Writing Your Life Story
Writing about the significant events of your life has the following benefits:
- Passing on one’s heritage
- Creating a storehouse of material to use in other creative endeavours such as fiction writing
- Providing a platform to meaningfully connect with clients for those who are self-employed or work in fields such as social work, health and wellness
- Facilitating catharsis and healing around loss, relational breakdown and other difficult experiences
- Producing material with which to create a memoir or autobiography
- Passing on one’s knowledge or interesting experiences
Willie Daly spent his life working as a relationship matchmaker. He used the stories of his experiences to produce a non-fiction work, The Last Matchmaker: The Heart-Warming True Story of the Man Who Brought Love to Ireland.
- The satisfaction that comes from having a creative outlet
- Helping to develop one’s writing skills which can then be transferred to vocational areas
- Establishing credibility
After obtaining a degree in psychology, Susan Jeffers worked in a hospital and wrote about her life. In producing her work, Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway, she became renowned in the field of personal growth.
- Fosters greater self-understanding and personal development (the rise of narrative therapy being a testament to the power of life story writing). As Patricia Hampl pointed out:
“To write one’s life is to live it twice and the second living is both spiritual and historical, for a memoir reaches deep within the personality as it seeks its narrative form.”
We all have a strong need for self-understanding and self-expression. By delving into the deeper layers of our life’s journey we are able to do both. The writing program I offer suits both experienced writers as well as non-writers who are self-reflective and open to exploring life events as a way of making greater sense of their passage through life.
In line with brain plasticity research, it has been proven that writing about life experiences rearranges memories to produce new perspectives in our relationship to what we see on the page. Writing becomes more than therapeutic, it becomes transformative and empowering. Reaching into the events of your life allows you to locate deeper layers of wisdom and find the healing that can lie within them.
The writer Juliet Bruce points out that, “Once you understand that life is an unfolding story and that you are the storyteller who can shape and play with it on the page, then use that page as you would a roadmap, you gain tremendous power in your life."
Every Age Is A Good Age To Be Life Story Writing
Our school educations start out full of creative and reflective writing only to fade away as dry, essay writing gains dominance. As educationalist Ken Robinson argued, we become educated away from our passions. If the art of writing colours our working life it tends to be formal, technical writing or else composing mundane email responses. Often it is not until the retirement years that people rediscover the pleasure of creative writing while chronicling their life as a legacy gift to their family. As Anaïs Nin quipped:
"We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect."
But we needn’t wait for the twilight years to savour our experiences.
As Anne Frank showed as a 13-year-old, writing about our life can nurture us through the most challenging circumstances. Nearing a century on, The Diary of a Young Girl, continues to intrigue readers.
Erin Vincent began writing her memoir, Grief Girl, when she was 14 and trying to come to terms with the tragedy of her parents dying in a car accident.
High school teacher Erin Gruwell captured just how much teenagers can derive from writing about events in their lives, turning the experience into a memoir of her own, The Freedom Writers Diary.
At age 12, Joyce Maynard won a student writing prize, which encouraged her to continue with the medium of writing. By 18, she was writing her memoir, Looking Back: A Chronicle of Growing Up Old in the Sixties.
At 22, Helen Keller wrote her autobiography, The Story of My Life, about her triumph over blindness and deafness.
Our 20’s are regarded as the phase of life when we break away from our roots to find our identity and place in the world. Tara Westover, Cheryl Strayed, Henry David Thoreau and Chris McCandless are just a handful of people who combined life story writing with this period of self-discovery.
It’s never too soon to experience the rewards of life story writing.
Employing a Mythic Imagination
The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer tended to be a rather grim and stoic character. With the benefit of age and having lived quite a self-reflect life, he was able to eventually find a sense of interconnection with the cosmos. He had this to see about how empowering it can be to see yourself as the hero of your own story:
“When you reach a certain age and look back over your life, it seems to have had an order. It seems to have had been composed by someone. And those events that when they occurred seemed merely accidental and occasional and just something that happened, turn out to be the main elements in a consistent plot. Who composed this plot?
Just as your dreams are composed by an aspect of yourself, of which your consciousness is unaware, so your whole life has been composed by the will within you. Just as those people whom you met by chance became effective agents in the structuring of your life, so you have been an agent in the structuring of other lives, and the whole thing gears together like one big symphony, everything influencing and structuring everything else.”
Narrative Therapy was born as a personal development tool to help people identify themselves as being distinct from their problems in order to employ their own strengths to move toward change.
The Writes of Passage Journey is designed to help you take the reins of your life through recognising the life passage crossroads and applying a mythic understanding to them.
Albert Einstein was asked for advice on how to make kids smarter. He responded by saying “Read them fairytales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairytales.”
The childhood tendency to entertain possibilities, be open to learning and experience the richness of imagination are qualities that often become lost in adult-erated life.
By drawing on an archetypal model to write our life stories we can view our journey as we would any other great narrative with settings, themes, characters and plots – just like in any movie, book, historical account or legendary fable.
Although most of us don’t formally explore the concept of archetypes, the novels, television and films we soak in all centre around archetypal patterns, which speak to us at a deep level. Gaining an understanding of the archetypes and what they have to teach us about the stages of life development, unearths rich material to write about our own journey.
Author Caroline Myss captured the value of understanding archetypes when she said:
Archetypal patterns are about what makes us who we are and what drives us. They hold the key to our inner mysteries, power symbols, dreams as well as our cravings, fashion sense, and spending patterns. Everything about us is connected to one or more of our archetypal patterns.
Through this writing course, you will explore archetypal pairings that reflect a time period of your life. For example, the strongest archetypes during the period of youth involve the Innocent archetype (childhood and predominately the light aspect) and the Orphan archetype (adolescence and predominately the shadow aspect).
Gaining an understanding of the archetype and its role can help clarify and colour the stories you write about this period of your life. Seeing aspects of your life story in this new light helps with reframing - a narrative therapy technique designed to help facilitate a shift in your thinking and how you embrace the future.
After a writing session, I work with you to polish and edit your pieces while helping to draw out the larger narrative your life reveals.
A Guests Experience
"I have just returned from a Writes of Passage Retreat run by Marcus. I didn’t really know what to expect but it’s definitely been one of the best things I’ve done. I started out with a draft of events that made up my life story and after a few days of gentle conversation and insights shared from psychology and numerology, a whole bunch of new truths came to the fore. I feel changed because of these discoveries and I can’t wait to write these new depths of meaning into my narrative. Marcus’s open, unassuming yet skillful approach was just what I needed to build and strengthen the story of my life. Its been an amazing few days!
With a desire to write my life story as a gift for my children, I undertook your life story writing group and discovered that writing the story of my life might actually be achievable. The focus on finding the bigger narrative in one’s life led to my “Eureka” moment - when all at once, I realised how I would frame my story and how each chapter would unfold. I found that writing it up was enjoyable and cathartic and I know I have you to thank for getting me started and showing me the way.
When I arrived at your retreat space to work individually with you I had a draft of my story which to me seemed a little dull and probably incomplete. Again the question of bigger narratives revealed itself as we discussed my life events and also explored other tools such as numerology and the idea that we each have a life path we explore. You helped me to identify themes that I had barely thought of.
With unsurpassed patience, you read through my draft word by word and along the way you shared insights that now “must” be included in the book - they are all so vital. Now as I look back over this week, I am in absolute awe of the themes you have highlighted. I have work to do - but I am excited and can’t wait to begin to incorporate them!
Marcus, you have given me such a valuable gift - I feel uplifted because of the “truths” we discovered together and emboldened by your words as I embark on this next stage. I greatly appreciate all that you have given me and your great generosity of spirit, Ros"
I loved this course! I loved that you shared your personal journey & I loved all the info about the lives of others. It was all really inspiring & interesting. This was the best workshop I’ve ever been to. So glad I came. Thank you Marcus! - Jo
It gave me wings. It gave me belief. It made me think. It helped me to understand myself & how life has shaped me. I felt like I was given the pegs to guide me through this vast & complex topic. Thank you for being the perfect facilitator. - Ingrid
I came with a list of memories in chronological order & I am leaving with a clear sense of how these memories might be gathered together & “formed” in such a way that rather than just a string of events - my life becomes a story with a plot & a theme, a beginning & an end. Loved the Hero’s journey overlay with the archetypes - great lens thru which I can shape the story of my life. - Ros
Very pleased that I made the effort to come to the course. You provided me with so much information and gentle guidance, allowing and trusting me to find my own voice & stories. I enjoyed it all. A wonderful course. Highly recommended & well delivered. Thank you for all the time & care you put into preparing & delivering it. - Sarah
The structure of the course is beautifully architected. An example for many to follow. Very rich insight and wonderful notes/handouts. - Eddie