a workbook for writing your life story

Author: Ash Thoms

Prompts for Writing Your Life Story

Prompts for Writing Your Life Story

Here’s a list of writing prompts that can jog your memory about important events you’ve been through. Set a timer for fifteen minutes and write about one of the prompts. Don’t self-edit while you’re writing, just let the words come out! Work through the prompts […]

What’s the Difference Between a Memoir and an Autobiography?

What’s the Difference Between a Memoir and an Autobiography?

You can easily confuse the memoir and autobiography genres. After all, they’re both written by you and about your life! While they may be similar in nature, the two feature a few key differences that will help you differentiate them. The Subject Do you want […]

How Taking a Field Trip Can Help You Write Your Life Story

How Taking a Field Trip Can Help You Write Your Life Story

You’ve experienced many different places in your life. Some of those places you probably struggle to remember in their entirety. What did the park where you had your first date look like? What color were the walls in your favorite restaurant?

One way you can experience these details all over again is by taking a field trip to the places that had the most impact on you. This doesn’t have to be a long trip, you could go for a single day. Here are some things to keep in mind as you plan to adventure into the place, or places, of your past.

Who do you trust to take with you?

Taking yourself to the places of your past can be an overwhelming experience. It’s beneficial to bring someone who you trust to keep you grounded. Having someone who can keep you present and who you can talk with about the details you want to put in your memoir is a sure way to make sure you get all you want out of this trip.

What’s your intention?

While you may just want to re-experience a place of your past, it can be helpful to clarify what you want to get out of this trip before you embark on it. Do you want to remember a particular experience you had in this place? Do you have a particular section of your memoir that you’re writing right now and need to jog your memory for details? Get specific about the things you want to get out of this trip, and then make sure you plan to accomplish them.

What do you need to bring?

Are you a visual person? If so, maybe you want to bring a camera or a sketchbook to record what you’re seeing. If you’re more of an auditory person, you may want to record voice notes while you’re visiting so you can listen to them later and remember every detail of the experience. If nothing else, be sure to bring a notepad and paper so you can take notes on the details you wanted to remember while you were visiting, don’t let yourself forget them before you even get home!

The best way to get yourself to remember details of the past is to re-experience them. If you have the ability to take a quick trip to somewhere that had a huge impact on you and your life, don’t let that opportunity go to waste! Immerse yourself in every detail you can, and see what you can remember from your past that you wouldn’t have remembered otherwise. After that, get writing!

The Power of Writing About Your Vulnerable Moments

The Power of Writing About Your Vulnerable Moments

Your life has been full of experiences, some amazing and some devastating. Now, as you’re writing your memoir, you’ve probably questioned what experiences you want to include in it. You’re writing your life story, undoubtedly there are things that you feel are too private to […]

Famous Writers On Descriptive Language

Famous Writers On Descriptive Language

You’ve probably heard of the concept “show, don’t tell.” This concept demands the use of descriptive language in writing. Instead of telling your readers what happened, show them by painting the scene in such a way that they feel as though they’re inside it. Below […]

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 the writing process.

Don’t just work with the facts

Your life story is just that: a story. Your memoir should read as more than just facts. There should be descriptive imagery, a theme, details that draw the reader into your story. When you work only with the facts, you run the risk of your memoir being kind of boring, which your life has definitely not been! Do your life story justice and write it in a way that speaks to what actually happened. Include all the details you can. You want to really put your writer in your shoes and allow them to experience your life as you did.

Don’t get hung up in the backstory (or someone else’s story)

This seems obvious, but think about it. How many times have you been told a story that included far too much backstory of one of the participants involved? Is it actually important to your life story that your sister lived in Taiwan for ten years, and why do you need to include that level of detail? We say this a lot: think about the message you want to deliver, the reason you’re telling your story in the first place, and stick to the events — and people — that actually contribute to your theme.

That’s not to say you can’t include great anecdotes or funny moments. Just don’t worry about explaining things that aren’t as important to you and your own life. This is about you, after all.

Don’t lie

There are things you just may not feel comfortable telling the world, and that’s okay. If you feel like you can’t write about something and be okay with others reading it, it’s perfectly fine to omit it. However, lying about experiences to make them seem softer (or alternatively, making them more interesting) is something to avoid. Not only does it prevent you from actually telling your life story, but it prevents you from being authentic with your readers.

Ultimately, your goal is to tell the truth, more or less, about the fascinating things that have happened in your life, and what you learned from them that you want to share. When you do that, you create a powerful memoir that can affect your readers’ lives.

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. […]

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 writing the events in order from start to finish.

Pick specific time periods for chapters to begin and end

If you’re writing chronologically, you want to know when to switch to a different time in your life. Maybe you had a lot of experiences in your childhood, and you want to break that time period into multiple different chapters so you can really focus on the experiences. Maybe your time is better marked by seasons, and you want to break your memoir into seasons. This is completely your choice!

Avoid the backstory

This seems intuitive, but it can be hard. If you know where the story starts, try not to “set the scene” with a long backstory. Just start at your chosen beginning point, and keep moving forward through time. You’ll find that you can still tell the story without all that added context — in most cases. If your story really doesn’t make sense without some details from the past, then just keep your backstory limited to the essentials. Or, consider starting from an earlier point.

Choose a natural ending

Similar to the above, your memoir can end whenever you’d like it to. If you want to write all the way to your current age, that’s your end. If you want your memoir to only go for so long, pick a different end. This is your story, whenever you want it to end is your choice.

Think through your memories

Before you start writing, think about when things happened. Organizing your memories before you begin can help you to continue writing without having to stop and think about what happened next. If you’re having a hard time remembering when things happened, see if you can talk to your family or jog your memory through different exercises.

Chronological writing can be helpful if you don’t know where you want to go with your memoir. As you continue to write, you’ll find some pieces fit together better than others. Tell the parts of your story that matter to you.

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 […]