Why are you here?
You rarely walk out the door, get in your car, and just drive without knowing why (unless you're driving a 1963 Aston Martin Db5, and then, well, just because.) You usually have someplace to go--a reason for the trip, and a destination. It's the same with your life stories. You need to think about where you want to end up. What do you want your story to do? What do you want to accomplish with it?
Answering a few questions before you start this journey can not only smooth a shorten your path to a finished masterpiece, it can prevent you from losing your wallet, your wife, and the rest of your hair along the way. "Begin with the end in mind" and save yourself a lot of time, money, and frustration.
Don't just think about it: write it down. You can change it or refine it as you go along, but having your purpose written down will cement it in your mind and give you a valuable reference point. Put your written statement somewhere you can see it each time you begin to work on your life story project.
What if I don't know yet?
Maybe you're not quite sure yet what your purpose is in writing your life story; you just know that you must do it. That's okay. Start by brainstorming all the reasons why you might want to write. Write them down too.
Keep asking yourself questions until you get to the core emotion that makes you feel that this is an important task for you. Love for friends and family? Obligation to your parents or to future generations? Warning to others? Enjoyment of reminiscence? Revenge on someone who has wronged you? (We're not judging here; were just being honest with ourselves at this point. If you are truly honest about your motivations, it gives you the power to change them if you feel you'd like to reach for a higher purpose.)
Once you have identified your deepest desires, craft a statement that includes everything you'd like to accomplish in the writing of it. You don't have to choose only one reason. Most of us have multiple motivation for undertaking such a task. Perhaps you want feel an obligation to impart wisdom to your grandchildren, but you also want to see your own life from a different perspective to shed light on your future. Write it down.
Real-life purpose statements
Here are some actual purpose statements from clients and others we know who have undertaken to write their life stories:
- “It is my hope that some of my experiences and knowledge will be of value to my family.”
- “I need to write down these stories while I can still remember them.”
- “God has blessed me in my life. I want my readers to know that the tender mercies of the Lord are available to all who seek Him.”
- “I’ve been ‘wife,’ and ‘Mom,’ but what happened to Sarah Jane? I want them to know who I was before.”
- “I desire to write so the reader, my posterity, will come to know me, not just to behold events and dates, but to understand my feelings—to experience my sorrows and discouragements as well as my joys and successes.”
- “I want to tell MY side of the story for once.”
- “I don’t think my life is very important...but I enjoy people and like to listen to their stories. Maybe someone will enjoy the story of my life.”
- “I want to smash through the stifling silence of long-held family secrets so they will wither in the sun and fresh air.”
- “I have been richly blessed by what my forebears, particularly my parents, have done for me. My memoir will enable me to pass on the knowledge of my grand legacy to my children, grandchildren, and their posterity. I hope that they will better understand their roots and gain some appreciation for those who came before.”
- “Our purpose is to memorialize our family farm that is soon to be no more, due to modernization and development. We want to share something that goes much deeper than the place itself and show a rich legacy that reaches beyond the land, beyond the dollar value, beyond the beauty of nature.”
- “I am ready to heal from the horrors of my past. I need to put them on the page where they can be wept over, ridiculed, learned from, and finally put to rest.”
- “I want to record some of my dad’s funniest stories: the ones we’ve heard over and over every Thanksgiving, but that are still hilarious every time. Because he won’t always be around to tell them.”
- “I want to create a book that will show my wife how much I love her on the celebration of her 52nd birthday. I want to make her cry—in a good way.”
- “My story is my story, and I don’t want anyone else to tell it, because they’ll mess it up!”
What's your purpose for writing your life stories?
See more steps for writing your life stories in our book How to Save Your Life, One Chapter at a Time.