"Write it for yourself or for yourself plus whoever might find it.
Write it as proof you lived, you saw, you suffered, you passed through fire and laughed mightily. Write your life because you lived."
Humans have an innate desire to be heard and seen. We have been communicating our experiences for thousands of years through cave drawings, verbal narration, written language and art. If you are interested in exploring or recording your life experiences you can do it independently or hire a professional facilitator to lend inspiration and structure.
Two types of personal life stories
Personal writing: Personal writing allows for insight and healing. It is a type of journal where you can establish your dreams and goals. It organizes your life and can hold you accountable to yourself and your life vision. It allows you to record private thoughts, worries and visions. You can be optimistic or fatalistic in your musings. This is about relationship to self. Personal writing permits you to explore your fears and dreams. If you write, and choose to review your personal writing at a later time, you will be surprised by the valuable tidbits that you recorded and somehow forgot. It reminds you of what you know. Personal writing can release tension or keep a dream alive.
Personal life history: Personal life history creates a treasure trove of your experiences, including achievements, disappointments, responsibilities, and unexpected events. Personal life history is written from an emotional perspective. The intent is not to record life detail but to communicate meaningful highlights; it sheds light on what you value most. Personal life history gives you an opportunity to contemplate and record your values. You write it for yourself, family and friends. If you desire,it can serve as an ethical will.
Where to begin?
Getting started on writing may be easier than you think. Commit to five minutes a day. Write in a time and manner most comfortable to you. You can use an computer or a quill pen . Your vehicle of expression is not important; the value of your life experience is what counts.
If you need direction or encouragement Elizabeth can help. As a professional counselor she is skilled at offering guidance and insight. This can be a fun and meaningful experience. You determine what areas of your life should be explored or forgotten. This is your story and only you can tell it.
"Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you", Annie Dillard
Writing your life story in a group
Every now and again it may be helpful to stop and reflect on where you have been and where you are going. Guided autobiography writing (GAB) offers a unique venue for self-reflection.
GAB offers nine themes that have been carefully chosen and tested by Dr. Birren. Each week we will explore a new, broad theme that will help springboard your personal expression. I will assist you in accessing your memories and creative voice so you can more fully explore and express your life experience.
Your life story, in your own words, offers patterns into how you view the world, how you chose to navigate the world, and where you might construct roadblocks. Your personal ‘myth’ shines a light on your unique strengths and your vulnerabilities, your strenghts and your challenges.
At the end of 10 weeks you will have created a short book on your life journey. You may choose to continue the process by expanding on the original themes or exploring new ones. Regardless, you will have a compilation of life experiences as a gift to yourself or your loved ones, and a wonderful opportunity to inform your future choices, perceptions, and your life’s focus.
The process can be healing, illuminating, empowering - and yes - even fun!
Elizabeth Matthews has been trained as a GAB facilitator, a program designed by James Birren, Phd. For more information on GAB, see: www.autobiographicalwriting.com
New York Times article on autobiographical writing:
Elizabeth Matthews, MA, LPC
Licensed Professional Counselor, CO #2551