How To Write a Life: Ten Examples of Life Writing to Inspire Yours

4 minutes read

How do we write about a life?

Whether you’re looking to write about your own life or someone else’s, these ten examples of powerful life writing will give you some creative inspiration.

Book cover of The Invention of Solitude by Paul Auster
The Invention of Solitude by Paul Auster

The Invention of Solitude is Paul Auster’s very personal meditation on fatherhood, in which he crafts an intensely intimate work from a ground-breaking combination of introspection, meditation and biography.

Book cover of Notes to Self by Emilie Pine
Notes to Self by Emilie Pine

In this dazzling debut, Emilie Pine speaks powerfully from her painful personal experience – on the emotional labour of caring for her alcoholic father, on the unspeakable grief of miscarriage and infertility, on the social taboos around menstrual blood and female pain, on the ways young women use their own bodies as a weapon against themselves.

Book cover of The Hare With The Amber Eyes Edmund de Waal
The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal

In The Hare with Amber Eyes, Edmund de Waal unfolds the story of a remarkable family and a tumultuous century. Sweeping yet intimate, it is a highly original meditation on art, history, and family, as elegant and precise as the netsuke themselves.

 

Book cover of Poetic Lives: Dickenson by Rebecca Swift
Poetic Lives: Dickinson by Rebecca Swift

In this compelling biography, Rebecca Swift sets Dickinson’s characteristically idiosyncratic poetry alongside the events of her life to elucidate the story of one of literature’s most intriguing figures.

Book cover of The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd
The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd

Shepherd spent a lifetime in search of the ‘essential nature’ of the Cairngorms; her quest led her to write this classic meditation on the magnificence of mountains, and on our imaginative relationship with the wild world around us.

Book cover of Arrangements in Blue by Amy Key
Arrangements in Blue by Amy Key

With profound candour and intimacy, Arrangements in Blue explores the painful feelings we are usually too ashamed to discuss: loneliness, envy, grief and failure. The result is a book which inspires us to live and love more honestly. Amy Key is a guest tutor on our next Writing Lives course.

Book cover of Terrence Malick Rehearsing the Unexpected
Terrence Malick: Rehearsing the Unexpected, eds. Carlo Hintermann & Daniele Villa

Terrence Malick: Rehearsing the Unexpected introduces readers to the extraordinary universe of Malick’s film-making through the words of his closest collaborators. As their words flow from one to another, they form a fascinating, kaleidoscopic vision of American film and specifically Malick’s artistic world.

Book cover of Intimacy by Hanif Kureishi
Intimacy by Hanif Kureishi

This unflinching novel brings us into mind of a middle-aged writer the night before he leaves his partner and their two sons. In an unforgettable, and often pitiless, reflection of his time spent with his partner, he analyses the agonies and the joys of trying to make a life with another person.

Book cover of Threshold by Rob Doyle
Threshold by Rob Doyle

The narrator of Rob Doyle’s Threshold has spent the last two decades traveling, writing, and imbibing drugs and literature in equal measure, funded by brief periods of employment or “on the dole” in Dublin. Now, stranded between reckless youth and middle age, his travels to far-flung places have acquired a de facto purpose: to aid the contemporary artist’s search for universal truth.

Book cover of Vertigo by W.G. Sebald
Vertigo by W.G. Sebald

Part fiction, part travelogue, the narrator of Sebald’s compelling masterpiece pursues his solitary, eccentric course from England to Italy and beyond, succumbing to the vertiginous unreliability of memory itself.

Life writing is thriving, becoming perhaps the broadest and most exciting literary genre of our times. Spend a week discovering how you can work within the form to tell your story of a life in Writing Lives with Richard Skinner – a five-day online course beginning 5 February.

 

This course will look at the many and diverse ways you can write about your life or other people’s. For example, how truthful can/should you be in presenting yourself in your writing? Should you treat yourself or others as a fictional construct? To what extent can you yourself enter into the telling of another person’s life?

 

These questions are formal as well as ethical and wide open to interpretation. Drawing on a comprehensive reading list, and putting these ideas into practice in a series of writing exercises, we will spend the week discussing and deciding on the most suitable way for you to write into this newly re-energised and vibrant form of literature.

 

Find out more here.

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