Tag Archives: Autobiography

Everybody Has A Story

Recently, I’ve read several articles about personal essay writing.  They’ve ranged from writing tips to how to get your personal essay published.  Now I don’t know if any of my readers are this way, but when I repeatedly run into the same theme across several different mediums over at least a few days I will usually succumb to the inspiration.  In this case, I did, and I am inviting you to share in the inspiration with me.

My theory is that a personal essay is the best practice you can do as a writer.  While it is important to exercise your imagination by coming up with new stories, that creative measure can be distracting.  If your intent is to practice your wordsmithing, what better place to begin than in your memory.  We know our own stories, certainly better than someone else’s and even better than those we could make up since we haven’t actually made them up yet. It seems to me an ideal way to play with narrative – description, dialog, and character – since you know the whole story so intimately.

So, I challenge you to pick an event – big or small – from your life and write it.  The only recommendation I would put forth is to make sure the event you choose is one that was transforming in some way.  Like any good story, your main character should be dynamic, and, in this case, that main character is you.  Feel free to come back and share your experience in the comments.  Let us know if you seek publication!

Enjoy!

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T – Time: It’s Never Too Late, Or Too Early

Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of commercials revolving around retirement.  It stands to reason.  The Baby Boomer Generation is not really getting younger, and if you can believe it (as a member, I can’t) the earliest Generation Xers are  beginning to reach their 50s.  Of course, like a good little capitalist nation, a range of companies are banking on this, and getting us hyped up to retire.  (They do seem to be overlooking the fact that the majority of us will not be able to experience the retirement of previous generations, but I think there was really only one generation that did that anyway, so I guess it’s not that big a deal.)

But if you get to retire in the traditional sense, what will you do with it?  Are you one of those who has thought, “I can’t wait to retire!  I can finally write that book – that Great American Novel – that I’ve wanted to write all these years”.  Will you be Bilbo in a hole, writing all about your adventures long past?  If you’re retired now, does any of this sound like how you spent the day today?

I don’t think there is anything wrong with waiting until the time is right, or the inspiration hits.  Some may say, “If you want to write, Write!  Why wait?”, and I do agree with that.  But, if you’ve been waiting for the “right time”, I don’t see anything wrong with that either.  The fact is, as long as we are living, all we have is time.  We have time to raise our families, make friends, work hard, and participate in activities we enjoy.  And we always have time to write.

So, if you’ve saved up all your creative juice for retirement, now’s the time to use it.  And if you’re not quite to retirement age (or financial ability), now is still the time to use that creative juice.  Let it flow out of your pen, and onto the page.  Because, no matter what anyone else thinks, putting your thoughts, your story, and your heart down on paper is never a waste of time.

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A – Autobiography vs. Memoir; Write About Me (Or, Well, You)

In 2010, 100 years after his death, Mark Twain’s estate finally released his autobiography. He dictated it in the last years of his life, and stated in his will that it shouldn’t be published until a century after his death.  Well, apparently it’s been 100 years, and we now have two volumes of his complete autobiography.

After the first volume was released, I came across it in the biography section at Barnes and Noble.  (Apparently, they don’t have an “autobiography” section.)  I was excited to see it, and a little surprised, even though I knew it was coming out and had, prior to its release, really been looking forward to it.

The first thing I noticed was the book was huge, at 700 or more pages, and was the size of a large coffee table book.  I flipped through about 200 pages, trying to find where the autobiography actually started; looking for some Twain version (READ: snarky) of the Dickensian model, “To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born” (David Copperfield, 1850).  Little did I know, it consists mostly of anecdotes and reminiscences, rather than being in a traditional autobiography “story” format.

I held this book like the Gutenberg Bible, thinking, “I would never be able to fill up a book like that”.  I’ve thought about writing an autobiography, mostly just to practice narrative and remember specific events in my own life which I’ve always found hard, but when I’ve tried I’ve had difficulty in deciding how to begin.

The distinction between autobiography and memoir from Writer’s Digest is so helpful to me.  The difference stated on the site is that an autobiography will cover one’s entire life, while a memoir is generally just pieces of narrative that are particularly meaningful, interesting, funny, etc.  For me this distinction is very important, as I can’t remember my entire life, and I’m fairly sure it wouldn’t be that interesting.  However, I can pick a few tidbits here and there, so a memoir is a far more reasonable.

So, for the past few months, I have returned to the work of writing a memoir.  Will anything ever come of it?  Aside from my sheer enjoyment, probably not.  But it’s nice to return to those moments that I remember fondly, examine those times that were so challenging yet character building, and remind myself that it has been pretty interesting so far… In pieces, at least.

 

 

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