a workbook for writing your life story

Author: Ash Thoms

3 Things Not to do When Writing Your Memoir

3 Things Not to do When Writing Your Memoir

Every life story is unique, but some of the mistakes we make while writing our stories are universal. We’ve gathered a few things to avoid while working on your memoir. These aren’t necessarily “rules,” but rather strong suggestions to take into consideration while you’re working through […]

Here’s How You Can Become a Better Writer

Here’s How You Can Become a Better Writer

Do you think you’re a bad writer? Most writers do when they start to write something. In fact, it’s likely a safe to say that all writers have, at one point in time or another, really disliked their written work. So how do you get […]

How To Find Your Voice in Writing

How To Find Your Voice in Writing

It can be challenging to find your voice as a writer. How can you be authentically you, and not sound awkward or stiff? There are lots of great ways to figure out what your voice sounds like, and we’ve gathered a few of them here. Any one of these methods can help you on your journey to write your life story.

Free-write

One of the easiest ways to find your voice is simply to free-write. The concept behind free-writing is just to write down whatever you’re thinking. When you begin, it may feel challenging: you’ll want to edit out parts of your thoughts to make your writing more coherent. As best as you can, try to avoid doing so. If you think the word “um,” put it on your paper. This doesn’t have to be a work of art, and nobody else will read it. This is just for you, to figure out what you sound like without editing. Try free-writing for fifteen minutes, and see what happens as you start to relax into the process.

Ask a friend

If you aren’t sure of what you sound like, you can always ask your closest friends how you communicate. They’ll mostly be discussing your spoken communication, but even that information can be helpful. If they tell you you’re an optimistic, slightly formal person, that is part of your voice. If you’re feeling up to it, giving your friends a piece of your writing can help them to identify what makes your words and tone unique.

Identify yourself 

If you had to describe yourself, what would be the first five words you’d choose? This can help you understand the basics of what to expect from your writing. Once you understand who you present yourself as, you’re more likely to be able to inject those personality traits into your writing as well.

You’re writing your memoir, and that means you get to use the voice that best represents you and your life. Find your voice and let it carry through your writing so that your readers can truly know what your life has been about.

Relive the Time of Your Life by Writing Your Memoir Chronologically

Relive the Time of Your Life by Writing Your Memoir Chronologically

What time period in your life was most important to you? If you can remember events in the order they happened, organizing your memoir chronologically may be for you. Writing chronologically doesn’t necessarily need to start with your birth, you just to make sure you’re […]

Little Writing Tips to Help You Get Started Writing

Little Writing Tips to Help You Get Started Writing

You may not know this, but you’re a writer. No matter if you think you’re a terrible writer, or if you think you don’t have the skill to be a writer, the fact is still that you are a writer. Writing is one of those […]

How Author Christina Atkins Talks to Her Family About Their Lives

How Author Christina Atkins Talks to Her Family About Their Lives

It can be challenging to talk to your parents about their lives, but sometimes you need that information to make your story work. Even talking to them about your life as a child can feel overwhelming. I Lived This author Christina Atkins has talked to her parents about all of this. While not everyone will have the same relationship with their parents (so talking to your parents may not look the same as her experience), you may find some helpful information in what she has to say.

First and foremost, Christina is the “self-appointed family historian of her generation.” Beyond collecting stories from her parents and relatives, she collects whatever else she can—photos, objects, etc. After her teenage years, she “started getting fascinated with all the different stories and the different perspectives, like puzzle pieces to a puzzle [she] had no frame of reference for.” To her, this collection is about understanding legacy, and finding a way for people to live on after they’ve passed.

Her dad, she says, has always been one to tell stories. She’s given him a digital recorder, and he once did a long, written account for her, but she finds that he now tells his best stories on Facebook. With her dad, Christina says it’s mostly just waiting for him to tell those stories so she can snap them up.

Her mom is a little more challenging to get stories from. She “has always just plowed on through life, making art or working, she never stops moving.” Christina says most of the stories she has from her mom are context for events in life, or stories she tells randomly.

In all, Christina says her parents have never been that hard to approach. She’s never had to set a time or place, nor has she ever had to create interview questions. It’s a much more natural process for her to get information from her parents. “It feels like the natural progression of my role in the family…it just happens when it happens.”

While she does feel this is just her natural part in the family, she also gives a great piece of advice: don’t wait. “There’s nothing worse than regret when the time is gone, and if this is something you feel you need to do, like I do, there’s really no time like the present.”

The Sights, Smells, Sounds, Tastes, and Feelings of Memory

The Sights, Smells, Sounds, Tastes, and Feelings of Memory

Memory is heavily tied to the senses. When you want to access old memories, the most beneficial action is to trigger your senses to put you back in that memory. Senses can be triggered in any number of ways, and more than one sense can be triggered […]

Clear Your Mind and Experience Your Memories: Self-Hypnosis and Meditation

Clear Your Mind and Experience Your Memories: Self-Hypnosis and Meditation

Is there something you’d really like to remember more clearly? Self-hypnosis and meditation both can be used to help you better remember past events and other memories. While the terms “self-hypnosis” and “meditation” may sound intimidating and strange, it can greatly benefit you while you […]

Writing About People and Places Can Help You Start Your Memoir

Writing About People and Places Can Help You Start Your Memoir

What are the people and places that have had the greatest impact on your life? Writing about those people and places can help you to work through what’s most important to you. Here’s some things to keep in mind when you’re writing about a subject.

Focus on the subject at hand

This is easy to understand, but can be challenging to accomplish. When you’re writing about one person or place, make it your focus. If the subject requires you to give backstory about another person or place, don’t write it yet. Instead, put all your focus on one story at a time. Write all the way through one subject before you switch to another one.

Ask yourself why

Why are you writing about this particular subject? What have you learned from your interactions with or in the subject? Is there something you want the people reading your memoir to take away from your writing about this subject?

Pick the ones that matter

You don’t need to write about every person and experience in your life. If you don’t think a subject adds to your memoir, don’t feel pressured to include it. This is your life story, and you’re allowed to write about whatever you want to. Not all subjects are created equal, and those that aren’t as important to you don’t need to be included just because they were a part of your life.

With subject-driven stories, you can start wherever you want. If you find one story should be written before another, start there. Think about all of the subjects you could write about, narrow to the ones you want to write about, and then determine what subjects are dependent on other stories. After that, just get started writing!

Three Steps for Writing a Memoir About a Life Experience

Three Steps for Writing a Memoir About a Life Experience

We all have many different stories to tell about our lives, but when you’re writing a memoir, it’s best to not try to tell them all at once. Choosing a specific theme for your memoir will make it stronger and more meaningful to your readers. […]