Going Back in Time
Writing a life story is really taking a trip back in time. It’s a little bit like time-
When teaching my workshops, I always ask my students to watch movies about going back in time. I encourage you to do the same, since it just might spark an idea for writing your own life story. There are lots of them out there. My husband and I have a whole collection of them. Our favourites is the Back to the Future series with Michael J. Fox. What a brilliant idea for writing a life story – comparing the way things used to be, to the way they are now. Every Christmas we watch the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life. Remember the famous line when the angel Clarence says to George Bailey – “Strange, isn’t it, how a man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” Have you ever thought – What would life be like if I were never born? Have I influenced people in a good way? Have I made a difference in someone’s life? Have I learned something valuable that I can pass on to others? These are the kinds of questions to answer when writing your life story.
Have you ever watched the Biography Channel? I’ve watched it quite often. Why do we watch it? Because we are curious, and we want to know how people live their lives – especially famous people. We have an innate curiosity to hear a good story, and the best stories involve people – living, breathing and doing interesting things. Reader’s Digest is full of true and engaging life stories written by ordinary people like you and me. Well-
My own interest in writing a life story began when I was in my late teens. I underwent a life-
Tools for Life Stories
The greatest tool you need to write a life story is a good memory. Even if you feel you have forgotten many things, the ideas and suggested exercises in this book are designed to refresh old memories, once you try them. Similar to others who have tried these same exercises, you will likely recall things that you may have stored away in your memory bank that has lain dormant for many years.
To begin, in order to help you jog your memory, and to get the dates and times straight, you might want to retrieve all vital & significant documents like your birth certificate, your baby book, immigration papers, marriage certificates, baptismal certificates, diplomas and other certificates, etc. If you want to record family names or birth dates correctly, you might want to consult your family tree. If you don’t have one, you may want to consider creating one.
You may also wish to retrieve any old diaries or journals, letters, greeting cards, school-
Format for Life Stories
I have included a Life Story Format guideline in Chapter 5. It will show you briefly and simply how to organize your life story from beginning to end. Also in Chapter 5, I discuss different publishing options for your finished story. Please turn to it, so that you can begin to think about the direction you want to take in writing your life story.
Writing Approaches for Life Stories
Depending on what kind of life story you want to write, you can be as thorough as you like and write out a chronological list of everything you have done from childhood up to the present; or you can pick and choose certain things you have done and turn these events into a series of little stories. As mentioned above, if you are interested in publishing a book of memoirs or even one or two stories, then you will want to learn how to write good, publishable stories that include basic story elements – theme, conflict, resolution, dialogue, and so on.
Paramount to writing your life stories is to keep a journal. Journal writing is new to some and an old warm and comfortable habit to others. If you want to be a writer, or already are, then journaling is as essential to a writer as nails and a hammer are to a carpenter. Just as a carpenter always carries his tools with him, you need always to carry a notebook or journal with you. It is one of your most indispensable tools, since you never know when a memory or inspired idea will come to mind. Keeping a journal serves several purposes. Use it to record your thoughts as they come to you, and record memories of your life past, present and future. Use it to record what you observe about life all around you, and discover that certain things may trigger memories. Some things you might want to reflect on are: What inspires me the most? What is my favourite place to write? What hinders my creative flow? What are my own life’s themes? What are my personal philosophies?
A sample chapter from the book