How many times have you sat down with pen and notepad or fingers to the keyboard determined to begin writing your life story? You may have even made an outline or written a few pages. Before long, you’re feeling stuck—so you give up. Please know that you aren’t alone! This three-part series, beginning with roadblocks to writing, will get you started down the right path.
There are many reasons people don’t write their life stories. Some of the most common are:
My life isn’t interesting. What does “interesting” mean? Does it mean that you weren’t the homecoming queen or the star quarterback, or you never had your name in lights? Is your life less interesting because you grew up on a potato farm, became a teacher or a secretary, lived in the low-rent district, were a stay-at-home mom, ended up a single mom or dad, or survived cancer? Many people connect to the same stories we see as mundane and ordinary. There’s something to the old adage: “Write what you know!”
I don’t want to share. Everyone has done something or had something happen to them they don’t want to share. Luckily, it isn’t necessary to write every about event of your life. At the same time, you don’t want your story to be a fairy-tale where everyone lives happily ever after. Try to find a balance.
I don’t want to upset someone by what I write. A life story isn’t written for the sake of criticizing someone, and it is inappropriate to do so. Be tactful even when you are writing about your drill sergeant mother, workaholic father, or a sibling who treated you like dirt.
I haven’t done anything worth writing about. This kind of goes along with the “my life isn’t interesting” belief. So you’ve never gone to Europe, and probably never will. What about family vacations, family traditions, school days? Have you sat by someone’s side and held their hand during the last moments of their life? Have you been a caregiver? Been on a genealogy trip? Rafted down the Colorado River? Been in a hurricane? Start with your most vivid memory.
I’m overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. A little planning, such as making an outline or doing some mind-mapping, will help make the job easier and more enjoyable. Either one helps you feel more organized and less overwhelmed.
I’m not sure how it should be written. The important thing is that it is written. Whether a story is in a collection of letters, journals, or a life story handwritten on a legal pad or using the latest software, the goal is the same.
I’m not a real writer. Very few of us are. If you can write a letter or email, write a talk or make a Power Point presentation, you can write your story!
Next time: Getting your thoughts out of your head and down on paper.