Think only famous people have autobiographies? Think again. Your story deserves to be told, too. Sharing your life story can be a fun project, and it’s good for your family, too. Studies show that children who know stories about their relatives have higher levels of emotional well-being.
This doesn’t mean you have to write a book—although you can if you want. There are lots of ways to share your memories, insights, and experiences. Choose what’s right for you.
You can tell your story in many ways
There is no “right” way to share your stories. You can document your life chronologically from birth until today, or you can focus on a few specific events, values, or traditions. There are countless ways to bring your experiences to life for your family and friends.
Here are a few ideas for inspiration:
- Write your story: Whether you want to author a best-selling novel or write a simple letter to your family, writing is the most common way that people tell their stories. After all, it’s easy and inexpensive.
- Make a photo album: As they say, a picture is worth 1,000 words. An album of your favorite family photos with a few words about why the pictures are meaningful helps bring your history to life.
- Compile a cookbook: Gathering recipes—current family favorites or old-time traditions—is a great way to give people a “taste” of your life. You might want to write a few notes about where each recipe came from, special times it was served, or memories about making it.
- Be interviewed: There’s nothing like hearing a loved one’s voice. And, today, recording an interview on a phone is a piece of cake. Get friends or family members to ask you questions about your life. (Hint: Asking kids to participate often leads to great conversations.) Here’s a good list of questions to help your interviewers get started.
- Tell stories about your heirlooms: Everyone has certain items that are special or full of memories. Taking pictures or videos of the items and describing why they are important to you can help younger generations understand your life.
- Make a special keepsake: If you have a special skill—such as sewing or woodworking—you can make a meaningful keepsake for future generations. For example, you can make a quilt out of fabric from wedding dresses, tablecloths, or blankets that symbolize different times of your life.
- Have a family (or friend) reunion: Another way to share your life story is to introduce your loved ones to people who knew you best at various stages of your life. It’s a great reason to reconnect with people you may have lost touch with, and the conversations at the reunion will add more context to your life story.
- Teach an uncommon skill: Many skills that were common years ago are almost extinct today. Spend time with your family and friends teaching them some of your favorites—from canning peaches and milking cows to speaking your ancestral language or archery.
- Travel to special places: Going on a trip with family and friends can make your history more tangible. Whether you visit your hometown, school, or special vacation spot, you’ll have a chance to tell the stories of your life in the places where they happened.
How to choose what kind of project to do
Not sure what kind of project to start? You might consider the following in your decision:
- Audience: Think about who will see your life story. Is it intended for a big group or just a select few people? Are they more likely to read a book or watch a video? What parts of your life are most important for them to know about? Do you have a special way of connecting with your audience, such as “we always cook together”?
- Fun factor: Pick a project you’ll enjoy doing. Your enthusiasm will come through in the final product.
- Time commitment: Some storytelling projects take a few minutes, while others may take months. Be realistic about how much time you have (or want) to spend.
- Special skills: Do you have unique skills that could make your project even more personal? For example, if you’re a quilter, making a keepsake quilt might feel more rewarding for you and be more meaningful for your loved ones.
- Expenses and equipment: How much do you want to spend on this project? Do you need any special equipment? Writing in a journal or using a phone to record a video is easy and inexpensive. Creating a full-length documentary would take more resources.
- Help from others: Do you need other people to help you with the project? If so, who are those people and when are they available?
Your story is worth telling
What a life you’ve led! There have been ups and downs, fun, and heartbreak. But it’s all uniquely yours. When you share your story with your family and friends, they’ll appreciate it for years to come.