Now that you have your Book of Secrets started, the main and first task to begin is the personal timeline. It’s a plumbline, really, a way to see when and how big decisions were made about your life—by yourself, and by others.

Patterns emerge. Trends. Epiphanies. It’s a priceless tool every thinking person should attempt. After all, the unexamined life is not worth living (Socrates? Someone famous and ancient). I’ve seen them done various ways:

  • As a grid, with a box for each year, handwritten.
  • As a line, with the years as notches, and events penciled in.
  • As an outline on computer, with bullet points for events
  • As an Excel spreadsheet
  • As a line on a big paper, with events on post-it notes (so they can be moved around).

Something you’ll quickly realize is that your memory is not that reliable. (This should give you a clue as to the plasticity, resilience, and sheer stubbornness of the human mind. It simply forgets what it doesn’t want to remember, and magnifies what it does)

Doing a new one since my other ones were lost, before I began my Book of Secrets ten years ago. I've chosen to go with "old school" methods this time around.

I’ve done mine three times: the first in my first round of college in my Transactional Analysis class, the second time in my thirties at a career development seminar; and most recently, this October as I was trying to remember the context of some important personal decisions—and if I’d been keeping my Book of Secrets I wouldn’t have lost the first two, but I’ve only had it the last ten years. I shared my most recent timeline with my mother, and she helped with the timing of various childhood events. (Fact checking with family members, if you can, is super helpful—and can end up generating some interesting conversations)

The timeline will also help greatly with the next exercise in our “unleashing creativity” process- writing your life story, in third person, using archetypes. *grin* Get ready for all kinds of interesting sh*t to come bubbling up during that! And that's all the stuff that keeps you creatively blocked, so letting it out is key.

The timeline is something you will only have to do once, and can keep coming back to again and again as you mine your life for creative material.

What do you think of this exercise? Have you tried something like this before?

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