Wednesday, October 6, 2021

ISWG: Why I’ll Never Write a Memoir

Photo by Kourosh Qaffari on Unsplash

Many years ago, a friend wrote a semi-autobiographical novel. She turned this in for a creative writing assignment. Although almost everything in the story really happened, the professor said her story was unbelievable. She was incensed. And I thought it strange. Why wouldn’t the truth be believable?

Recently another writing friend told me she has met a lot of new writers who want to write their own life story, thinly veiled as fiction. Some great or terrible thing happened to them, and they feel called to share it with the world. My friend keeps telling them they need to learn story craft first. But she isn’t sure they are convinced.

All of this led me to think about what I will not write about. There is one line I will not cross: I won’t write about myself. Not directly.

A few reasons why:

1.  Criticism: To be honest, criticism, which is an inevitable in writing, would hit too close to home if I wrote about myself. It’s one thing to have people dislike a world or characters I made up, but quite another to have people hate me. (Although I know that might be inevitable with fiction as well.)

2.  Reliving difficult or even happy circumstances. In Emma, Mr. Knightley says, "If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more." That’s how I feel about certain parts of my life, especially the dramatic moments. I’d rather treasure my memories in private.


3.  I see my past experiences as boring. I grew up in a small town. My life has been pretty ordinary. Maybe everyone’s feels like that. But if I’m not that interested in my childhood or past experiences, I wouldn’t bring a passion to my story that would make other people care.

4.  I don’t like seeing myself in fiction. I purposely avoid books or movies that are too close to my lived experiences. I’d rather use my experiences to deepen my understanding a character rather than to tell my own story exactly as it happened.

5. When I get the urge to “tell people my story,” it’s often for the wrong reasons. Having an epiphany in my life often makes me want to enlighten others. But, people, not surprisingly, are not that interested in my epiphanies. Good stories, the ones everyone loves, always have a theme. But it’s so cleverly woven into the story that you hardly notice it.

That’s what I aim for when I’m writing. To write a story so captivating that you forget it’s not real.

As for other lines, I am a PG writer, because I write for kids and teens and because of my own Christian convictions.

How about you? Is there anything you would not write about? 

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What is Insecure Writer's Support Group?

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

 To see more IWSG posts, go here.