Your life story – your experiences, lessons learned, memories – is too important to simply let fade away, particularly for your family. Whether you capture your story for your children, grandchildren and generations beyond or for a wider audience, a written autobiography offers one way to share your story with others.
Below are a few tips I’ve picked up over the years as a video biographer which you might find helpful as you write your own story.
‘How to Write an Autobiography’
When I capture a client’s story in a Video Biography I start by dividing the process into three phases: 1) Pre-Production or Planning, 2) Production or Content Gathering, and 3) Post-Production or Editing & Completion. You may find it helpful to break your process into similar stages as well.
- Pre-Production or Planning
Know your Audience
Determine who your audience is and try to put yourself in their shoes. If your autobiography is for your grandchildren and great grandchildren, think about what you would want to know about your grandparents and great grandparents. What stories, information, delivery style, tone etc. would resonate with you?
Know your Goals
What will your autobiography cover? Your life story from the early years to the present day or will you focus mainly on a specific time period or event? Do you want to include family history and life lessons? Make a list of your goals to help you stay focused during the editing process.
Set a Timeline
Set an end or completion date for your autobiography. Then, work backwards to set monthly, weekly and daily writing goals. Share your progress with others if you find it helps you stay on track.
Create an Outline
Give yourself structure by putting together out an outline. Start by listing general categories (childhood, young adulthood, etc) and add sub-categories and then sub, sub-categories under those. You may find yourself adding even more well into the writing phase.
- Production/Content Gathering
What to Share
If you’re wondering what stories and information to include, check out these two great articles on why sharing stories of difficult times might actually be good: ‘The Stories That Bind Us’ by Bruce Feiler, NYT. and ‘The Power of Myth: The Benefits of Sharing Family Stories of Hard Times’ by Sue Shellenbarger
Need a little help remembering? Memories can often be recalled by ‘tickling’ your senses with reminders from your past. Does a certain sound or smell bring back memories of your mother making dinner? For tips on stimulating your senses to bring back memories, visit my blog post on Memory Loss: Family Stories and History.
Write, Write, Write
Let your thoughts and stories flow and think about editing later. Be sure to keep a notepad or voice recorder handy since memories don’t always come to us when it’s convenient. Leave one on your nightstand, in your car, kitchen, etc.
Photos & Memorabilia
Gather photos, documents, maps and other memorabilia that will help to enhance your autobiography. Visual elements add dimension and a sense of reality for your audience.
As you write your autobiography and gather materials, be sure to label and file everything under the appropriate category in your outline or create new categories if necessary. Cataloging now will be enormously helpful when it comes time to edit.
- Post Production/Editing
While you may be tempted to include all your stories, your audience may find it overwhelming. Identify the stories you think are important to share, support your goals and you think your audience would want to know. Then rank the stories in order or importance, with 1 being the most important and 4 being the least. Soon, you will start to see a manageable outline and story-line emerge.
Pull together the stories ranked most important and bring in the lower ranked stories where you see fit.
Add photos and memorabilia as needed.
Refer back to your goals, audience, outline and schedule to help you stay focused and moving forward.
Alternate between working on the details of a single story and pulling back to work on the larger structure.
If you feel you could use a little help writing your autobiography, you have a few options. Find a local or online writing class, work with a writing mentor or hire a professional autobiographer or to pull the pieces together for you. Whichever you choose, know the time and energy you put into preserving your life story will be valued by those you chose to share it with.
Your Story in a
~ Video Biography ~
If writing your autobiography seems a bit daunting, consider capturing it in a Video Biography instead. This modern-day memoir tells your story by weaving together a filmed interview with photos, documents, maps and other memorabilia. All you need to do is talk and provide us with photos and other memorabilia. We take care of the rest.
To learn more or to view samples, visit Family Line Video or contact us. We would love an opportunity to help ensure your stories are enjoyed for years to come.
Family Line Video, LLC
Serving Chicagoland & Beyond