Jumpstart a Personal Timeline

Dates,-lgJanuary is a great time to begin or update a personal timeline. If you are serious about lifestories or memoir, a timeline is invaluable for recalling story-worthy events and keeping your thread untangled. I have good news: a free download to simplify the process of starting or enhancing yours. Read on.

On February 24, 2006, I published “The Value of a Personal Timeline” as my  ninth post on this blog I began that month. The material in that post has stood the test of time. It explains the basics of why you need one and how to get started. Rather than repeat what I said in that post, I refer you back to it.

I wrote the post while still working on the original draft of The Heart and Craft of Lifestory Writing, and had not completed the section on timelines. In the finished book, I include considerable detail about the technical aspects of creating and customizing a timeline. This graphic shows how something as simple as changing the font gives a dry document a more human feel.

H&C Timeline

You could make your own table from scratch, as I describe in the earlier post. But there’s an easier way. I just finished updating two basic Personal Timeline templates. Both are published in the Word 2003 .doc format and work equally well in later versions of Word or other programs that accept .doc files.

One is for filling out on your computer; the other has larger table cells to print and fill out on paper. Both come with the year column already numbered from 1910 through this year, and the numbering will continue as you add years in the future. I include instructions for deleting unwanted years at the top, and other helpful tips.

To download, click on the Free Stuff tab at the top of the page and scroll down to the timelines. No registration is required, and no hidden nasties lurk within. Consider them my gift to you to celebrate a new year. Enjoy!

Write now: read the earlier post, then download that timeline (and anything else that appeals to you) and get busy filling it out. If you don’t already have a copy of The Heart and Craft of Lifestory Writing, order one now to find more detail on timelines and other tips.

6 comments :

Karen Walker said...

This is a great tool, Sharon. I was lucky. I had all my journals to help me with timeline.

Sharon Lippincott said...

You were lucky indeed to have those journals Karen. They must have been invaluable in every aspect of writing your memoir. Other good tools for filling in timelines are old calendars, letters, and photo albums.

kathleen pooler said...

Thanks for sharing this great reminder. Now that I'm tackling my next memoir, getting back to the basics is in order. Timelines are a great way to start, along with other exercises like the Tree of Me. :-)

Sharon Lippincott said...

Kathy, thanks for the reminder of the Tree of Me. That's another old post we'll have to revisit soon. And maybe a few enhancements of the timeline. Stay tuned.

Maya Lazarus said...

Thanks so much, Sharon, for the timely timeline. I can think of a few ways I can use it. For example, it will be very helpful for the story I'm writing about my daughter's life.

Sharon Lippincott said...

You are welcome, Maya. Indeed, timelines can cover an entire lifetime like autobiography or a shorter period of time (like memoir). They can be as detailed or sketchy as you like. You can make them for others as well.