Themes and Priming Questions for GA 101

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." ― Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings







     Themes for Guided Autobiography 101

Major Branching Points of Your Life

Your Family

Health, Body, and Well-Being

Money, Work, and Career

Your Sexual Identity

Experiences With and Ideas About Death

Spiritual Life and Values


For each theme, there are priming questions to prompt memories. Questions are not to be answered; more to explore the faces, moments, random associations - the bigger picture.  

We write as much as we like but bring in 2 pages or 1,000 words or less to share.  

Here are samples of the priming questions  - 

Major Branching Points in Your Life 


Consider the first time you experienced a huge change or insight in your life?  How old were you?  What happened?  Why was it important? 

Who most brilliantly influenced the direction of your life; a family member, friend, teacher, doctor, lawyer, a political or religious leader, a stranger?

Tornadoes, fires, floods, and automobile accidents change lives.  Were there disasters that impacted your life?

Was there an epiphany that gave you back to yourself more rare than you knew yourself to be; a love, accomplishment, gift, travel experience, altered state?

Were there emotional events, such as divorce, death, abuse or illness that caused your life to redirect itself; to branch out or go dormant? 

Did your ethnic, religious, social or financial status have a major influence on your life?  Has this been an advantage and/or a disadvantage; both?

Did geography play a role in the nature of your life?  Has travel given you a greater frame of reference?  Did moving around in the world point out what is too much and too little about your own life and world views?

Is there an event that felt like a graduation of sorts?  Did you speak truth to power, find your voice, get out of a dead zone, or emancipate yourself in some welcome way?

Have you responded to a “calling” in your life?  Has this call guided you in a creative, disappointing, surprising or profound direction?

What do you credit for the peace you have within your most personal inner landscape?  

Who was/is on a “wave length” with you?  Who perches on the branches with you?


What is your most recent branching point?   Are you branching out now?



Your Family – Priming Questions

Who held power in your family?  Who made the major decisions?  Did you think they were fair?   Did you challenge your family?  

Which members of your family have you felt close to?  Which ones felt distant?

Did you enjoy your family?  Did you feel supported and loved?

Were there people in your family that you were afraid of?

What were the rules, the manners, and the requirements in your household?  What were the repercussions?

Did/does your family have a hero?

Who are the “characters” in your family; the odd, colorful, eccentric figures who stand out?  Are you considered a character?

What do you see as strengths and weaknesses in your family?  How did they affect you?  What do you bring to the gene pool?

Did your family have healthy “gears” to express and allow sadness, differences?  Was your family good at celebrating?

Do you relate to your ancestors?

Did your family have a philosophy about life that you were expected to adopt?  How did that go?  What favorite saying illustrates your family’s philosophy of life?

Did you like your home, your home life?  Were there traditions that you cherished and perpetuated?

Is there something about your family that is unusual to you?  Is there something that you find absolutely fine but others think unusual?


What skeletons have you found in the closets of your home?


Once you complete the 8 weeks of Guided Autobiography 101, there is the option to continue writing.  The on-going class offers more freedom - less structure with themes and priming questions.  

If you choose to work on a particular project, you can work with the themes or work independently with the support of the class; reading your pages and getting feedback.