‘How to breathe life into my life story’ is probably the most common question I receive.
I can interpret this question in two ways.
‘How do I start writing my life story’ or ‘how do I remove the scaffolding of my life and crack open the secret river that has flowed through my days’?
There is only one answer to both questions and that is to start writing. Procrastination has no deadline and you do. Your legacy demands insight into your experiences, journey and soul. Your life story is about the greater truth of your life, the wisdom and understandings that have trickled into your being whether you sought them or not. The powerful yet empathetic pathways and connections that have created the ‘you’ that your grandchildren, friends and followers know and want to remember is the essence of your memoir or life story.
A life story is about the maze of your life
A life story is about the intertwined journey of truth, suffering, artistry and symmetry that form the maze of your life. Memoir has its own story and truth will emerge as you show readers your experiences rather than tell them. Trust your reader’s emotional intelligence to discover the beauty in the landscape scene you paint with your words. Allow the patterns to emerge and march to the music of your experiences, and let your hurt and anger resound and reverberate as you struggle with some memories.
Instead of telling readers your family was impoverished and you were a neglected child, show them by talking about your dad’s old car that frequently broke down; your faded and torn school uniform; or how your family shared one ragged toothbrush.
Stay in the moment when recounting the first concert you attended or the treats of that wonderful holiday you enjoyed or the aromas and sounds of your mother in her kitchen. Let your readers taste the fear of the school bully or the workplace stress and deadlines.
Scenes such as this will bring your story to life with details. Use concrete and specific primary words such as ‘the Australian desert morning sun peeking over Uluru’ rather than abstract words such as ‘sunrise’ to appeal to your readers’ imagination and emotions. Allow your readers to visualise and experience your story by providing specific names; for example a sunrise in Australia outback may be very different to a sunrise in inner London. Write from your mind and use words that are necessary but not excessive, and avoid overuse of adjectives and adverbs, they are not fashionable.
Be prepared for some memories unsettling the silence and blank spaces around some events. There are memories you will recall with clarity and joy and others will be voids and black holes. It is a function of the mind that one memory can trigger another and so forgotten memories come to the front where perhaps you didn’t want them.
A First Draft is your friend
A first draft is confidential and an invisible best friend to whom you can ‘tell all’ as you search for your story of relationships and events that will become the central principals guiding your story. Other edits and drafts will allow you to reorganise themes and central priorities in your life thus shaping the narrative of your emerging tale.
You don’t have to tell all, and you don’t have to recall absolutely everything. It is the overall truth of your story and pathways that combine with your inner soul and character that your descendants will want to know.
No life is ordinary, and how you sing and dance is unique – this is what people will want to know.
Breathe life into your life story – start writing or contact us to write for you.
- Roorbach B. Writing Life stories 2nd edit. Writer’s Digest Books. www.witersdigest.com
- Miller P. 2001. Writing your life. a journey of discovery. Allen & Unwin. Sydney. NSW. www.allanduwin.com