the story of your life

The story of your life is uniquely yours. Nobody else has lived, nor will ever live, the same life as you.

Would you, whether you consider yourself a writer or not, ever consider penning your autobiography? It seems a great many people do indeed put pen to paper and fingers to keys, telling their stories, often but not always in the later years of their lives.

Stories of the ordinary

Whether such works have literary merit, whatever that is exactly, is debatable. But then, autobiographies and memoirs aren’t always written to be seen as worthy, or read by millions. They’re not produced for profit, but rather to ensure that history will know something of the ordinary among us, the majority, rather than being entirely populated with the reality-distorting accounts of kings and queens, ministers and pop stars.

Autobiographical writings are personal narratives, often driven by the desire to bequeath information to family and friends.

Stories with real currency

We all know how valuable information has become. We are living in an age when governments can read our every email and text message, monitor our website visits and listen in on our phone calls.

Given the fact of mass surveillance, one way in which we might meaningfully react against the flood of trivia being scrutinised is by encouraging the recording and dissemination of data that actually has real currency. By which I mean, your story.

What did war smell like in the trenches? Describe your high street before each and every high street came to be populated with the exact same shops with global ambitions. What was it like to live through the 1960s, the 1970s, the 1980s? How did the politics and social conventions of yesteryear impact on you as an individual human being?

We all have a story to tell

We all have a story to tell, perhaps many, ranging from the mundane to the extraordinary, the comic to the tragic. Writing our narratives down gives them a chance to survive beyond our own inescapable mortality.

Imagine if the Druids had a written, as opposed to oral, tradition of recording their stories and teachings. We wouldn’t have been left with only the accounts of conquering Romans and, centuries later, the early Christians. We glean scraps of information from ancient Romans and Christians, hoping they were producing truthful accounts and not flights of fancy.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the Druids, the evidence at least hints at us being fed propaganda rather than the truth of how they lived and what they believed.

If you want to write, write

The value of a thing can and does always change, as do perceptions of it. But memories? Memories are priceless and, if not written down as stories, vanish from this world when we do. They might even go before someone’s death, if that person is afflicted with dementia or delirium later in life.

A story recounted by anyone of any age won’t necessarily be the truth, although they intend it to be under most circumstances. Memories are fragile, easily warped, formed on a foundation of subjective beliefs and life-altering experiences.

Your recollection of an event is going to be different to someone else’s. But, if enough stories are available for historians to collate and sift, patterns begin to emerge and realistic impressions of the past can be drawn from them.

So if you want to write your story, write it. You don’t have to be a professional wordsmith. Writing can be therapeutic, motivating, inspiring and revealing.

Writing is good for you. It might prove good for future historians and your descendants too, when they read the story of your life one day. Most of all, though, write for yourself because – and if – you want to.

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andrew hinkinson
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