How to start writing your life story

CREATIVE AGEING: Draw on life to tell a story you can treasure or share with others.
CREATIVE AGEING: Draw on life to tell a story you can treasure or share with others.

EVERYONE has a story to tell whether it's a memoir, autobiography, non-fiction narrative, travel or biography, but just where do you start?

With the help of life stories teacher and published author Patti Miller, who shares with us just some of her secrets to writing, you can start telling your story.

Reasons to write

  • Lineage and social history.
  • Trauma, difficulty or pain in your life which can be very healing.
  • Pass on wisdom to help others.
  • Identity.

Where to start?

  • Avoid mapping the whole story out to start with.
  • Think of a fact or anecdotal story which reflects you.
  • Use a symbolic image such as photos, mementos or family ornaments.
  • Even with a philosophical comment or discussion that leads the reader into your thinking.

Don't forget to...

  • Start with little pieces that you can sew together later.
  • Use specific memories.
  • Don't tell everything, show by using dialogue and action.
  • Be selective about what you include, not every bit of your life.
  • Draw a map of your childhood home, for example, and let the memories from each room flow.

Do I need to know how to write?

"I think you need to be willing to learn," Patti said.

"Writing a memoir is more like creating a world on the page. It's not just a record or an account. If you want to write the stories of your life, I think you need to learn to create that world on the page."

Patti teaches life story writing through the Faber Writing Academy and the Australian Writers Centre. She also offers a course each year in in October in Paris.

For more details, email

Patti Miller's Writing True Stories can be purchased from bookshops and online. RRP $34.99.

Topics:  books creative ageing seniors-week-qld-2017 writing

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