a workbook for writing your life story

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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 […]

We won an Independent Press Award!

We won an Independent Press Award!

Great news! I Lived This is the winner of a 2017 Independent Press Award for its interior design. We love this news. We worked hard on the inner pages of the book, so they would be just as engaging and compelling as the cover. Particular kudos […]

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 […]

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 work on your memoir.

If you’re trying these for the first time, begin with three to five minutes. Afterward, you can work on increasing your time.

Meditation

The most common form of meditation is mindfulness meditation, in which you observe your thoughts as they drift through your mind. It’s helpful to think of your thoughts as boxes on a conveyer belt. Each box is a thought, and the conveyer belt is running in your head. As you practice mindfulness meditation, the goal is to simply let the boxes pass by on the conveyer belt without grabbing a hold of them.

To practice meditation, follow these steps:

  • Sit or recline comfortably, you may also choose to walk for your meditation practice.
  • Close your eyes and allow your body to relax; make no effort to change or control your breath.
  • Bring your attention to your breath and the way your breathing makes your body feel.
  • As thoughts come, let them pass on the conveyer belt, and return your mind to your breath.

Do this for as long as you feel you can. It will help you to clear your mind and get your body into a relaxed stated before trying to access an old memory.

Self-hypnosis

Self-hypnosis can be seen as an extension of meditation. The goal of self-hypnosis is to enter the experience with a completely relaxed body in a slight trance state. There are a variety of ways to enter this state, and a variety of resources to help with that.

Try this entrance into a trance state:

  • Sit or recline comfortably.
  • Close your eyes and allow your body to relax; make no effort to change or control your breath.
  • Starting at your toes, contract each muscle individually for ten seconds and then let it go. Work your way to your head, progressively tensing and relaxing each muscle group.
  • When you get to your head, count backwards from 10 to 0 slowly. Visualize yourself going down a flight of stairs while counting.

After this, there are a number of ways to access an old memory. Try this method or find one that works for you:

  • Imagine yourself walking up to a giant palace which houses all of your memories. Take note of the outside of the building. Look at all the small details.
  • Enter the palace. Notice what the inside of the building looks like and take in all the small details.
  • Notice that there is a door on your right. Open the door and enter the room. In this room, you will find a variety of objects relating to the memory you are trying to access. There’s a book on the shelf. Pick up the book and read about your experience in this memory.

When you’re done with the memory, count backwards from five while telling yourself you’re returning to your body. Wiggle your toes. At 0, open your eyes.

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 […]

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. […]

Four Ways to Organize Your Memoir

Four Ways to Organize Your Memoir

If you were to sit down and write your life story, where would you start? For many people, it starts with an outline. There are a number of different ways in which you can begin organizing your thoughts to get your words on paper; it’s just a matter of finding the way that works best for you!

Chronologically

One of the easiest ways to conceptualize writing your memoir is by writing from the beginning. Write what happened in your childhood first, and work your way to where you are in your life now.

Events

Another way to write your memoir is to write the big events in your life. What are the events you really want other people to know about? Write those first, and then find a common connection through all of them.

Subject

If you find that you want to write about specific subjects or people, you can write about each one individually. Write through all of the experiences you’ve had with one subject or person, education or your brother for example, and then move on to the next subject or person.

Topic

If there’s one topic that you feel colors your entire life, write about your experiences with that topic. This can be as broad or narrow as you choose. What was the first experience you had with this topic? What has your life been like with this specific topic in mind?

Choosing one way to write your memoir will help you to organize your stories in a way that makes sense to you. The most important aspect of choosing a way to organize your memoir is choosing one that makes logical sense to you, so you’re able to see the writing all the way through to the end.

How to Write About Major Events in Your Life Story

How to Write About Major Events in Your Life Story

No matter who you are, you have witnessed something important. Whether it’s a major historical event or a significant life event, how do you start to write about it? Writing through the important events in your life can be a way to organize your memoir. […]

Here’s How You Can Recall Old Memories

Here’s How You Can Recall Old Memories

One of the hardest parts of writing a memoir is remembering the details of the story or experience you’re writing about. It gets more challenging to recall memories the further away from the experience you are. There are multiple ways you can get your memory […]