An autobiography is a narrative of a person’s entire life to date. Unlike the memoir, which deals with one slice of a person’s life, the autobiography details a life from birth to time of writing. Writing an autobiography may seem to be a daunting task but if you break it down into certain steps, you will find the process immensely rewarding.
Begin by making a timeline of your life. Create a chart that begins with the day of your birth and continues in increments to the present day. You can begin this chart with decade increments and then break it down into yearly increments later. Don’t agonize over the timeline. Make a rough draft and hang it next to your computer or place it in your notebook and use it as a handy reference tool while you are writing your autobiography.
Consider the core events in your life. Look at your timeline and choose two or three core events – these are those important moments in your life that changed you in some way. The core events are those events that defined you as a person. Begin writing your autobiography with these core events. Later you will go back and add more detail and fill in gaps.
Next, add details to the core events. Once you have a few core events written down, it is time to go back and add some details of events leading up to and after the core event. This would include details that might have seemed minor before but now that you have written your core events, you can see that these details are pertinent to your life changes.
You can also use old photos and journal entries to kickstart your reluctant memory into remembering details of your life. Jog your memory by making lists of all the ‘first’ things that happened to you. Ask questions. Find family members and friends that can fill in the blanks for you. It is also helpful to hear about your life from other people because it may give you a fresh take on events that happened.
Include more than just writing in your autobiography. Draw maps of childhood homes, illustrations of favorite places, and charts of favorite things. Throw in copies of awards and certificates. Add pictures of yourself and loved ones that span the time of your life. These additions to your autobiography will bring your story to life for future generations.
Try to write in your voice. Don’t try to use another writer’s style or diction. This is your story, tell it in your own voice. Remember to add feelings to the events of your life. Don’t just write down what happened; include how you felt about what happened.
It is very important for you to tell the truth. Memory is very subjective and how you remember something may not be how someone else remembers it. Try to be as honest as you possibly can. When you can’t remember something, just say that your memory is fuzzy on this point. It is okay to admit that you don’t remember.
A few final tips: Don’t forget to interview older members of your family for details of life when you were a child. Ask them what the world was like when you were born. Never use real names if your writing will hurt those people in any way. Simply change the names in your autobiography and provide a disclaimer at the front of your story saying “Some names have been changed.”.
Publish your finished autobiography with a publisher or self-publish it. Seeing a bound copy of your life is the greatest gift you give yourself – not to mention future generations.