Activity 1: Families, Photos, etc.
You may recall one or two autobiographies that you have already read, if not you might want to do some reading now. Either way, think about why the author presented the material in certain ways. What does the written presentation say about the author's history, society, or feelings about him/herself at that time in his/her life?
Do some reflecting on your family history - think of your family's background as the recipe for how you came to be you or take a look at some memorabilia you have in your room or in your wallet. A photo, artifact, or your family background can serve as a starting point. So, begin with a single photograph or something you saved in a scrapbook. Follow the thoughts these frameworks create for you and allow those thoughts and associations to guide you. There are many ways to start conceptualizing your story. Think of things to start with that will help connect one part of your life to another and give your autobiography a meaningful context.
For instance, if you select a photograph, think about:
- who is in the picture
- who took it
- where it was taken
- how old you were
- how this scene relates to your life now
- what else you remember or think about when you look at this picture
Invite yourself to question the "normal" or habitual ways that you think, so that you can go beyond the obvious in your autobiography. This way of thinking and creating meaning will help you develop strategies for asking different kinds of questions about the writing, reading, and learning you are doing. Remember, different ways of presenting and looking at things help you as a writer and as a learner.
After spending some time thinking, write down a list of your ideas.
Activity 2: When I Grow Up
Thinking about what will happen when you "grow up" may sound a little childish, but many adults, even middle-aged adults, still contemplate who they are now and what they want to be when they grow up. One of the most common reasons for attending college is to prepare for, or make a change in, a vocation or career. Consequently, another approach to constructing an autobiography stems from thinking about careers and future work, versus thinking solely about the past. This autobiographical writing assignment will serve several purposes. For example, by writing this autobiography while thinking about the kind of work you want to do after college, you will be able to complete your writing task and be better prepared for the workplace by better understanding the field or profession.
For this activity, look ahead to the future. Use your intended profession or major as a starting point to consider who you will be or want to be in a few years. As you think about the kind of work you would like to do, you may want to set up an interview with someone already in that field. This could be someone local, someone recommended by your instructor, a business person in the area, or someone you find using an electronic resource. For example, do a Web search and check out the home pages of businesses or personal pages. Then, use the telephone to contact someone whose work matches your interests. You could even use e-mail to electronically interview someone long distance.
As you think through your plans for the future, consider these plans as a part of your autobiography, the "you" of the future is as important to include as the "you" of the present and past. Your anticipated occupation will help shape how you experience college, how you maximize the benefits of college, and who you expect to be. In a sense, you are projecting your autobiography into the future and giving symmetry to the autobiography and experiences you already have.
Use a word processing program to write a description of your career plans, your major, and people you have talked with who do the kind of work you plan to do. Think about why you want to be in this field or profession. How do people who actually do this kind of work feel about it?