One of my closest relatives texted, “I have cancer. I need you to help me write something for my girls.” I think I replied, “WHAT?!” A couple years later, she is doing well!
The urge to “write something” for posterity can be powerful, especially in face of a sobering diagnosis or crisis, but why wait for that? Whether we face a major health risk or rush hour traffic, remembering our mortality helps us savor moments and make them count. Writing about our lives deepens perspective, benchmarks progress, and sends experience and encouragement to those who love us and generations unborn. It is time travel.
So where to start? Will this take a year?
No. Give me one hour.
I ask you six questions. You have ten minutes each. Don’t read any question until you’re ready to answer it. There is only one chance to capture a first thought. I’ll let you add more later if you want to. For now, please play it my way.
For kids, or adults with low stamina, one question per day is a great plan.
Ready? Start with a hydrated, oxygenated brain. Writing immediately after a walk or light exercise is ideal. Keep water nearby.
Set your timer for 10 minutes.
Prepare to read only the first question and answer it. Write or type as fast as possible until time’s up. If you think you have exhausted the topic sooner, continue writing anyway until the timer goes off. More ideas will come.
Then read the next question and repeat.
Don’t look ahead. Don’t overcomplicate it and second guess yourself, defeating two purposes: speed and authenticity. If you ache to make this a bigger deal, I promise more ideas for you—after you play the game.
1. Name 20 things that make you smile. (More if you have time.)
2. List the people who are closest to you. Go back and name what they provide for you.
3. Briefly list five of your most significant experiences. Then go back and tell how each changed you.
4. Name 10 things you are pretty good at. Go back and add how you like to share those with others.
5. List 10 one-sentence life lessons—things you are glad someone taught you or wish they had.
6. Who would you choose for your personal advisory board—living, dead, or fictional? List 5-10 quickly, then go back and add why. (Later, you can a make a collage if you like.)
Please leave me a comment after taking the challenge and encourage loved ones to write a #OneHourBio, too.
Bonus questions, in case you are having too much fun to quit:
1. Name 10 things you are looking forward to. Then go back and add why.
2. Posterity wants to celebrate your 200th birthday. What do you hope they remember about you? What’s on the menu? Activities? Optional: décor. Is there an associated cause raising funds? What do you hope this event inspires participants to do?
3. Update your professional bio with something you learned from this challenge.
If you have more to say, here are some options:
- What do you wish I had asked? Answer that.
- Go back and add more detail to your answers. Tell more complete stories of those experiences you listed. Now that you have already poured your raw truth onto the page, it is fine to think about those questions for as long as you like.
- Remember Superman’s Fortress of Solitude with holographic messages from his parents, answering any question he might ask in the future? Guess a few questions and answer them.
- If you feel inspired to write a thorough autobiography or family history, I recommend the #52stories project: https://www.familysearch.org/blog/en/52stories/
It’s one of my dreams to inspire at least three million of you to “write something” for your loved ones, so thanks for contributing to my dream!