“One-Hour Life History,” Ensign, June 1994, 54
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.
Use a legal pad and a ballpoint pen, a typewriter, or a computer. Or if writing 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—Primary, Brownies, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts. Did you play the tuba in a marching band?
List important Church dates, such as your baptism and other ordinances, and your Church callings.
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.
You’re done! Make a clean copy of your work. Use page protectors and insert it into a three-ring binder. The binder will make it easy to add material later on. Keep this history with your baby book and journal. Continue to write in your journal. 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. When you finish a project, make a clean copy and put it into your three-ring binder.
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 three-ring binder.
Add photographs to your history. Seeing the faces and places described in the text can help it come alive. You can purchase archival-quality pages to hold photographs; or copies of your photographs can be made on a copy machine and included in your binder.
Write down your testimony. This is important for every Latter-day Saint. Schedule a special time, perhaps on fast Sunday. Seek the Spirit of the Lord.
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.
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.
Make a fancy cover for your binder, add index tabs, or think up more topics.
Gradually, you will write a life history rich in detail. But don’t think about that. For now, have fun in just one hour.