On Saturday, I had the pleasure of participating on a panel discussion for the Prince George’s Black Writer’s Guild at Karibu Books on the topic of “Writing Your Life Story”. Being a wife & mother of five with full-time employment, I advocate writing during small chunks of time. Concentrated writing without a lot of research and analysis just to get something on paper. You can always go back later and fill in the details and expand the thoughts. If we wait until we have large chunks of time and complete details, we may never write down anything about ourselves.
I had the pleasure of serving on this panel with T.S. Grant, an awesome fellow from my community who has a powerful life story.
Here are the four tips I passed along to the Writer’s Guild:
3. 30 days in the Life
4. U A-Z
The Chronological Way – probably the most popular way people think about writing their life story. Starting with the day you were born, or with your parents. One way to start this process is to gather up as many photographs of yourself as possible. Assemble them in chronological order and then start writing down the memories associated with the photos. Step two, add facts to the time period such as year(s), names of schools attended, city & state where you lived, or activities you remember engaging in. My preferred method is to start with the most recent photo and work backwards because our memory fades over time so you can give yourself a running start by recalling the bulk of information currently stored in your short term memory.
Milestones/Testimony – The first essay I wrote about myself was in the form of a testimony. I recalled the history of my spiritual life. Focusing on one particular milestone led me back to the beginning of my journey. Another way to use milestones is to pick a few memorable moments in history to elaborate on what you were doing at that very moment. For instance on the morning of September 11, 2001, I was working at home (in Bowie, MD) for my employer (Ernst & Young) and had just finished feeding breakfast (hot oatmeal) to my two toddlers, Leah age 2 and Jonathan who was almost one when I was sitting at my desk (logging onto my computer) and I heard Diane Sawyer’s voice (on Good Morning America) grow serious. I turned to the television to see one of the burning towers and witnessed the plane hit the second tower…
A 30-day Peek – The reason I got into scrapbooking at an obsessed level is told in the story, Just One Scrapbook contained in Jack Canfield’s Chicken Soup for the Scrapbooker’s Soul. I inherited my Great-Great Grandmother’s scrapbook and after reviewing it, didn’t know anymore about her than before I saw the scrapbook, why…because there was nothing written, it was just a book of photos. I vowed then that I wouldn’t leave this earth without my descendants not knowing something about my life. Three years ago I decided that I’d create one mini scrapbook/journal about me by journaling about my life for thirty days. The first album included “scraps” from my day, a receipt, label, business card, or something that crossed my path that day that was relatively flat and could fit on a 7x7 scrapbook page. The album I created in 2007 included self portraits and a whole of journaling based on one thought I had that particular day. Below is the cover of that album.
U A-Z - My plan for 2008 is to journal details about me using one word,an a A-Z alphabet approach. A stream of consciousness writing process about a word that pertains to my life. The letter “C” is already started…Cervical Cancer – diagnosed and beat it at the age 20, I went on to experience 9 pregnancies, 6 births and be blessed with 5 beautiful & healthy children.
These are just a few ways to help you get started writing your own life story, one that you can write using just small amounts of time, that will amount to one incredible, interesting and unique story in the end.