There are a lot of resources out there for how to conduct a life story interview. You can easily find lists of life story questions to use as conversation starters. But what if you’re the person being interviewed? What if your kids or grandkids roped you into this thing? How do you prepare to share your life story? How do you know what to say or not say? In this article, we will address some of the common concerns or questions people have when they embark on sharing their personal history.
Start feeling nostalgic
So, how do you just start remembering stories from your childhood? You’ve lived so many years, it can be hard to know where to start. Well, our senses can help us recall certain times of our lives and specific memories. When starting the process of life story work, doing things that conjure a sense of nostalgia can help get you thinking about all that you’ve experienced. By doing this, you can start gathering potential aspects of life to talk about and go from there.
- Look through old photos or scrapbooks. Put aside ones that feel significant or are tied to a story you want to tell.
- Listen to music you’ve loved over the years. If you have a streaming service, try to curate a soundtrack of your life playlist.
- Go through storage boxes. Any family heirlooms in there? Stuff from when your kids were babies? Clothes you used to wear? What stands out?
- If you kept journals, go back and read through them.
- Watch a film or TV show you loved growing up
- If you have home videos, watch them.
- Has it been decades since you had your grandma’s cinnamon buns? Pull out the recipe card and bake or cook a nostalgic dish.
- Did you ever keep letters or postcards from someone? Go through those.
- Can you take a trip to places you grew up or frequented a lot? Or any places that hold a lot of memories or significance?
Don’t discard difficult memories
Your life’s journey is highly personal. It is completely up to you to decide what you’re comfortable sharing with loved ones.That said, people often feel that they can, or should, only focus on the positive aspects of their life. The reality is that everyone’s life is in some way marked by grief, tragedy, suffering, or failure. Try seeing the lessons or wisdom you took away from negative life experiences as a gift you can share. Painting a rosy picture for your relatives is kind, but by sharing the bad along with the good you could help someone you love as they endure a tough situation. Vulnerability, honesty, and growth are all admirable qualities that can shine through the re-telling of difficult times in your life.
Take your time
While a family member may want to do a one-off interview to capture your life story, it’s okay to ask for this to happen over several sittings. Do whatever you need to do in order to not feel overwhelmed. After all, you have every right to enjoy this process. It can be a really meaningful, beautiful and bonding experience to share this with a family member.
Alternatively, if you’re writing or recording your life bio without the help of someone else, you can set a leisurely pace for creating a life story. Maybe you answer 1-2 questions per day or per week, depending on your preference. If there are no particular time constraints, then allow yourself the space and time to really reflect, dig deep and put together something you’re truly proud of.
Listen to other storytellers
When you've been tasked with sharing personal stories and memories from your life, it can help to listen to other storytellers. Look up some memoirs that seem interesting and read them. Listen to storytelling podcasts. Browse some personal blogs. Seeing how others document their lives or share their stories can be inspirational, but also make it seem totally doable!
If you're going to be interviewed for a video or audio recording and have acquired a list of questions ahead of time, practice! Hearing ourselves respond out loud can help us refine what we want to say when the time comes. Furthermore, it can ease nerves and make us feel more confident.