Why you should write about your life.

The start of the New Year...a time to reflect, to write.

The time of year where, after a winter slump, I begin to wake up early again, and reach for my notebooks, my keyboard. To write.

And you know what I write about in these early hours of the morning?

My life--

  • what matters,
  • moments and memories I want to capture,
  • what I need to think through, get over...or reach for. 

Towards the end of my writing session, my thoughts turn to work, to the day...to my blog posts or a short story I want to write.  But only after I've settled the most fundamental questions.

There's a reason I'm posting this just before the New Year. This is the season to write. To begin, to carry on, to rekindle your writing habit.

And I want to inspire you to write about your life too. Because of what it will do for you. And because of what it will do for your confidence as a writer, your voice, and your message.

Ever asked yourself, "Who cares?? Why would anyone read this?" as you're writing a blog post, a story, a page in your memoir?  If so, read on.

Connecting to your life is a fundamental way of making sure you care about your ideas.  And that others will too.

Write about your life. Because of what it will do for you, for your life, and for your writing...

Write about your life. Because of what it will do for you, for your life, and for your writing...

 

Write about your life because it will improve YOU.

Many of us are on a mission to improve our writing, to feel more natural, to struggle less to find our words, to be more confident.  

But before we get to that part, I'd like to say that writing about yourself doesn't just improve your writing. It improves you.  

And I'm not saying you need to improve in the sense that you're somehow deficient now. I'm saying that life is an amazing adventure, a challenge that never stops hurling surprises at us.

And if you want to rise to meet those challenges gracefully, well, writing about yourself, your moments and, your values will help keep you sharp, poised, ready.

Done the right way, writing about your life helps you work through snags and difficulties.  It allows you to process and 'let go' of events that might otherwise weigh you down.  

As Adrian Furnham Ph. D. describes in "Writing as Therapy--Scribbling may be better than therapy"

But there is another therapy known to many over the years: writing as therapy. Poets have encapsulated great pain and pleasure as well as awe and awefulness in sparse beautifully crafted words.

Over the past few decades the therapeutic power of writing has been discovered....

Again, I'm not suggesting you need therapy, or that something is wrong with you.

All I'm saying is that the human condition is a momentous thing--and that the examined life may be worth your time.

My writing habit is like my reading habit: I can't imagine letting go of it. It's a part of my inner landscape.

But don't just write to 'get over' life.

Write to savor Life, to connect to it, to remember it...

Writing about your life is also a chance to capture your moments and experiences in this fast world. And to make them unforgettable.

In this fast-paced digital age, we've begun to outsource memory.  We keep our most precious memories (photos, clips) on mobile devices. 

What could be more ephemeral than that? (Ahem, well, my mobile devices always seem to have short life-spans and be doomed to early destruction...)

My answer to this? My effort to tame the pace of life and stop outsourcing my memories?

Every day in my journal I try to write what I call a "Slice of Life." 

Where I record and savor some recent moment, down to the very details of it.  As if I were trying to help someone else experience it from my perspective (as we do in our best writing).

I'm hoping to make these memories a part of me, forever. The effect is two-fold:

  • These memories are no longer stored on a digital file somewhere, but etched in my mind.
  • I tend to go about my day wondering what my next "Slice of Life" will be. And when I live a moment, I often think of it as something I'd try to recall, to write about.  I stop. And I take in the details--the sights, sounds, feelings...So that just the thought of writing, makes me live my life--differently.

For a slightly different take on the subject of remembering (or learning) through writing things down, here is Ashton Kleon in his post "Learning how to learn again" on the topic of learning through writing...  

I continue to be fascinated by how slow, seemingly inefficient methods make my self-education more helpful and more meaningful.

Maybe it's time to consider your life as something to be learned, understood, remembered, savored... Maybe it's time to write it down.

And what about your writing in all of this?

As important as it is, the examined life, the mindful life is probably not your only purpose for writing about yourself.  Because connecting your writing and your ideas to your life is the first step to being a great writer...

 

3 Ways Writing about Your Experience Makes You a Better Writer:

Writing about your life, your moments, your values--what really matters to you will make you a more compelling writer.  Why?

one: Writing about your life helps you capture the details

In many kinds of writing (fiction, memoir even journalism or blog posts) one of the ways you can transport your reader--make your reader feel she is 'right there with you' is by capturing the details of the experience.

Regularly writing about your life, your moments will help you learn to do this naturally--so that you can slip those details into your stories, memoirs, articles when you need them.


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Two: Writing about your life makes you writing deeper:

Being clear about what matters to you, your goals, your values will make your writing more compelling.

And writing about your life will help you stay in touch with your deeper meanings--so that they can provide depth to your writing. Remember, if something matters to you, it will matter to your readers.

 

Three: Connecting your learning to your life is powerful

And in the end, writing is all about learning. 

Are you trying to write snappier dialogue? Present your memoir in a way that matters to others? Write something that people connect with? Sound more natural, more like yourself?  Any of these skills can be best learned by...writing and connecting to your life.  

Regardless of the kind of writing you want to do, I suggest you include a healthy dose of practice writing about your experiences and values.

Ready to get started? Or ready to infuse your current writing habit with a little extra meaning, a little extra life? Here are some ideas...

 

Creative Ideas for Writing about Your Life to Try Today.

In my next blog post, I'll be going a bit deeper into this topic, but for today, I want to give you a few ideas so you can start right away...

 

Freewriting/journaling:

These are unstructured writing ideas that you can use on a daily basis, for 5-15 minutes at a time.  You can do these alone or as part of your journal habit.  And don't worry about repeating yourself. Writing about the same topic again and again can be very revealing...

  • Slice of Life: Try out my favorite technique: pick one moment to record, past or present and capture every detail you can remember in one 5-15 minute burst of writing. Don't worry about making it coherent or having a specific point to your writing. Just try to snag every little detail, the tastes, the textures, smells, thoughts of the moment...
  • Goals, values, reasons: Think about what you want in life, your goals. What's important to you now...where do you want your life to take you? Or try the flip side--is there any place in your life where something seems lacking? That doesn't seem quite right? Ask yourself why? What matters most? And write about that...

 

Writing with a purpose (and perhaps, an audience)

If you've already got the freewriting and journaling part of your writing practice in place, you can push on to something a bit deeper. Take your ideas and lay them out in a more coherent order.  Polish them, correct them. Maybe share them...Try these:

  • Blog about something that matters to you. Passionate about a topic? It's really easy to start a blog or just post a story on Medium.  Maybe this could be a chance for you to explore your ideas, to get used to writing about what matters--and helping others connect with that.  
  • Write a memoir or a family history. You can do this in short bursts, so that you don't become overwhelmed. Pick and select the most important moments. You can certainly brainstorm about these ideas first. Then ask yourself, "Why does this matter to me?" or "Why is this important?" or "What does this say about me (or our family)?" to provide a little more depth and direction to your ideas. You can collect these short and polished 'snippets' in digital format with images...or, better yet, find a way to print them so you can enjoy them later...or share them with your family.
  • Use your life to inspire your fiction.  This can be a really fun way to work through your moments and life lessons in a new and creative way.  (I'll share more on this topic in my next post).

 

How about you?

Do you already write about your life? Do you do it as often as you would like?

What are your reasons for writing about your own experiences? Self-exploration? Mindfulness? Sharing memories with family? Becoming a better writer? 

Do you ever polish and share your writing? 

Do you ever print out your writings (or your memories) so that you can enjoy them later?

 

Please leave your comments below or join the discussion at the Vagabond English Book Club.