University of Nevada, Reno




How Autobiography Writing Has Changed Lives


When we teach our Life Stories Nevada classes to older adults in Southern Nevada, we always hear how meaningful it was for participants.  Comments such as "It was wonderful" and "It meant the world to me" are common once people have been guided through the process of putting some of their stories on paper.  Sometimes, their comments give us insight into how the simple process of writing an autobiography changes lives.  Here are some examples:


The process of writing your life story can change your life.


  1. When I first started taking this class, I was still trying to figure out who I was, and most people do that when they’re kids. I didn’t do that. I went from my father’s house to my husband’s house. I never found myself. Now, with the writing, the more I write the more I remember of things I enjoyed when I was a carefree kid and had no responsibilities. It’s given me a little better idea of where I’m going. That has helped tremendously.  (From a participant)
  2. We put everything else in front of us, and we don’t think about how our life influenced other people. I thought it was a great experience.  (From a participant)





  1. I didn’t remember a lot of things. When we started the whole thing and I started remembering all these things, I was so excited and happy that I could do it.  (From a participant)





  1. It brought back a lot of things. It was a good experience. There were some things I forgot, naturally. It helped me recall the good experiences. It brought back beautiful memories. I shared it with my offspring, and we had a good time sharing.  (From a participant)
  2. It did so much for me. It’s kept me thinking about my whole life. It kept my memory going good. (From a participant)





  1. My second daughter was rebellious.  As I wrote about those events, I realized, you know, she got the short end of the stick.  She was neglected all those years.  That seemed to explain those years of rebellion.  (From a participant)
  2. I’m glad I found a way to talk about my mother that I can feel comfortable. Because of her story – her mother died before she was 12, and her father was very rule-oriented—she made rules and lived by them.  (From a participant)
  3. Of all the snippets I learned through these 50 years we’ve been married, they all tie together, where they didn’t before.  After I put it all together, I find out I know her a lot better.  I understand her.  (From a participant on including his wife's story in his autobiography)





  1. In reviewing my life, it has given me a renewed and a new appreciation of my family background. Being so poor, you feel a little embarrassed that you don’t have much or don’t amount to much, and along the way, you build a life. I had a lot of mentors along the way. I’ve had a lot of help despite the fact that we didn’t have much money and we had a shabby old house. It’s made me realize more what it means to have a good family background, a solid foundation.   (From a participant)
  2. I didn’t know I had lived such an interesting life. (From a participant)





  1. I started with my spiritual journey.  I never would have know how to give my testimony in church before, but now I know what I would say if called upon.  (From a participant)





  1. It was interesting on many levels, particularly to find out what events and memories still stand out in her mind. My two children and daughter-in-law all read it and thought it was a wonderful treasure to have and share.  (From a participant's daughter)
  2. I felt it benefited me because it leaves my memories with my son and my granddaughter.  (From a participant)