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By Karen Casanovas
For Senior Voice 

How I met my life (while writing it down)


June 1, 2023 | View PDF

Q: When I was younger, my uncle gave me a copy of his manuscript detailing his life. Now in my advanced years, I am thinking about writing my own life summary. Where do I start?

A: Chronicling your story can be a way to leave memories for your family, record information for historical purposes, or just be remembered. It can be a way to capture your lifetime of experiences, lessons learned, failures, triumphs, and share memorable moments with others.

While a written legacy may seem daunting, it doesn’t have to be. Your inspirational essays may ignite others to review their own life span. Or, writing can be a way toward gaining insight and clarity to help you heal past wounds. Well-crafted words highlight a powerful and unforgettable story.

Basic steps to writing your life story

Why? First you’ll need to determine why you are choosing to compile these events.

How? What’s the best way to record your life? From what point of view? Autobiography, memoir, life review, creative nonfiction (i.e. graphic novel), or guided autobiography are some formats.

What? Choosing themes helps you keep focused on one aspect of your life. Key points in a guided framework of logical sequences zone in on the essence of your stories.

Are the details clear? Replace generalizations and be sure you have a beginning, middle and end to each theme of your life. Establish you have helped your audience reach a conclusion. Example: What lesson did you learn? Have you come full circle from that lesson?

You will also need to choose which details to include, and which facts (or secrets) to tell. How could you represent the people in your stories artfully and fully on the page? How do you portray family members, friends, partners/spouses, exes, and children without damaging your relationship with them? Writing with honesty, vulnerability and integrity can be a tricky balancing act.

Types of writings

A memoir is, by definition, the story of an author evaluating their life experiences. It can be a way to understand some aspect of his/her/their life, and the desire to make sense of those experiential events.

An autobiography focuses on the author themselves, and is a self-written compilation. It is an intimate firsthand account of detailed recollections.

Spiritual or religious printings are very personal—written with intentional expression of beliefs in order to pull others into their viewpoint, or hoping to improve others’ lives by reading about their thoughts.

A publication about overcoming adversity experienced through kidnapping, murder, horrific accidents, disabilities, cultural inequities, and life-threatening illnesses are common topics when delving into the struggles and triumphs of life. Sharing a very personal story can lift up others while also tapping into deep emotions to heal oneself.

People who have done something very alarming may find it helpful to write down and share their story. Embracing their culpability may make one feel they are making amends to those harmed, or perhaps hope that others will learn and avoid the same mistakes through their confessional.


Whatever type of work you decide to write, here is a web resource to find specific guidance for the kind of publication you wish to create. There are many useful associations, guilds, clubs or services providing tips and tools to compose your life story:

For writing prompts, editing or publishing, here are additional resources:

Happy penning!

Karen Casanovas, PCC, CPCC, CLIPP is a health, wellness and simplified living coach practicing in Anchorage. If you have questions write to her at


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