Episode 45 : A Biography is not a Book

by Ian

in Motivation, Podcast, Technology, Text

Your Life Story can be anything you want.

Your auto/biography is only relevant if it’s captured and if it’s consumed by others. So the best system is the one that people are most comfortable with using to create and share your Life Story.

A biography is an account of someones life written by someone else.

People think of a biography as a book?

Writing a Biography Book

Audio speaks unlike books …austinevan on flickr

We’re conditioned to think that a biography has to be a book, simply because up until the last few years there hasn’t been any other reasonable way of capturing a persons story if it wasn’t written down. Sure there are a few film, radio and television documentary biographies but you had to be either famous or wealthy to have your story in one of those systems and even so, most people still preferred a written book anyway because it was easy to consume.

Really a biography is just a fancy term for telling a Life Story and if it’s as simple as telling a story there are multiple systems for telling anyone’s life story.

  • Written text
  • Audio biography
  • Private storytelling
  • Video biography
  • Digital Photographical storytelling
  • Oral history recording
  • Photo montage
  • Various art projects

With these systems available using all the senses to add so much more of a persons personality, it’s such a shame that they aren’t being used in whatever combination suits the individual. Why not blend all these systems and make the most of them?

Why written text is preferred

Not only is text our  first consideration for producing a Life Story but it’s also often the only one. At it’s most basic we can all pick up a pencil and start writing now! So why aren’t we deluged in personal accounts of people’s lives? Because even though we can all write, few of us can write well!

Good quality written storytelling, that is interesting and engaging for others to read, is a skill that takes many authors decades to refine. Sure we can all put a few ideas on paper but few can we actually create an engaging interesting Life Story that others will want to read. This is the reason many people have their biography written by ghost writers.

Writing needs dedication.

As an overview, consider what you need to do to write and publish a biography.

  1. Gather all the information
  2. Write the component stories – Many, many hours or work needed here
  3. Assemble all the stories
  4. Weave a Life Story from all the different individual stories
  5. Edit and re-edit the manuscript until it’s an enjoyable read
  6. Design and style the book content
  7. Publish

It’s easy to understand why many biographies are started but very few are published when you consider the herculean task of all of these aspects.

Although publishing a Life Story as a book is far easier today using print on demand with the much lower overall cost, the per book price is still high and once published there is no opportunity to add or change any of the story without another print run and associated issues and costs.

Lost Life Stories

Hear my life story

They Love Hearing Your Voice …from p4nc0np4n on flickr

For all of human history all but the fortunate few’s Life Stories have been lost to time.
It was the few famous who were written about in antiquity with many more being captured with the advent of popular printing in the 19th and 20th centuries but now in the 21st century we have mechanisms to help capture a Life Story in quick and easy ways.

The original method of recording a Life Story going back to pre-history has always been oral storytelling. What we’re doing here at Create Your Life Story is returning to our roots and simply telling stories but instead of those stories being ephemeral they can now easily be recorded using digital recorders and kept for others to listen to later in ways never dreamed of only a few years ago.

Evolution of easy to use recorders

Recording a Life Story started with written text, eventually to be augmented with painting, drawing and eventually photography and film but for most people these methods were out of their reach. It wasn’t until the development of Super 8 film and reel to reel tape recorders, was it practical for people to capture a personal biography. However once recorded what is to be done with the film or audio? Things improved somewhat with the development of video and cassette tape recorders but there was still the issues with evolving it into an enjoyable experience to consume and share. If someone had the skills it’s been possible for 40 years to create a multimedia production using these systems but for most people the cost and expertise prevented all but the most dedicated from completing a project. This is why writing has continued to be popular.

Now you have cost effective (cheap), easy to use consumer recorders (audio & video) to capture a life story. Then you can edit in free editing software on you home computer and share it with your family and the world for minimal effort or expense.

It’s too easy to think that as you already know how to write, why take on this new technology as it will be easier to create a biography using text. And yes, there is a learning period with using the new digital technology and the concerns with learning any new skill but now the new digital technology isn’t as difficult as you may have once considered. Create Your Life Story is all about helping you realise more than was once possible and now available to everyone in ways far easier than by just using text.

There’s nothing like hearing their voice

A biography is a series of stories, about a persons life but it’s also something more profound. It’s also a “record” of them at the time that the audio was captured. It’s who they are with all their personality expressed through their voice and no amount of editing and skill in writing a story can capture their essence in a way to hear them actually speak and tell the stories in their own voice.

Take a moment to think of someone special from your life who is no longer with you.
How wonderful would it be to hear their voice again in some long forgotten recording?

Here is the audio of Florence Nightingale that I used in this episode 

Florence Nightingale Story

1890 Audio of Florence Nightingale

Great way to start a written biography

Using the methods that are being shared here on Create Your Life Story, is not just about using audio only. Audio recorded conversations are just the starting point and like a biographer writing your Life Story, audio is often used to gather the information. Once the conversations are recorded and transcribed the audio can be used as background to images from your life as digital storytelling, laid under film and video as a voice over description or edited and published as a book either online or in physical form.

Anyway you look at it, the sensible place to start any Life Story project is with a microphone and digital audio recorder capturing your personal stories in your own style as you tell them. Then if appropriate the audio can lead to many other wonderful possibilities that are never possible if it wasn’t there to start with.


  • Considering alternatives to just writing a Life Story
  • Consider the other options mentioned in this post of recording audio
  • Find someone to record with in conversation
  • Can audio be used for other than a transcript for a book
  • Consider who wonderful it would be to hear that special person in your life again

Let us know in the comments below how you feel about using text versus using the new technologies.

    Record or Write, Your or My Life Story Biography

    Click thu to iTunes

Use some of the ideas in the e-Book Recording Life Stories to help. Just sign up for it in the side bar form.

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Music is from

Carles Cases
“Rosita Please” (mp3)
from “Tribute to Humphrey (Recomposed 3)”
(Temps Record)

Buy at iTunes Music Store
More On This Album

Kermit Ruffins
“Panama” (mp3)
from “Happy Talk”
(Basin Street)

Buy at iTunes Music Store
More On This Album

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