A clear sense of purpose is the driving force behind any project, and writing your lifestory is no exception. Without a strong purpose, you may sit down and write a story or two, but you are doing little more than scratching an itch in your brain. Once you finish scratching, you’re likely to move on to something else. When you have a purpose, when you see the end result in your mind, you’ll discover awesome staying power. Beyond the motivational value of a clear purpose, it will guide you in deciding which stories to include, what form to use in telling them, and how to organize them for your final package.
There are many reasons to write a lifestory. For example, you may want to
- share your story with current family and friends
- document the time you live in for future descendants
- entertain people
- explain yourself
- discover deeper meaning in your life
Your purpose statement will answer questions about why you want to write your lifestory, who you are writing for (this could be an audience of one—yourself), what you want them to learn by reading it, and when they are likely to be reading it.
My own purpose statement for writing my lifestories is multipurpose:
- To document conditions and times in which I grew up
- To shed light on some my own and family quirks
- To entertain readers (some stories, not all)
- To indulge my love of writing
My anticipated readers are family members of current and future generations, and for some stories, friends both present and future.
Your purpose statement will guide you in decisions about what material to include and what to leave out — or at least when and how to share sensitive material. (More about that in a later post.) It will guide you in your choice of writing form, such as a chronological account, a scrapbook of assorted stories, an insightful memoir, essays about your philosophy of life and how you came to believe what you do, and so forth. It will lead you to your writer’s voice, a topic for later discussion.
Whether you are still thinking about writing your lifestory, or well into a project, I urge you to take some time and come up with a concise statement of purpose. In this statement include both your reasons for writing, however serious, private or frivolous, and the identity of your intended readers (from yourself alone to the world at large). Keep that purpose near at hand, and take a look at it when you’re having trouble staying focused or keeping your words flowing.
If you already have a purpose statement and are willing to share, pop it into a comment. You may encourage others to follow your lead.
Sharon Lippincott, aka Ritergal