Autobiography is not the story of a life; it is the recreation or the discovery of one. In writing of one's experience, you will discover yourself, and in the writing create the pattern you seem to have lived. Often, of course, autobiography is merely a collection of well-rehearsed anecdotes; but, intelligently written, it is the revelation, to the reader and the writer, of the writer's conception of the life he or she has lived. Simply put, autobiography is a reckoning. This page will helps you shape a diverse and colorful assortment of personal vignettes and stories about your being into a graceful, coherent narrative that conveys the larger story of your life.
WHY WRITE AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY?
- to leave a message to future generations
- to pass on your heritage
- to put closure to a period or episode
- to process experiences
- to preserve family history
- to share what and who you are
"Autobiographies have been written since A.D. 400 when an early Christian leader, Saint Augustine, wrote his." An autobiography is information about one's own life written by that one person. In it, it tells what that person's life is all about. When writing your own autobiography, use interesting facts to explain as much about yourself as you can.
However, if you're not a writer the task can seem overwhelming. Here are some suggestions.
- Start by making lists. Make lists of relatives, boyfriends/girlfriends, places you've lived over the years, pets you've owned, schools attended and other things like that. But the most important are the Life-Lists.
- Choose categories as you go along: elementary school days; military life; college; family vacation; illnesses. More will occur to you as you write.
- Under each category, write down a word or two to identify some event that you want to remember.
- Next, narrow each life-list to 10 core life events which will be the most significant or memorable events to demonstrate that category. Write about each of your core events. Start with a rough draft in which you simply concentrate on getting all the information down on paper.
- Then go back and polish for details, grammar, and tone. If you're not confident in your writing ability, you may enlist someone else's help to edit or go to the Writing Lab on campus for help. But remember, in an autobiography, it's important to retain YOUR VOICE in the final narrative.
Your personality should come through. One style that can be used is Narrative, in which you give a pretty much linear account of events without much reference to underlying emotions or moods.
Then there's Descriptive writing, which is appropriate when you want to paint a picture of something for your reader, either because of its beauty, its ugliness or simply because it's very different from what that reader may know.
There's Emotional writing, when you have strong feelings about your topic and want to evoke some emotional response in your reader. Action writing is characterized by short sentences with strong verbs. This type of writing is for exciting events, when you want to carry your reader along in a headlong rush to find out what happens next. When you've done all you can with your autobiography, you're ready for finishing.
Organize all the pieces you've written into some kind of order. Your autobiography must be word processed in single spaced 12 point font. This is also the time to engage an outside editor if you so desire. You can even create your own cover or title paper which can be a creation of your own. Remember to include a photo of yourself.
The most important thing is to BEGIN.
When writing an autobiography, focus on FOUR major things: (1) who you are in life (how would you describe your personality), (2) what life means to you, (3) what major life events or critical issues have had an impact on your life, and (4) what your outlook on the future is.
The first thing you do when writing an autobiography is start off with a lot of facts about your life; for example,
when and where you were born,
where you live (city and state),
where you go to school and who you live with.
You have to give a lot of information so your reader can clearly understand what is going on. Once you have written this introduction, you are ready to start your first paragraph of the autobiography.
Who you are in life?
The best way to start an autobiography is to state your name. When you are writing this paragraph, you usually explain the type of person you are; describe what you think your personality is: use facts about yourself such as:
How were you as a child?
How did you fit or interact with your family ?
What did you like or dislike about high school?
Why did you decide to attend college?
What life means to you?
This is now your second paragraph. In this paragraph you should state how you see life--what does life mean to you. Are you happy or sad? Do you have a lot of friends or just a few? How do you make your work/schools days go by? Do you have a significant other, special friend, mate? Who has provided guidance for your in life? What life events or issues have impacted how you see life? What has been the most important influence on you? How have you overcoming specific problems or issues in your life?
What is your outlook on the future?
In this paragraph you should explain what you think the future will be like. Pick a year and explain how it will be but explain it through your eyes. Where will you be? How will you be living? What will you be doing or plan to do in the future?
The conclusion is the last paragraph of your autobiography and an important one, too. In the conclusion you usually try to re-word the introduction and add some type of closure to bring the whole autobiography together.
Below are two different examples of autobiographies that you may find helpful in writing your own.