Genealogy, How To's and Tips, Documenting Your Story, Preserving Memories, Storytelling

How to Write a Good Life Story

Writing your personal narrative can be an extremely rewarding experience. To read further about why your life story matters, read How Do I Make My Life Story Stand Out. Unfortunately, documenting these anecdotes can seem labor intensive and overwhelming. However, sitting down and writing your life story does not have to be a scary experience. Here are a few tips that make the process exciting and stress-free:

  1. Pause before you write.

Think about what you want to write before your hand ever touches the keyboard or picks up a pen. Taking a moment to write your story in your head first gives you a mental first draft and can lessen the chances of you experiencing writer’s block or freezing as soon as you pick up the pen.

  1. Start off by thinking big.

Throw away the misconception that writing your life story means you must work chronologically from birth to present. This method may work for many and will result in a finalized memoir document, but it is a tedious and tiresome process. You will probably find yourself writing about an event, because it is next in line chronologically not because it is critical to your life story. Start writing about the stories that are most important to you. Make the process easier on yourself by writing the stories that come naturally. Write about what memories excite you and what memories make you who you are. This advice comes from Sandi Newmark, journalist and TSOLife client. As a feature writer, Sandi possess experience and expertise on highlighting the important events. She advises writing your life story like a feature piece. Spotlight the important stories, and go back to fill in the minor events later.

  1. Sweat the small stuff.

Details really set great stories apart. Include specific information, such as names, dates, and addresses. Take a moment to set the scene. What was the weather like? What was everyone’s moods that day? What stands out about the moments where your story takes place? The right details allow you to share your story with your reader and move them to that moment and that place. Details allow for a more holistic and engaging reading experience. Focus on the pertinent details. Focus your writing on elaborating upon the life event you are describing; however, avoid embarking on unrelated tangents.

  1. Think about what you wouldn’t think to ask someone in person.

There are many important questions and topics that are important to a person’s life. Many of these topics, unfortunately, do not come up naturally in every day conversation. People converse all day every day, but how meaningful is what they are communicating? Write about what does not come up in the conversation in person. How did you first know you were in love? What is your biggest regret? What is your proudest moment?

  1. Add recommendations and advice.

Think about what retrospective knowledge you can pass down to others. Consider why you are writing this story and who will be reading it. Do you want your audience to take something specific away from it? When telling a travel story, where do you recommend someone to visit? When writing about the best date you had ever been on, what advice can you offer others for their next date? Documenting the story of your life gives you the opportunity to pass down knowledge to others, and it is important to take advantage of this opportunity.

  1. Show your personality!

This is your life story, so make sure it shows who you are. Feel free to include humor when appropriate. Throw in your favorite saying. Your writing style can be very poetic, or more conversational. Let your writing style reflect your character and personality.

  1. Find your inspiration.

Accept that writer’s block is normal. Sometimes we sit down to write, and our mind becomes as blank as the paper at which we are staring. Find your writing inspiration and look to it when you are stumped. Think about your favorite book, a memoir you have read, a conversation you had in the past, or the dream you had while sleeping last night. Reread what you have already written. Looking through old photographs can trigger many memories and many stories. (More about writing about photographs in our next blog post.) Take a moment to clear your mind and hit reset. Go for a walk or close your eyes for a few minutes. From where one draws inspiration is different for everyone.

  1. Be fearless.

Do not be afraid to look inside yourself. Write about all that is good as well as all that causes you pain. When you feel exposed and uncomfortable and find yourself outside your comfort zone is when true reflection, self-discovery, and brilliance takes hold.

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” — Anaïs Nin

The writing process is different for everyone, and sooner or later you will find what works best for you. The tips above will send you in the right direction. Writing your life story can be an uplifting and wonderful experience, and is one that everyone should experience. Best of luck and happy writing!

Need inspiration? Check out these 100 Prompts for Writing About Yourself.

 

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