If you’re thinking about how to create your life story, a little bit of planning can make the process simple and enjoyable.
There’s a pattern I’ve noticed when authors begin the process of writing their life story. First, they don’t know where to start. Then, they cover every major milestone as if crossing a stream by jumping boulder to boulder. Having done that, they run out of things to say. And that’s just the first meeting.
Divide your timeline into a beginning, a middle, and an end.
The beginning can be ancestry up to the time of your birth. If you don’t have information about your grandparents or previous generations, start with your parents. Picture the middle as childhood through adulthood with the understanding that the definition of adulthood will differ by author. Think of the end of your book as your retirement years and forward. If retirement isn’t an applicable milestone, then this section could be reflections or lessons, or a deeper look at your present-day family
Identify the main topic areas in order to create your life story.
For each section—the beginning, the middle, and the end—make a bulleted list of main topics within that section. You might break down the beginning, for instance, into ancestry, parents, home, birth, and siblings; the middle into school days, college, military service, marriage, children, and work; and the end into retirement, travel, health, grandchildren, and advice for future generations.
Name the milestones.
Break down each main topic into milestones that will prompt the stories for your book. For me, I would divide “work” into the following stories: my years at IBM, starting my own business, volunteering at school and church, and freelance writing for Suburban Living magazine and LifeBook. My “school days” would be divided as such: elementary school in Ohio, middle school in New York, high school in North Carolina, foreign-exchange year in Colombia, finishing high school, and choosing a college.
By splitting your life into manageable pieces, you move from having an overwhelming amount of time and detail to a list of individual moments. Each one will prompt the memories that help you tell the stories that, collectively, cover a specific period of time. Having combined all those story-filled time periods, you will find you have created a well-planned, organized narrative that flows from earliest days, through the bulk of your life, up to present day.
No Story to Tell? Think Again!