What would you title the chapters of your autobiography?

Throughout the month of January, WordPress is sending participating bloggers a writing prompt each day. It’s a way to find some creative inspiration and perhaps make connections with other bloggers. My entries in this blogging challenge will appear here under the tag #bloganuary.

I’ve actually thought quite a bit about writing down my life, as the sort of thing I’ve been writing most in the last few years is memoir. I realize that a memoir is not the same thing as an autobiography, and in fact, I intend to write several different memoirs–some covering certain periods of my life, such as childhood, adolescence, college, young adulthood, mid-life etc., but others about things like my musical life, my hobby life, my faith life, my experiences as a pastor, my work in technology, my life as a nerd, the books that have shaped me, and so on. I believe there is enough material in these various aspects of my life for at least one book each.

When I think of an autobiography, I think of a broader, longer, more comprehensive work, something akin to a work of history, albeit a largely personal one. Were I to attempt an autobiography–and I supposed I’ve lived long enough by now to do so–I imagine I would most likely mix things up between chronological accounts and thematic accounts.

So much of one’s life is like a set of differently-colored threads that course through the whole fabric of the seasons and stages of a lifetime. Music, for example, was not confined to a section of my life, but rather has been part of my life from very early on, and I expect it will be important to me to the very end of my life. My life with music is a topic all its own.

A couple of years ago, following the advice of author and writing teacher, Anne Lamott from her book, Bird by Bird*, I began, as a writing exercise, writing down everything I could remember about my childhood, as truthfully as I could. This turned into an exercise that I applied to other seasons of my life besides childhood, and has blossomed into a years-long writing project of documenting various parts of my life and how I was shaped by the things that happened to me, the things I read and studied, the jobs I worked, the people I’ve known, the adventures I’ve had and more. If I decided to create a biography from all of this material, some parts of it would be like historical accounts, and other parts would be thematic, covering topics that have woven in and out of most of the years I’ve been alive.

I’m not committing to anything yet, but I think the chapters would go something like this:

Chapter 1–Earliest memories
Chapter 2–Childhood and moving around
Chapter 3–Adolescence and a real hometown
Chapter 4–University and marriage
Chapter 5–Ministry and divorce
Chapter 6–Remarriage and family
Chapter 7–Five jobs and their marks
Chapter 8–Church life
Chapter 9–Nerd life
Chapter 10–An actual career
Chapter 11–Losing Mom
Chapter 12–Back to ministry
Chapter 13–Deconstruction
Chapter 14–My writing life
Chapter 15–My reading life
Chapter 16–My retirement life

I would estimate that only about a tenth of this material has actually been written down in draft form. The project has more or less been on hold during #Bloganuary, but I’ll get back to it in a couple of days.

*If you write, you should read Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott.

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