Dalene Bickel (@DaleneBickel) encourages and instructs people on how to impact future generations by writing their life stories. Subscribe to her free Weekly Writing Prompt and her monthly newsletter, Legacy Today, full of nonfiction writing tips, resources, and information. We’re thrilled to share this post on Growing Bolder!
Perhaps you’ve thought of writing your life story. Maybe someone has even told you that you should. But it’s not something that you’ve seriously considered or actively pursued.
After all, you feel that you’ve lived an average – perhaps even boring – life. You haven’t overcome a life-threatening disease or run an ultramarathon. Your career has been good to you, but you weren’t the CEO and you didn’t invent anything.
Your life doesn’t seem to compare to the stories you hear on the news or read about here on the Growing Bolder® site. It’s inspiring and encouraging to read the stories of people like Wendy Chioji and Karen Putz who have overcome immense obstacles in order to accomplish incredible feats. In fact, these stories and resources are what keep you coming back week after week. Yet there might be a part of your brain that thinks, “Geez, my life isn’t anywhere near that interesting” or “I haven’t overcome anything that would be considered inspirational.”
Let me assure you, you have a story that needs to be told. Granted, it might not land you a major publishing deal with movie rights, but it’s a story that nevertheless deserves to be written and shared.
Why? Because as strange as this may sound, your life story isn’t about you. It’s about how your experiences can benefit others.
You possess unique perspectives, insights and knowledge. This wisdom deserves to be shared with others not necessarily so you can toot your own horn, but so you can help others achieve similar success…or in some cases, avoid the same mistakes you made.
Let’s face it: giving unsolicited advice to your grown children can be difficult. Often, they don’t have time to listen, don’t want to listen, or listen with only one ear. Formal discussions can be awkward and sometimes emotionally charged.
Your life story is a meet-in-the-middle solution. It enables you to provide advice in a nonthreatening manner by saying, “Because of that particular experience, I learned/believe xyz.” Getting your point across by telling a story isn’t confrontational; it’s relatable. Additionally, your children have the opportunity to decide when and where they read your story and consume your advice.
Others are truly interested in your life. How I wish I could go back in time so that I could ask my grandparents and great-grandmother more about their past. I have very fuzzy memories of my grandfathers since both died before I turned ten years old. I’d love to hear them tell about what it was like growing up in the early twentieth century, when technology began to increasingly change our everyday lives.
I’d love to hear my grandmothers’ voices again as they related amusing stories of my parents when they were kids. And, oh, how I would love to play Flinch with my great-grandmother again as she retold stories about her past – as well as interesting and sometimes scandalous stories about the town’s citizens.
I never thought about writing any of the stories down…and neither did they. Now those stories are gone forever.
Maybe your family isn’t a close-knit one; perhaps you haven’t spoken to your children in years. Maybe you’ve never had children and there aren’t any close family members to share your life story with. Is your story still worth documenting? Absolutely.
You undoubtedly have friends, neighbors and colleagues who will be interested in your story. Additionally, future researchers will be thrilled to find a primary source that documents the past.
You might be the only remaining link to your extended family history. You don’t have to be a genealogist or even remotely interested in your family history, but be aware that you might possess knowledge about your family’s past that no one else knows. For example:
- From what country did your ancestors immigrate and when?
- Were any of your ancestors notorious in any way?
- What were some of the major medical conditions experienced by your family members?
Taking the time now to share what information you know will save future generations countless hours of research.
No one can tell your story like you. You might be thinking that you don’t need to write your life story because you’ve already told your children the most important aspects of your past – repeatedly. But there are two flaws to that line of thinking.
First, it is reported that that oral history can be forgotten in as little as three generations. That’s a sobering thought. Unless you take the time to record your stories (whether on audio or video or by writing them down), there’s a good chance that they will be lost forever.
Second, the more people who hear the story, the more versions you’re going to distribute. Remember the Telephone Game? You begin by whispering a phrase to the person next to you and then that person repeats the phrase to the person next to them and so on until the final person announces the phrase to everyone. Why is it such an interesting game? Because the final version is never the same as the initial phrase. Each individual hears or focuses on something different and often misinterprets it. The same is true with your story.
Gossip and rumors can wreak havoc on someone’s reputation while they’re alive as well as after they’re gone. Your life story is your opportunity to relate events as you recall them, in your words.
It provides you with peace of mind and a great sense of accomplishment. Deep down, we all want to be remembered long after we’re gone. We want to leave behind a lasting legacy – something tangible that people will be able to associate with us. Your life story is your legacy; it will speak for you long after you’re gone.
Writing a book of any kind is a major accomplishment, but writing your life story is even more significant. It benefits others, gives you peace of mind that your legacy is preserved, and it frees you to move forward and continue to lead an active and productive life…one worthy of a sequel.
What about you? Have you ever considered writing your life story? Please share your thoughts and questions in the comment field!