Writing Tips

Writing Memoirs: Is Your Life Interesting Enough?

Those who write memoirs are told their life is not interesting enough. Here's why that's a bad practice that needs to be stopped when writing memoirs.

It’s a question that people ask alot when writing memoirs. Doesn’t matter who they are- nearly all memoir writers seem to have this problem.

“Is my life- that interesting? Would people want to read about my life?”

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To that, I say it doesn’t matter. No really, memoirs have hardly anything to do with how interesting your life is turning out to be. However, a crucial thing does matter: perspective. Do you have anything unique or interesting to say? How does your interpretation of events differ to others? Answer those questions before you ask if your life is ~memoir~ material!

I was browsing through my bookstore, when I came across this gem of a book.- “Mirror Sydney” by Vanessa Berry. It’s sort-of a memoir (depending on how you interpret Berry’s intentions). What makes this book stand out to me amongst other non-fiction books was how unique it’s perspective was. Berry writes about a topic that hadn’t been done to death, she used illustrations, and wrote in a personal and in an evocative style. Bring that magic to your own writings!

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Of course, there are people who have lived such remarkable lives, that perspective matters less. A good example would be a Holocaust survivor. Yet that only represents a small portion of aspiring memoir writers. However, having an epic story does not translate into good wriitng. You need to have a fantastic command over language, and have something interesting to say.

I think the reason why The Diary of a Young Girl is beloved and acclaimed has to do with Anne Frank’s perspective and intelligence, not her tragic circumstances. Because of that, do not fall into the trap of thinking you need to have gone through certain things in order to seem ‘interesting’.

This is done by reading memoirs and non-fiction. Look at how writers tell their own stories. Because of that, there’s a reason why people always scream ‘read more!’ at aspiring writers. Whether it’s a graphic novel such as “Maus” by Art Spielgeman or “Scar Tissue” by Anthony Kiedis, it helps to discover the creative ways writers use language to illustrate their experiences.

Another good tip is to treat your memoir like a business product. Look at your writing and ask ‘how will this enrich the life of my reader?’ Maybe you are offering good advice, some wisdom or a fresh perspective. However, go a step further. Write for the audience that you want to speak to. You’ll write in an honest way. Alot of writers feel that ‘business’ approaches are false or not artistic, yet for memoirs- I think a business-like approach helps.

Therefore- don’t waste time on petty thoughts about how boring your life is. Instead, think about your perspective and what you wish to say. Because trust me- that’s what the readers will remember. When you are writing memoirs- be true to yourself, but make sure you are contributing something fresh to the genre.

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