How do you define life writing?
Life Writing is the blanket term used to describe all written non-fiction recordings of memories. This includes biographies, autobiographies, memoirs, diaries and blogs, personal essays and collections of letters or emails. It does what is says on the tin, life writing is writing about life.
As you can see, that is a lot of formats under one term. And if they’re all technically life writing- what makes them different?
If you’re writing about life, which format is best suited for your content?
We’ve already covered what the difference between an autobiography and a memoir is. But the others? We done the searching and collected the information so that you don’t have to.
Life Writing Formats
Autobiography is very easy to define. It is when you are writing your own life story.
Biography literally translates to writing about life. The best thing about a biography is that you could be writing someone else’s life story. And if there is a lot of research required- we have a few tips to make sure that your biography is a good one.
A gift of the digital migration, a blog of the personal kind. This is most like an online diary. As opposed to the blog you’re accessing right now, which is full of useful and interesting content, tips and resources.
It is difficult to remember that there was a time before the internet. When people didn’t broadcast their thoughts and the day’s actions online, they wrote them down in an empty book. The diary was often hidden… but someone would always manage to find the hiding place.
Another gift from the digital age is the e-mail. The electric-letter. There are so many ways to save them. You can add them to drives, clouds, memory sticks, print them out or take screenshots. Creating your narrative depends on the order your emails, which you can do by creating a chain of response.
Like E-mails, letters can be collected and arranged to tell the story of a particular phase of life. You can document the growth of a relationship or a recent location change etc. A collection of letters from both writers can be paired together to provide a dual coverage of the topic.
“Memoir” is a direct translation of the French word for “memory”. Usually a memoir focuses on a particular event, time frame or relationship.
Personalised Essay or Statement
These are compiled when applying to university or work. Often you’ll be told to act like you are promote your life experience. The point of this particular format, is to make someone more likely to consider you for a role.
A formal statement towards someone’s character and mental state or a review on a product.
Why should you write about your life?
The main reason we write about our lives, and the lives of others is to share and reflect on our experience, thoughts and feelings with the world. Life writing is the ever-evolving method that humanity uses to document our own histories. It is a way in which we connect the present to the past and future simultaneously.
You should write about your life because you have a story to tell. Each life is unique, while you might share similarities, there is no one in the world who shares your exact human experience… but by writing about your life you are able to project your thoughts and feelings outwards and give them a physical manifestation. They start to take up space, and then, people can see your exact story, without pretense, speculation or their own personal projections.
Imagine sitting with thirty other people. You have all read the exact same sentence: “The curtains were blue”. All thirty of you will have different reasoning (if any) behind your interpretation as to why the curtains are blue. Life writing is the opportunity to share your experience with others. It gives reasoning to actions that might have previously seemed random.
When should you start life writing?
You’ve just learned about the different formats and why life writing matters.
What could you write?
A full autobiography. The biography of your personal hero. Collect your parents’ love letters or emails and create a conversation as their relationship grows. Destress from your day by taking an account of everything that happened, just to see what still stands out in the future. Write a memoir of your childhood, or of the time you overcame hardship.
There are so many things that you could do.
Fayola Nivet, Story Terrace