by Carol Huber
based on "One-Hour Life History"
Ensign, June 1994
Writing a life history sounds like a monumental task,
but it can be done in an hour.
It’s easy. It’s even fun.
Here is one way to begin:
• Set aside an hour—use a timer to ease your mind—and find a comfortable place to write.
• Sit down at your computer and create a My Life History folder. Make a separate page (document) for each of the following points, to which you can add more details later. Or if this is difficult for you, talk into a tape recorder and have someone else transcribe it.
• Begin with your name. Simply write "My name is …" Tell how you got your name, what it means, your nicknames, etc. If you were named for Aunt Matilda or Grandpa George, write that down.
• Now write everything you know about where you were born: the name of the hospital or the address of the house or the location of the farm. Add details about the weather, the time of day, and the day of the week.
• List the names, birthplaces, and birth dates of your parents, brothers, and sisters.
• Name the schools you attended, including college. You may be tempted to begin a long story about the time you and your best friend got lost collecting for a paper drive. Resist the temptation. Straying from the assignment will run into overtime and make you reluctant to return to your history.
• List the organizations you joined as a child — Brownies, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts. Did you play the tuba in a marching band?
• List the date, location, and other significant details of your marriage. Then list your children and their birth dates. Mention important changes in your family—a child’s marriage, deaths, divorces, moves, and jobs. Remember, keep to the bare bones of your life. You only have one hour, so stick to the facts.
• Describe how you have spent your adult life—at work, at home, and so forth.
The separate pages per subject will make it easy to add material later on,
and you can add more as you go.
Your one-hour life history will be a fair representation of your life.
You never have to worry about writing your life history again if you don’t want to.
Of course, you may want to think about it again.
You can add more to your life history in one-hour increments.
Try one of the following options.
• Write a story about an event in your childhood. The story doesn’t have to have earth-shaking significance; it just has to mean something to you. Begin like this: "I remember when I was seven …" You will be amazed at what you remember!
• Elaborate on any of the topics in the first history. Add the details you had to skip before.
• Perhaps you have already written some stories about your life and your family. Locate them and add them to your folder.
• Add digital photographs files to your history - either within word pages or in their own folders. Seeing the faces and places described in the text can help it come alive.
• How about a romance chapter? Write the story of your courtship, engagement, wedding, and honeymoon.
• Write some memories of your children. Reminisce on their babyhood and the cute things they said and did.
• Write about yourself as you see yourself. How do you feel and what do you think? Describe yourself, not just physically, but with other interesting details: that you cry over sentimental movies, love baseball, and hate beets. You’d be amazed at how interesting such small details will be to those in the future who didn’t know you well but want to now.
• Write about your best Christmas, summer vacation, or annual family outing; write about any holiday or vacation, for that matter.
• Make lists. For example, what are your favorite foods?
• Write about items in your home that have a special meaning to you. If your son cut his teeth on the back of a chair, write about it. And mention any furniture handed down to you from a loved one.
• Write a one-page annual update of the highlights of the past year.
Gradually, you will write a life history rich in detail.
But don’t think about that.
For now, have fun, just one hour at a time.
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