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.
- It’s clear.
- It’s brief.
- It’s simple.
- 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.