Writing your life story

Have you been thinking about writing your life story but haven’t got a clue how to get started? Well, one of the first things to do is to start recalling and recapturing your memories.

In the absence of a diary or a journal it may be hard to remember all of the events, experiences, anecdotes etc. that make up your personal story, so here are some memory jogging tips that may help you take the first step towards writing your life story. You will be surprised at just how much you do remember once you begin to trawl your memory using any of the methods below.

Brainstorming ideas for writing your life story

The aim of brainstorming is to come up with as many ideas as you can without worrying about the order (chronology). You can brainstorm in any way you want but one simple way is to grab a piece of paper and scribble down anything that comes into your head. 

If you prefer a more graphical approach, you could create a bubble chart or mind map. Bubble charts and mind maps are used for mapping out thoughts and ideas using connections, triggers and associations to help generate more ideas. They are therefore great as memory joggers.

Lists

Creating lists under main topics/headings is another good way of recalling and organising your memories. You could make a list of some firsts in your life such as your first school, your first date, your first job. Or you could make a list of significant events and places or a list of the most important people in your life.

Old photos and memorabilia

Photos and memorabilia are also excellent memory joggers. Have a browse through family photos and make a note of the places and people that spark memories. Search for bits of personal or family memorabilia such as school reports and certificates, scrapbooks, holiday souvenirs, theatre and concert programmes, invitations, newspaper and magazine articles/clippings etc. and see what memories they bring back.

Create a timeline

If you prefer to recall and organise your thoughts chronologically why not create a timeline. You could simply draw a horizontal or vertical line on a piece of paper and then add a chronological sequence of dates and events or you could create a table on a computer. Don’t write too much on your timeline – simply scribble down a few notes and key phrases for each year/period.

Ask family and friends

When you have recalled just about everything you possibly can it may be time to turn to family and friends for some help. They may remember things about you that you have forgotten or they may have a different interpretation or memory of a shared experience or event.

Ask someone to interview you

If you find it difficult to recall memories on your own, ask someone to interview you. Find someone who knows you quite well so as they can come up with relevant and suitable memory jogging questions. Remember to record the interview or ask your interviewer to takes notes. When you subsequently listen to the interview or read through the notes, you may find that more memories come back to you.

Use trigger questions

Using trigger questions is another good a way of recalling your memories. There are a number of books and websites on writing your life story which include comprehensive lists of questions relating to different periods and areas of your life. The advice in many books and websites is to divide your life into broad categories such as childhood and school days, adolescence and growing up, starting work, marriage, children, changing career, middle years, becoming a grandparent, retirement etc. and using them as prompts or triggers.

Always carry a notebook

Always have a notebook with you or some way of recording your thoughts such as a voice recorder, an iPad or tablet, an iPhone or smartphone. You never know when a memory or idea or a detail you had forgotten will come back to you. If you don’t scribble these things down or record them you may forget them.

For a more detailed version of the memory jogging tips included in this blog, grab a copy of my eBook for just £2.

Related blog posts:

Life story gumption trap
Write your life story on a postcard

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Writing your life story – get started with these memory jogging tips
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