Help & advice

Everyone has a story to tell

How to write your autobiography.

The story that only you can tell - your life story.

By Bryher Scudamore

 Sitting next to Linda at a family wedding I began to talk about how important it was for people to capture their life story. I said that everyone should write their autobiography.  “But I have led a very boring life, I haven’t got anything to write about,” she said.  I was astonished, I knew she had a fascinating story to tell her family.  She’d grown up in the East End in the 1940s in a very poor family and had worked hard with her husband of 46 years, to build a successful business and a happy family. But more than that she has lived through a period of history that would be a mystery to her children and grandchildren if she didn’t write it down.

 She could tell the generations to come what it was like in the East End before, during and after the Second World War.  She could describe how tough it was then compared to now – only she didn’t know it at the time, because that was how everyone lived. 

Central heating was unheard of, the loo was at the end of the garden, it was a very cold walk in the winter, and taking a bath was in a large tin bath in front of the fire in the kitchen with hot water heated in a kettle. Most homes didn’t have a telephone and if they did, it might be a party line where you shared the line with your neighbour and you had to wait for them to clear the line before you could make a call.  It was the kind of life familiar to many older people alive today but not often shared with younger generations. They only know about Police Boxes because they watch Dr Who and have no idea that it was how the police kept in touch while on patrol in days before mobiles phones and radio contact.

When we had finished our conversation she realised that she had a precious story to tell her family but didn’t know how to go about it. And so I suggested she consider her options.

 She could go to a ghostwriter. There are a number of companies who supply a writer to come to your home, as a rule they interview you for a couple of hours and take away your photographs and documents and then write up what you have told them into a book that gets printed, generally with just one copy for your family, although further copies can usually be bought for an additional fee.

This is a very expensive option as it tends to cost several thousand pounds, but for people who have the money, yet feel they don’t have the skills to write their story, it can be a solution.

Or Linda could write it herself.  She could gather up as many photographs and documents as possible to help chart the story of their life.  But remember, your autobiography is the story of you and who you are, not just names and dates, but your loves and hates, your hopes and dreams, your triumphs and disasters.

Because this is a book for your family, the stories you tell may not be of grand historical importance but they will be precious to your grandchildren and your great grandchildren.  It is a sad fact that 70 per cent of people in the UK don’t know the name of a single great-grandparent, which is why it is all the more important to write your memoirs for future generations.

Another way is to sit down and pretend you are telling someone, perhaps your favourite grandchild, about your life.  What it was like being a child when you were born, how your parents lived and what you know about your grandparents and great-grandparents. Memories are likely to pop into your mind from different times in your life; your first job; your first boyfriend; the pet you adored; it doesn’t matter which order you write them down in.

But by far the easiest way to tell your life story is to use autodotbiography. If you are not a confident writer the system provides you with specially written sections. To make sure you include all the important things in your life the autodotbiography system asks you all kinds of questions. And to make sure that future generations know who is in the black and white photographs of long lost relatives, the system insists that you write a caption for every image.

The more you think about your life, the more you will remember, which is why the unique autodotbiography system gives you up to a year to complete it - although most people take a lot less than that to write their memoir. You will be able to create an exquisite book that your family will treasure for generations to come - a family heirloom.

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