I once came across a quote by the author Kate Rockland, which read: “Relationships consist of telling your same life stories to different people until someone finally appreciates them.” Although, a little on the soppy side, this idea about the power of the life story and the realisation that our stories literally make us did really hit home.
Now, most people wouldn’t consider themselves storytellers and definitely wouldn’t consider themselves authors. In actual fact, that is exactly what we all are; storytellers. By merely going about our day-to-day lives we are unwittingly creating and developing plot lines, settings and characters, which together make up the stories of our lives. So why is it that we find the transition between living our stories to recording our stories such a daunting task?
It is often down to an apparent lack of time and the fear of not knowing how. Well, we can dispel those ‘not knowing how’ issues right here. Read through a few of our other posts, like:
These should help clear up the majority of concerns and queries around the logistics of writing. With regard to the time issue, or rather, the mind-set issue – it is notable that one of the most common excuses for not doing things is because we don’t have the time. Funny how we still manage to find out who was voted out of the X Factor and we know exactly who Mr Grey is, but anyway. Writing doesn’t have to be a chore, it doesn’t necessarily even need to be a conscious effort. Writing anything, even on the most basic level can serve as a record of our life stories.
In this age of selfies and hashtags, we are unwittingly telling millions of people our stories, over several different platforms, on a daily basis. The introduction of social media has increased the number of ways to tell stories as well as the means by which we do it. Simply uploading a selfie, wearing smart clothes with a cheesy grin on your face, accompanied by the caption: ‘So #excited for the #firstday of my new job!’ serves as a whole story unto itself. But how exactly do we go about converting all these snippets of our lives into a life story?
Well firstly, you need to begin by thinking about how most great stories are structured. They have a beginning, middle and end, as well as chapters containing characters, events and settings. Inconveniently, you could say that our lives don’t quite fit that neatly into this precise pattern. However, when you begin to break things down to the most basic level it does start to make a little more sense, and emerges into a slightly less daunting task.
- Beginning: your family before you, your birth, your early childhood memories
- Middle: significant events
- End: where you are now, your current relationships, plan for the future
Now this ‘middle’ section is something that you have to decide for yourself, as it is entirely up to you what the significant aspects of your own life are. It may however be helpful to make a note of the main things you think about on a daily basis, and see if significant themes begin to emerge. Money? Relationships? Pets? Where does your mind wander when you’re alone with your thoughts? This may provide an insight into what is most significant to you and in turn deliver you some of your most significant life events.
This is often the part we find most difficult as it is very common to be afflicted by ‘blank page syndrome’, resulting in a neverending state of procrastination. Luckily for us, however, professional biographer, Andrew Crofts, has provided some insight into how best to approach making sense of our memories, along with the logistics behind putting pen to paper:
“The best thing is to write from memory first, because then the most interesting and important events and characters will rise to the surface. Then go through all the source material like diaries to check that you have got the facts right and that you haven’t forgotten anything vital.
“If you find the idea of writing a book daunting, start out by imagining you are writing a letter to a long-lost friend, telling them everything that has happened since you last saw them. That way your natural voice will come through.
“Getting the first block of material down is always the hardest part. Editing, tweaking and expanding are the fun bits once the bulk of the project has been done.”
Generally speaking, one of the most important things to remember is that writing your life story is not the same as writing a memoir. So, if you do feel yourself getting hung up on one specific tale, marginally more than others, it may lend itself more to becoming an accompanying memoir, rather than an unbalanced life story. Overall, it is important to maintain a balanced structure throughout your ‘life story’, so it feels like just that; a ‘life story’ and not just one of ‘life’s many stories’.
For more information on the logistics of writing your life story, follow the links through to the articles listed in section one. However, if you feel your story would actually be better suited to becoming a memoir, why not have a read of our article on ‘How to Write a Memoir’?
Written by Amber Hicks