II, which took place more than three decades before I was born.

Gently, I pulled back the cover and began flipping through the delicate pages, brown with age yet whole and clear. Stephen King has described writing as time travel, and here I was receiving messages from my maternal grandfather, passed along across 72 years to a grandson he never knew existed, his only grandson.

I was captivated. The entries were dates, brief updates scribbled in cluttered cursive during downtime on sea-swaying naval vessels. The updates covered everything from the mundane to historic, about mail arriving from a passing ship and enemy planes expected to attack. One entry explains how a shipmate fell from a ladder and shattered his leg.

He liked to put in for service on newer ships. He kept on the move that way, I suppose, and so charted his own unique perspective of a war-torn world. His education may have been capped at 8th grade, but he got around important places and events and provided a glimpse into a world most people never saw.

It was a must read. Why? What made me care? What can my grandfather’s old journal from 1945 teach us about effective communication today?

I’m biased, of course, since that little notebook holds a family connection. Not to mention, it’s also a historic relic, and to a history lover like me such an artifact is irresistible.

4 Lessons From My Grandfather’s Journal

More objectively, his journal features the hallmarks your writing should have to successfully convey whatever message you’re trying to share.

  1. It’s clear.
  2. It’s brief.
  3. It’s simple.
  4. It’s got variety.

Clarity. Brevity. Simplicity. Variety.

If you believe in your message, stay the course like a naval carrier on a mission. But say what you need to say as clearly, briefly, and simply as you’re able. Then find a variety of ways to share that message over and over again.

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