January First is typically thought of as a day of new beginnings. This year and this post also mark the completion of 300! posts in this blog. In the spirit of New Beginnings, I’m expanding the blog's scope. For nearly three years and three hundred posts, I’ve concentrated almost exclusively on writing lifestories. Today, you’ll notice that the title has changed ever so slightly. Now, rather than being The Heart and Craft of Lifestory Writing, one word is missing. It’s simply The Heart and Craft of Life Writing, a small but subtle distinction.
Over the course of time, especially the past year, I have become increasingly aware of the various facets of life writing and how they fit together. Some people can stick with a single focus for their entire lives and feel satisfied and happy. I’m not one of those people. I’m an adventurer, a wanderer, an explorer of new perspectives and insight, and eager to try things new ways. I need to follow this impulse to expand for my own reasons, and trust that you will find additional value also.
The facets of life writing as I currently see them include both processes and products, and they overlap all over the place, so the boundaries I describe below are arbitrary and loosely defined. The first three, autobiography, lifestory and memoir have been the focus to date, with the most attention given to lifestory writing. I’ve mentioned journaling, personal essay and documenting, but mostly in passing. The change in blog title reflects my growing interest in these latter three.
- Lifestory — informal vignettes of specific memories and events written from a personal perspective. There is no right way to go about it. They can be as informal as a journal, as impersonal as a document, or as insightful as memoir. They can be rough drafts or highly polished. They can stand alone or be incorporated as elements in a longer work. They are the perfect place for a beginner to get started.
- Memoir — a highly personal account of a specific period of aspect of life. Memoir emphasizes personal reaction and interpretation as much or more than events. It generally implies more literary focus and polish and may evolve from a collection of lifestories.
- Autobiography (chronicling) — an overview of your life, generally written in chronological order. The focus tends to emphasize events and circumstances more than personal observation and interpretation.
- Journaling — a repository of raw thoughts, memories, and insights. A tool for discovering insights and documenting and recording events. Journaling is highly personal and there is no right way to do it.
- Documenting — memorabilia that genealogists treasure like a birth and marriage certificates together with constructed documents like a time line of your life, an account of a specific event including details. Many autobiographies serve to document the details of a life. These documents often serve as supplementary material for other writing.
- Personal Essay — the other end of the line from documenting ... or maybe not. Essays document insights, beliefs, opinions, and interpretations rather than facts. An ethical will is a type of personal essay.
- Poetry and music — valued and time-honored forms of expression, but these forms of life writing will remain outside the bounds of this blog.
I wish you every blessing and success in this new calendar year and hope that it will be filled with written words as well as joy, growth, and expanded insight.
Write now: doodle some thoughts about the focus of your writing projects. What do you want to write about in the coming weeks and months? Do you have unfinished stories you want to polish? Do you seek publication, by others or your own devices? Expand your timeline. Add to your store idea list. Pull out an old story and polish it. Whatever you do, write!