Tips for writing about your life

Last week the Reimagine End of Life conference took place throughout San Francisco. The premise was to facilitate discourse about death, a topic which is often touchy and neglected.

I recently built Memoir Share, an easy way to write and publish your memoirs so that you can give them to family and friends. An event titled “Writing Your Grief: getting to the story behind the story” had great some great ideas to help you dig deep into writing about personal topics. It was hosted by Megan Devine, the author of It’s OK That You’re Not OK.” Here are some of the learnings.

You’re going to dive into the unknown — when you first start writing about personal topics, you may not necessarily know where it’s going to take you. Topics and memories that may have been forgotten or unexpected may appear.

Read your own words back — it’s likely the case that you were deep in a world and context that was personal to you. Stepping back and reading your own words out loud will help you understand their impact and put yourself in the reader’s shoes.

Words often feel too small — every story has a vast context. Sometimes words feel to small to describe all the surroundings, details, and emotions in your story. Being able to conquer this problem is key.

Why are you writing? — this is more important than ‘what’ you are writing. Having a purpose behind your writing will lead to inspiration.

The weight of who gets hurt when I tell the truth — the truth is not always pretty. There’s a risk of hurting people with the truth. At the end of the day, maybe the resolution for this dilemma comes back to the ‘why are you writing this?’

People love having a finished story, but not necessarily writing one — as with many things in life, writing can be a difficult and draining task. But the fruits of your efforts are worth it. Just stick with it and put that energy in!

Tell stories to change the world — stories have been crucial to society since the beginning of time. The world moves when powerful stories are told. Tell your story!

Prompts

Here are some prompts from the session that might help get the juices flowing.

I’m not going to write about — this was an interesting prompt. It puts your world in the frame and then lets you cut off all the excess fat in order to focus on your actual story.

Sensory prompts — you can do with with any of the senses. We went with color and smell. When focusing on a particular sense (e.g. smell) of a situation or event, it drops you back into that scenario and the story writes itself.

What do you want to remember? What do you want to forget? — this brings the good and bad things of your life into perspective. There are influential parts of our lives we want to forget, but can’t. These maybe great points to start writing off of.

Who are you? Tell me who you are? — take an introspective look at yourself or the players in your story. Know them well.