Writing a personal historycan seem daunting. You wish you'd started years ago, but, alas, your stored-up memories are just that - stored in your head only and not where anyone else can find them. What to do?

Get comfortable with the writing instrument you prefer: pen to paper; document on computer, laptop or tablet; digital recorder or whatever new technology is out there to record your thoughts, and let's play 20 questions. Better yet, hand the list of questions to a child or grandchild and have them interview you. It will be time well spent with a loved one.

Set the timer for one hour and be brief. This is an outline. Fill in the blanks only. Don't elaborate. You only have one hour. Ready, set ... write.

  1. Full Name (include maiden name, if applicable)

  2. Date and Location of Birth (day/month/year; name of hospital, city, county, state/country)

  3. Residence at birth (city, county, state/country)

  4. Parents' names, including mother's maiden

  5. Other residences (city, county, state/country)

  6. Name and Location of High School and College. (Just name your graduating high school, if more than one, and don't talk about the crush you had on someone in 11th grade. You only have an hour.)

  7. Name of Spouse, including maiden name

  8. Where Spouse is from (city, county, state/country)

  9. Date and Location of Marriage. (Don't spend time on the wedding reception or number of bridesmaids here. The clock is ticking. There's time for that later.)

  10. Residence When Married (city, county, state/country)

  11. Other/Present Residence. (Yes, make a list, but don't tell us the color of your first house or how you added on a bedroom for the twins. Get to the next question.)

  12. Occupations (What, where, dates, when retired, if applicable). Yes, list them all, but don't elaborate on why you left one job for another or how much you did or didn't get paid

  13. Club Memberships/Volunteer Organizations

  14. Name and Place of Church Attendance

  15. Church Service/Callings

  16. Hobbies/Talents/Awards

  17. Children and their Spouses (include maiden names) and their present Place of Residence (city, county, state/country)

  18. Grandchildren (number of boys and girls, or name each one)

  19. Great-grandchildren (number of boys and girls, or name each one)

  20. Siblings, their Spouses and Residences (city, state only)

Ding-ding-ding. Pencils down. You have just created the bones, or skeleton, of your autobiography. If you noticed, you have also written your own obituary. Surprised? Don't think it's morbid. Your relatives will be grateful when the time comes. Be kind and think of them as they prepare your eulogy. Thanks to you, they'll get it right.

If there is still sand in the hourglass, include other items in the outline, such as favorite Bible story, hymn, popular song, foods, color, vacation spot. The list is endless once you start reminiscing. Writing about your life is contagious. Keep going if you like, regardless of the hour.

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