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Writing your Personal History

The Hard Part

For some of us, sitting down and finishing a comprehensive personal history can be quite difficult. Notice that I said finish and not begin because it seems like we’re all very good at beginning things, but it’s the finishing that makes the difference.

Well, here’s a way to write that personal history and finish it bit by bit. Believe it or not, you’ll end up with a better history.

The Better Way

Instead of starting out chronologically stating your life events (year by year that is), try compiling stories by topic. If you write your history year by year, it can take forever to finish and you’ll probably be bugged thinking that you’ve left something out.

The problem with writing your history starting from when you were born until the present is that your history usually becomes more of a list of things that happened in your life with short paragraphs explaining important events. Those events probably merit more than just a paragraph or two, but when you’re putting it together year by year, your history starts to get long, and you feel content with simply listing what happened.

Concentrated Content

On the other hand, you can write separate documents about major events, beliefs, and experiences you’ve had. You’ll feel like going into much more detail about your experiences and impressions when you dedicate a single document to the experience. For instance, write about the places you’ve lived and describe how those places have influenced your life today.

Your readers will get much more out of that than a simple line in a chronological history that states you lived in one place one year and a different place the next. Best of all, you’ll have more fun writing and get much more on paper!

Write about your favorite television shows and how they’ve impacted how you think (or how you don’t think, either way). Chart your views on religion, politics, love, etc. There’s so much more you can write about.

Creating the Documents

Create a separate document on your computer for each mini-history you create. You could use a naming convention: “Personal History by <your name> – <topic you’re writing about>”. Also, make sure you save the document in a format that will preserve your work such as a PDF. Add pictures to your document, and go into detail about your thoughts, feelings, what you’ve learned, and how the topic has help make you who you are. Too often, our personal histories end up being lists of events. Let’s go a little deeper than that.

What to Write About

Write a separate page or two about your favorite topics. Here’s a list of ideas of what you can write about:

  • Places you’ve lived
  • Influential individuals from your childhood
  • Favorite vacations
  • Jobs you’ve had
  • Thoughts on politics
  • Political views
  • Religious views
  • Top 5 favorite movies
  • Civic and community service rendered
  • Things you like to collect
  • Write about your spouse
  • Your hopes and dreams and how they have changed over the years
  • The automobiles you’ve had or transportation you’ve used.
  • Create a list of places that you’ve visited and when visited.
  • Your favorite hobbies
  • What do you like to shop for
  • Your impressions of the times, wars, developments, etc.
  • Collections of writings or poems that you’ve created
  • Listing of certificates and accomplishments
  • Favorite restaurants
  • Favorite music
  • Operations you’ve had (not the most fun, but interesting)
  • The top 3 most difficult things you’ve ever done or had to go through
  • Memberships in clubs or churches
  • Write about your siblings and other relatives, (they’re children may not be as lucky as yours. They may not have written memories of their parents’ youth)
  • Gardens you’ve grown
  • Favorite foods
  • Games you like to play and why they’re fun
  • Favorite recipes (some families like to hand down recipes). Wouldn’t it be fun if your descendants knew which ones were your favorite and you left the recipes for them?
  • Your favorite time of year
  • Sports that you’ve played throughout your life
  • Pets you’ve had
  • Weather phenomenon you’ve seen or experienced.
  • Technological advances you’ve seen in your day
  • Spiritual experiences you’ve had
  • Favorite toys you’ve had
  • Thoughts on raising children
  • Education achieved
  • Activities you’ve participated in
  • Favorite books

Personal History Template Documents

We’ve created twenty simple templates related to some of our favorite topics listed above. Feel free to download the documents to help you get started on your personal history.  To download the templates, click here.

Writing in a Physical Journal

You may find it easier to write your history in a physical journal. Physically writing your journal can be a great way to create an heirloom to be handed down in your family. You can find some heirloom journals at Rustic River Leather.

Each of the subjects mentioned above (or others that you think of) that you write about become your history and can be compiled into one big history someday. In the meantime, you’ve created stories and insights that can be easily shared rather than one big project that you know you should work on someday but never finish.


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