If you’re reading this, you probably have boxes of used notebooks hidden in a closet or basement, and they’re chock-full of memories, ideas, and all the complicated emotions you had to get out of your head. If that’s the case, you may be a life writer. And even if it’s not the case, you may still be a life writer.

an open book on a wooden picnic table with a pink mug behind it and the text "Should You Be a Life Writer"

Most of my life writer writing is relegated to morning pages. That’s the space where I put pen to paper and write out all the stuff in my head. Sometimes I recount recent happenings. Other times, I make a list of all the things I have to do. And other times I work through an issue by writing about it before I address it in my life.

Sometimes these things get turned into fiction. Other times, they just kind of die in the notebook. Either way, I consider myself a life writer.

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What Is a Life Writer?

Whether you journal in a dedicated notebook, take notes in the margins of a planner, or just keep a running Word Document of the thoughts that crowd your brain, you’re a life writer. The act of writing about your life is enough to make you one.

Now, you may not intend to write your life story, at least, not in the formal sense. But there are things that have happened to you that are worth remembering. And they may be useful for future work. There are so many little things I’ve journaled through that have ended up in short stories. But I had to write them down to make sure I held onto them.

Writing your life can be a chore. But it’s also the best way to remember things. I wish I would’ve started journaling when I started college. I would love to go through and see the things I was concerned about back then. I’d love to see how I handled situations or the song lyrics that really resonated with me. I wish I had kept a journal all through my twenties and early thirties, just because there was a whole life I had then that I don’t have anymore, and it’s hard to remember what it was like.

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Now that I don’t have that, I worry I may not be able to accurately write characters in that age range. I worry that I’m a little old and irrelevant.

It’s not that I want an actual biography. (Though, if there were a free biography writer software or something like that out there, I’d probably get it in hopes that it would record my life.) I just want to have a record of the little things that I’ve completely forgotten.

That’s what a life writer does, at least in my opinion. They collect the little bits and pieces that get forgotten.

Does Being a Life Writer Help With Fiction?

So I’ve already mentioned a few times that I put stuff from my personal life into fiction, and that sometimes, you just need to have access to a perspective you no longer have. That’s why journals are great to mine for bits and pieces to put in your writing.

Whenever I think of a life writer story, I think of A Widow for One Year by John Irving. The story follows a few writers and how their lives intertwine, and shares how some events from their lives wind up in their fiction. (I mean, there’s a lot more to it, just like every John Irving novel.) Reading this book was one of the first times I really thought about how life could work its way into a story, and then I spent way too long trying to figure out which portions of the story were from Irving’s real life.

(I NEED TO KNOW IF THE AMSTERDAM SEX WORKER MURDER SCENE IS REAL, DAMMIT.)

And remember how I said I wish I would’ve journaled through my twenties? Well, I wish I would’ve journaled the summer after graduating college. I was 21, waiting tables, and reading John Irving novels in between getting black out drunk. There were so many little and big things that happened that summer, and if I’d been a life writer back then, I would remember them all.

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Ways to Be a Life Writer

Okay. So. I’ve convinced you that life writing is important. But how can you do it? Great question. Here are some options.

001: Journal

This is probably obvious, but I know you have an old blank journal sitting around just waiting for you to use it. Throw it in your bag and record little parts of your day. Or, put it on your night stand and spend five minutes writing about your day before you go to bed.

You don’t have to have a formal journaling practice for this to be worthwhile. In fact, you can simply journal when you feel the need to.

Don’t overthink this, or make it bigger than it needs to be. Being a life writer is about recording life. It’s not about adhering to arbitrary rules about the practice.

002: Social media

This is an option if you want something more on the go. Though, know that I recommend making your account private, and also know that there is no such thing as a 100% private social media account.

You could create a life writer instagram where you share a picture of an event, and then use the caption as the space to record all the things you want to remember. You could do the same with a Facebook account too.

I wouldn’t really recommend Twitter for this purpose, simply because it’s too hard to go back through really old tweets.

And on that note, I don’t necessarily recommend this method at all. At the end of the day, you don’t own a social media account, and if the account gets hacked or you get locked out, it’s probably gone forever.

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003: An old school blog

Remember when people used blogs to just write about their lives? Oh, the halcyon days of 2005…

Sure, there are still people who use blogs that way, but for the most part, blogging has changed completely, and it’s more about sharing a point of view than it is about sharing your life. That doesn’t mean that you can’t still blog through your life.

I recommend buying a domain for this purpose, simply so you can actually own the content. And you need to use a content management system that allows you to own your content. (So, you know, not Blogger.) But if you want to go the free route, there are still plenty of places to blog for free where you can build a little community.

Though…come to think of it, I can’t really think of one. Is Tumblr still a thing? Isn’t LiveJournal owned by Russia? Who knows…

004: Your calendar

Maybe you want to just record the highlights in a bulleted list. I recommend using your calendar.

On the day in question, write what you want to remember. It could be as simple as saying who you had lunch with or what you did after work.

Let the size of your calendar dictate your prose. So, if you want to keep it short and sweet, get a little pocket calendar. If you want to say all there is to say, you may need to get one of those page-a-day planners.

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How Do You Write About Your Life?

Have I convinced you to be a life writer? Are you ready to build a life writing habit? How do you go about recording your days? What’s your favorite method for keeping track of all the little details you want to remember?

2 Responses

  1. You know, I totally life write on my socials and they are not private😆
    I have been thinking about if I get locked out on Instagram because I talk shit. I know it’s happened to lots of folx who’ve lost lots of content.
    Gotta find that balance…

    1. I totally love how you use social media, though! You’re so real and I think that’s the most important thing to do. But yeah, it’s scary to think about getting locked out.

      And I think private can be good, but mostly only if you’re sharing some really private stuff that you don’t necessarily want others to see. That’s why I’m a notebook writer mostly, just because there’s so much stuff I write down that I would die if anyone else saw…

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