“Luckily you came in today, otherwise you’d be dead by the end of the year.”
Those are the words a doctor said to a close family member. Last week we learned just how close they came to death.
A rare blood disorder was discovered in some tests they had. It started when they felt low on energy and had a few common flu symptoms.
“Ahhhh you’re probably overthinking it mate. Stop being a baby.”
That’s what I said when they first complained to me about their symptoms. How wrong I was. When I found out the truth it hit me like a freight train to the head. I felt emotional, weak at the knees.
As it turns out their blood disorder kills most people who get it because the diagnosis comes either too late or too early (where it can’t be properly diagnosed). For my family member, they got it right on time.
Now it can be treated and they won’t die. Phewwwww.
The cool part is now I have another reason to write: to make them proud while they’re alive.
What does this have to do with writing ideas?
Well, this story comes from the timeline of my life I created. Let me explain what it is so you can create your own and make finding content ideas effortless.
Journalling isn’t the holy grail — sorry
Happy-go-lucky writers everywhere always praise journaling.
I freaking hate journaling, there I said it. Why? No one wants to read your journal. It’s unfiltered thinking which is often messy. And it’s bloody hard to write content inspired by a journal.
If you write a journal entry every day that’s a lot of pages to scroll through, looking for ideas. You’d be better off spinning the roulette wheel with a few google searches.
Big problem: journaling lacks curation.
A radically different approach to replace a boring journal
Some of the best content ideas come from your own life as a writer. They’re what make you unique. They’re what make you stand out.
The challenge is stuff happens to us all the time, yet we forget it. If you ask me about days from my childhood I couldn’t tell you 99% of them. My mind’s hard drive erases them. Such a shame.
Since I decided a few years ago that I was one day going to be a father, it made sense to find a way to document the big life events so I can revisit them with my child one day.
That’s when I came up with a new system.
I call it “The Timeline of My Life.”
Here’s how it works…
1. Open up your personal database or second brain
A personal database or second brain is like a notepad app on steroids. The most popular are Roam Research, Obsidian, and Notion.
They’re a place you can keep detailed notes and link to different pages of your notes automatically to blend together unrelated ideas.
Whatever personal database you use, open the app and create a new page called “The Timeline of My Life.”
2. Add past events
Start by writing down all the major events in your life that you can remember. Group events under different years. Every day from now on, add major past events to your personal timeline as you slowly remember them.
3. Follow this stupidly simple format
Every life event should be a dot point with only a few sentences.
Aim to describe the event as best as you can. Add an embedded dot point below the main one to capture any minute descriptive details if you choose. But keep them out of the main one so it’s clean and you can easily scroll through without getting trapped in small details.
4. Make your goal this
Aim to capture 20-30 major life events a year on your personal timeline of life. This level of curation helps prevent boring events from making the cut.
5. Every new dot point should contain these two things
The difference with a personal timeline of your life is that you write how each event made you feel. You also add one possible takeaway a reader might get from the life event.
This timeline strategy works better than a journal because it’s selfless rather than selfish.
6. The way to defeat writer’s block
When I want to annihilate the blank page, I go to the personal timeline of my life and look for a story I can use. This makes it easy for me to find ideas.
Other times I’m looking for a story to open an article with. So all I do is go to my personal timeline and grab one. It’s quick, easy and ten times better than getting lost in a journal of my own selfish thoughts with zero value for readers.
Go create a timeline of your life. Add 20–30 dot points below each year. Go to your timeline when you want a personal story to help you stand out in your writing. That’s how you create a system to find infinite ideas on auto-pilot.