Every person has a unique life story. There is no such thing as two life stories being the same. As a life story writing coach and memoir teacher, I believe everyone should take the time to put their story on paper.

Forgive yourself for past mistakes, embrace the past sorrow, pat yourselves on the back for the good times, and sit down and write about your life.

Why do I say that with such urgency? Because writing your life story is not only a gift to yourself, but also a gift for family and friends, as well as generations of families not yet born.

 
 

Let’s examine why you should write your life story:

Write Your Life Story for Yourself

Firstly, write the story for yourself. By writing the stories from your life you help yourself form a clearer understanding of who you are and how you got to where you are. You learn about yourself, and often bring closure to issues. Treat yourself to the experience.

I wrote the memoir Eating the Walls after the death of my husband and raising two girls alone. Through writing the memoir I was able to understand with great clarity why I had made the choices I did. Writing our life stories is cathartic and enlightening.

Write to Leave a Legacy

Secondly, leave a legacy for family and friends. In today’s fast paced world, there is never enough time to sit down with family and tell them about your childhood, career or romances. Your written life story can give them a book about who you are and where you came from.

I often wish I had thought to ask my mother more about her life prior to marriage and family. I wish I had the opportunity to learn about that woman. Sadly, I thought about it too late.

Maybe your family does not have the time to read your stories today, but there will come a time in their life when they would want to know who you were and why you made the choices you did.

Write to Preserve Family History

How did you experience the history of your time? Preserve those stories by writing about them. Black and white television with no remote controller! No cell phones – remember the phone was attached to the wall!

Share your version of who you are!

I recently completed a memoir with a 91-year-old man. We met weekly, with his daughter recording the stories, many of which she had never heard before. Every time we met, laughter and tears filled the room as we weaved together a memoir that children and grandchildren will have forever.

The process was as enjoyable as the end result. At our last meeting, the daughter said to me, “My father has a new love of life. For the first time in his life he speaks about how proud he is of his achievements, and how he is ready to forgive himself for his mistakes because he now realizes that he tried his best. After witnessing how my father has changed, I believe the most healing thing a person can do is share their story.”

How do you start to write?

Create a Writing Schedule

10 minutes a day or a page a day is better than nothing. Use the old fashion egg timer and just write!

Create a Structure

You can write your story in different ways: chronologically, by life themes or from your senses.

Chronological

When writing chronologically, I recommend that you first make a life chart. On the chart write your age in five-year intervals – 0, 5, 10, 15, 20, etc.

Next to the number note any major life events or branching points, when you could have gone one way or the other. This will allow you to see your life clearly. Each week you can focus on writing about one life event.

Life Themes

Here are some life themes that the majority of people experience – childhood family, romance, education, career, spirituality, health, gender, adult family, friends. Make lists of events under each theme, and then write the individual stories.

Senses

Our senses are wonderful memory closets. A certain scent or taste can often bring back a flood of memories. Play music that evokes memories and then begin to write; look at a picture from the past and write; open an old bottle of perfume and write. Cook a favorite childhood food and then write. Allow your senses to open up the stories of your life.

Stay tuned for my next article which will focus on where to begin your memoir and how to write the first chapter.

Are you interested in writing your life story? Many people want to write their life stories but never start. Have you ever tried? What stops you from starting? Please join the conversation.

Jill MorrisJill Morris is a life story writing coach and memoir teacher, who is passionate about her calling. She has written her own memoir, Eating the Walls, and currently teaches at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at California State University, East Bay and community centers throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

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