Writing My Life Story: 10 Powerful Tips and Tricks
It was Socrates who said the unexamined life is not worth living. He preferred the death sentence to being unable to examine his life. He may even have said, ‘Writing my life story is more important to me than living.’
Many would have you believe the past should stay in the past, but the wise know growth is impossible without reflection and introspection. Looking back into our memories enables us to better understand ourselves in the present.
What better way to do this than in a life story or memoir?
A memoir maps an aspect of your journey, turning it into a written narrative of a moment in your life or a collection of memories. It creates a keepsake by which your family, friends and future generations will remember you.
Writing a life story or memoir can help the people closest to you better understand your unique personality. It can also enable you to share the wisdom you gained from the mistakes and triumphs you made along the way.
However, writing a life story is no simple task, especially with the decades and decades of memories you need to sift through and prioritise.
To help you get started, we have created this life story-writing guide. Read on for some tips and tricks on writing my life story to make it easier for you.
1. Keep Your Readers In Mind When Sharing Your Life Story
Life writing is one person’s perspective on the truth surrounding an event or reminiscence. It must be as honest as possible. As a writer, you have a contract with your reader to always tell the truth as you remember it.
You might want to tailor how you write your life story for the audience. It’s safe to presume how you write for your family members will differ from how you’d write for the public.
You could also think about using fiction-writing techniques:
Using fiction techniques doesn’t mean manipulating the truth. It means employing fiction devices such as writing vivid scenes based on sensory memories, adopting a hero’s journey structure and creating compelling characters to write a more captivating narrative.
This also includes finding a healthy balance between showing and telling. Our brains store memories as sensations, so when you create scenes in your narrative, remember to record the sights, sounds, smells and textures. Show the reader what was happening in that moment rather than telling them. So instead of saying a bird sat in the tree, write a kookaburra perched on the branch of a spindly blue gum. This fires up your readers’ imaginations and enables them to interpret the scene for themselves.
Anton Chekov succinctly summarised the difference between showing and telling when he said: ‘Don’t tell me the sun is shining, show me the glint of light on broken glass.’
2. Write, Write, Write
Many people find it hard to start writing. It’s important to set aside a place in your home that is your dedicated writing space. Developing a regular writing habit is also vital.
At first, you might struggle to sit and write every day, but if this is the case, just write for ten minutes each day and gradually build it up. Once you get going, you’ll find it difficult to stop writing.
The wonderful thing about ‘writing my life story’ is there is no need for invention or creation—only remembrance.
While this does not make writing a memoir any more straightforward than writing a novel, it means you will have more than enough content to include in your manuscript.
3. Think About Specific Events
Memoirs are a subgenre of life writing and capture a specific story or moment in the writer’s life. Memoirs cover particular events or memories rather than the ‘life as a whole’ focus of a life story or autobiography.
Once you’ve found a specific point in time, put pen to paper and start writing. Keep doing this for different chapters in your life; you can then organise them later.
4. How Do You Want To Organise Your Story
There are many ways you can share your life story, so knowing how you want to organise it is vital. But you don’t have to know the structure of your story to get started. Just write about your memories and at some point in the process you will decide on the right structure.
There’s no right or wrong answer for how to structure a life story. It’s entirely up to you. Just get started by writing about specific periods in your life, then when you are ready, arrange them how you see fit. You can use a chronological structure and theme-based structure or move from the present to the past. You can also incorporate backstory and foreshadowing to make your narrative more compelling.
5. Choose A Theme For Your Story
Adding a theme to your life story is a clever way of engaging your readers. Some ideas for selecting a theme are:
- Is there something I long to share?
- Is there a running theme throughout my life?
- Key turning points.
- Lessons learned.
Any theme that a reader could relate to is a great place to start.
6. Get Friends And Family To Jog Your Memory
Remembering all your life events and what led to them can be tricky. But you don’t have to do it alone.
If you’re struggling to remember key details from certain events, try asking friends and family that were with you on the day.
They are guaranteed to remember things you forgot. Doing this can totally change your perspective of the life event or that time of your life.
The perspective that is given to you by friends and family is invaluable when writing your life story.
Ring up old/current friends, family members and whoever else you can to reminisce on the past events. What you learn might surprise or even shock you.
You’ll also be surprised at how many other stories flow from remembering one particular event.
7. Use Photos To Relive Your Memories
There’s no better way of jogging your memory than looking at old photos or home movies.
Reliving old memories through your pictures is a blessing. And it can be beneficial when you’re writing your life story.
Looking at photos can help you remember the smaller details of that event by showing you who was there, the expressions on their faces, their gestures, what they were wearing and their hairstyles. You’ll even learn what the weather was like that day.
Dig out some of your old photo albums and home movies and see what memories they evoke.
8. Add Emotions To Trigger Your Readers Emotions
Readers engage with a story when it evokes an emotional response.
And the best way to do this is by:
- Making them laugh
- Shocking them
- Making them cry
- Making them happy
- Surprising them
- Delighting them.
The list really does go on and on.
Take your readers on an emotional journey that inspires them to keep reading till the next chapter and beyond.
9. Use Video And Audio To Record Memories
If you are not much of a writer, writing your life story will seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. If you’re looking to record your life story without writing anything, you still have options.
You could start making audio or video recordings to document events in your life.
These recordings can be transcribed and a writer could do the storytelling for you.
Working closely with a writer in this manner can be very beneficial for creating your life story.
10. Enjoy Writing Your Life Story
The most important thing to remember when writing your life story is to enjoy it. Looking through the past might not always be pleasant, which can make it hard.
But the therapeutic benefits that come with it can be truly empowering.
Nothing brings more emotional and psychological healing than telling your story from your perspective.
As Socrates said, and Plato later wrote, there is wisdom to be gained by examining every life.
As you reflect on your life and write your story, it is vital to use literary techniques to create an engaging narrative that stimulates your readers’ imaginations and touches their hearts.
Get in touch
If you’re looking for help to publish your life story or memoir, we can mentor you or write your story for you.
Send us a message at Share Your Life Story. We make it easy for everyone to share their journey.
How Can I Write About Myself?
Writing about yourself doesn’t have to be as daunting as you’d imagine. It’s actually pretty easy once you get started.
If you want to write about yourself, follow these easy steps:
- Introduce who you are
- Include relevant information, good or bad
- List your achievements
- Add personal details
- Be friendly
- Reflect on your past and how it shaped you today
Following these steps will help you put pen to paper, and more importantly engage your audience.
How Do You Know If It’s A Memoir?
It can be pretty tricky to tell the difference between a memoir, autobiography, or biography. In general, a memoir uses fictional methods to engage their readers while giving an honest account. Memoirs tend to be more of a collection of memories written by the person instead of a story.
Can I Hire Someone To Write My Book?
Many people will struggle to write their life story, and it’s not an issue. More people than ever are hiring people to write their book them. Ghostwriters (writers for hire) are used to author a book on another person behalf without taking any credit for the work.