Glossary Home Genre

Life Writing 

Life writing is a term used to define a variety of genres focused on recording personal memories and experiences. It includes biographies, diaries, letters, personal essays, memoirs, and more.

There are examples of life writing, in different specific genres and styles, that have been written throughout time. Some of the best known were those penned by famous personalities and significant political and social figures. These can be explored below. 

Life Writing Definition and Examples

Life Writing Definition

Life writing is a genre of literature that includes memoirs, letters, biographies, autobiographies, testimonies, and more. Any form of writing that is focused on detailing a person’s personal history can be categorized as life writing. 

While the best-known examples of life writing are those completed by famous actors, politicians, or authors, people create life writing every day in the form of diaries, journals, and letters. Often, examples of life writing (like a person’s diaries or a collection of letters) are published after their death (particularly if they lived an interesting life). 

An example of life writing might include all or some of the following: 

  • Details about a person’s birth and/or death
  • A person’s beliefs
  • A person’s intentions in the future
  • A daily record of events in a person’s life 
  • Details about a person’s emotions 

Examples of Life Writing 

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou 

This well-known biography was written by poet, actress, and social activist Maya Angelou. The book is a fantastic example of life writing that was published in 1969. It describes the early years of her career and is the first in a seven-volume series about her life. Here is a quote: 

To be left alone on the tightrope of youthful unknowing is to experience the excruciating beauty of full freedom and the threat of eternal indecision. Few, if any, survive their teens. Most surrender to the vague but murderous pressure of adult conformity. It becomes easier to die and avoid conflict than to maintain a constant battle with the superior forces of maturity.

Read Maya Angelou’s poetry.

The Diary of A Young Girl by Anne Frank 

This well-known publication is an accumulation of personal writing completed by the young Anne Frank during World War II. Specifically, it details her family’s two-year struggle in the Netherlands to avoid capture by the Nazis. The family was captured in 1944, and Anne Frank died a year later in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Here is a quote:

The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As longs as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.

Diaries are one of the most common forms of life writing. Those that are well known, like Anne Frank’s diary, and personal diaries kept by individuals, are all equally successful examples.

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway 

Hemingway’s famous A Moveable Feast was published in 1964 and is an example of a memoir—one of the many types of life writing. The book detailed his years as a journalist and writer in Paris during the 1920s and was published after his death. Here is a quote: 

You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person died for no reason.

Throughout the work, readers hear about his encounters with well-known celebrities of the day, including Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, Aleister Crowley, Zelda Fitzgerald, and more.

Discover Ernest Hemingway’s poetry.


What is an example of life writing? 

Maya Angelous’ I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is a famous example of life wiring. It is a well-known autobiography the poet wrote about her early years and burgeoning career. 

What are the characteristics of life writing? 

Life writing includes stories of individuals’ lives, details of their emotions, experience, facts about their birth and death, and more. Sometimes they are written in the form of novels, sometimes as letters, journals or diaries, etc. 

What do you call writing about your life?

Writing that you create about your own life is commonly known as an autobiography or a memoir. Memoirs are generally more focused on a shorter span of time while autobiographies usually detail everything from your birth to the present day.

Is life writing a genre?

Yes, life writing is a genre. In fact, it’s a very large genre that encompasses numerous smaller but very important genres of literature. These include biography, autobiography, more, letter writing, journals, diaries, and more.

Related Literary Terms 

  • Autobiography: an account of one’s life written by the subject.
  • Discourse: written or spoken words. It is communication that describes thought through language in everyday life and literature.
  • Documentary: a genre of non-fictional filmmaking. It is used for the purpose of sharing real-life events as they happened. 
  • Light Verse: poetry that touches on amusing, light-hearted topics. It does not deal with emotionally heavy themes or traumatic life events. 
  • Naturalism: a nineteenth-century literary and arts genre that focuses on the realistic depiction of life and all its struggles.
  • Realism: a literary movement that portrays everyday life exactly how it is.

Other Resources 

Discover the Essential Secrets

of Poetry

Sign up to unveil the best kept secrets in poetry,

brought to you by the experts

The Best-Kept Secrets of Poetry

Discover and learn about the greatest poetry ever straight to your inbox

Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap