“Each of us is a book waiting to be written, and that book,
if written, results in a person explained.”
-Thomas M. Cirignano
Writing your life story is an intensely personal experience. It’s also really hard, like acting as your own legal counsel. How do you build a case for the life you’ve lived? How do you zoom out and fully see and capture that life in words?
It can be, and is, done by many brave memoirists every day. But does that mean you should? Or that you have to?
I’ve been struggling with these questions in regard to my own memoir (I even have a title for the damn thing). Several false starts, structural reorganizations, and bouts of analysis paralysis later, and I’m officially out of denial. I’m going to need to outsource this thing. I need to hire a ghostwriter.
Tell me that’s not ironic.
It was a struggle to admit this because on some level, hiring someone to tell something as intensely personal as your life story, feels a little like outsourcing your soul.
A writer hiring a ghostwriter? This has got to be a sign of the apocalypse. But, here are some arguments in defense of my decision.
1. Time: It’s the most valuable commodity of all and if there aren’t enough hours in the day, it’s not like you can buy more. Protect your time fiercely, by devoting it fully to your top priorities.
2. Priorities: When you get something done it’s because you’ve made it a priority. There are many reasons why some things become priorities and others don’t. But pretending that it’s a mystery – that everything that “should” be a priority, is automatically one – is lying to yourself. If it’s a priority, you’ll get it done. If it’s not, you’ll hire someone else to do it for you. If you simply ignore it – you never wanted it done in the first place. Priorities are also driven by your level of interest.
3. Interest: Just because other people find your life story fascinating, doesn’t make you legally required to agree with them. If you know on some level, that your story is interesting or inspiring, all that means is that it should be written. But not necessarily by you. In fact, outsourcing it to someone who “gets it” and can tell it in a way that you cannot, is probably the smarter decision.
If you sit down to write your life story and end up boring yourself – don’t fight it (like I‘ve been trying to do). Go back to the business of living your fascinating life. Let someone else make a case on your behalf. Who knows – you might find out that you’re far more fascinating than you previously believed?
Your story can change lives. But only if it gets done – and done well. Firing yourself from the job of writing it might be the most selfless decision you’ll ever make.
Until next time…