A few months ago I wrote a column about the benefits of writing a journal, including providing raw material for a possible future autobiography.
So, today, I want to follow up with an encouragement to you to get going on that autobiography – whether you have been keeping a journal or not.
And here I am not just appealing to older readers, as whatever your age it will help you with self-discovery, introspection and reflection. It can also act as therapy and self-counselling.
I have been keeping a detailed daily journal for quite a long time, conscious of these trapping memories for reference.
But I was not expecting to get going on my autobiography for several years given how busy I was… until I came down with some health issues and took a flight to London to be assessed at a hospital there.
I was confined to a stretcher throughout the flight, so I asked myself how I was going to spend all that time lying flat.
The thought occurred to me to reflect on the flow of my life, as a first go at developing the content and sequence of chapters for my autobiography.
It was, as it is called, the “initiating incident” to my writing, as since then in the hospital and now back home I have been hard at it, making excellent progress – although with a long way still to go.
I have also been an initiator for others to begin writing their stories. I’ve helped edit the autobiographies of some of my friends, and I was recently invited to contribute an introduction to the one by James Foster, written for his family.
Our life story can be more about personal, and emotional issues, to do with relationships between us and family and friends (Prince Harry!), or more about our professional life.
It all depends on what moves us and to whom we want to appeal. Is our goal to titillate with a “kiss-and-tell” series of revelations about intimate encounters, as some such stories reveal?
Not mine, and most likely not for most Business Daily readers. To amuse and entertain? To inspire and educate? Some combination thereof?
Do we see ourselves as uninhibitedly frank, and relaxed about revealing a “tell-all” account of our life? Or, at the other end of the spectrum, do we unduly need to always be uncritical and positive, not offending anyone by omitting delicate issues?
Somewhere in between, maybe. And how do we deal with negative episodes that risk us being sued for libel by the bad guys we have had to deal with? (They’re the most gripping stories!)
Next, how do we avoid appearing to be bragging? For that’s how life stories started, with the self-promotional Egyptian pharaohs of 3,000 years ago in their tombs… and how they continue today with characters like Trump.
If that’s the idea, then better have a biography written about us! While a memoir is not meant to be an extended sales brochure or CV – except for politicians as preludes to their campaigning – it’ll hopefully boost our self-esteem, with me as the hero of my story.
My suggestion is that you just start writing elements you can get going with easily and enjoyably, without inhibitions or worry at this stage about the quality of the writing.
Feel free to rant and rage; jot notes about topics; capture memories as they reveal themselves.
Initially, at least, you can be writing just for yourself, just for the grandchildren, or already for a wider audience.
And there can then be different versions for different audiences.
Ask yourself about your life’s shape. What is your story, told through a pattern of events, so you and then others get to know what your life means?
What do you believe in and why? What is your purpose in life? What were your triumphs and setbacks, crises and breakthroughs? What were your dreams fulfilled and unfulfilled; opportunities grasped and missed; moments of fun and hilarity?
Most importantly, why would anyone want to read what you have written? What will they learn from it and do differently as a result?
Who would want to publish your story and why? Who is your audience and who are you not interested in writing for?
Finally, talk to your previous generations for background before it’s too late – or you’ll regret not having done so.