A good story-teller can change the world. You may have a great story to tell, but no idea yet how to tell it. You may also have a considerably unremarkable story to tell, but still want to tell it. Today, I consider a world in which everyone has to attempt to write their own personal memoir, and if this were to happen, would we live in a world more at peace, and more connected through each others human experience?
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You might think, “Why would I write an autobiography when nothing cool has happened to me?” But the very opposite is true. You don’t have to have become a successful actor, a sports pro or a billionaire to write an interesting autobiography that others will want to read. The mundane day to day living you have been experiencing is material enough to put together the story of you. People are interested in the human experience, and if you can relay that well on paper, there’s no reason not to take it upon yourself to share the attractive and maybe even the ugly aspects of your life with the world. Let them know how you became the person you are today.
Writing an autobiography allows you to present your side of the story – your interpretation of facts in a manner that connects with readers and share your triumphs, disappointments, joys, and trials. It doesn’t have to be, “Hi I’m Emer and when I was six, I used to smush my yoghurt into my clothes and eat it off after it had hardened while I watched The Lion King on repeat,” but there’s no saying that someone not might read that and say, “Woahhhhhhh, me too!” and a Lion King-yoghurt bond has been formed.
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Your autobiography may take the form of a collection of essays centered around certain aspects of your life, or a compilation of letters addressed to yourself or your loved ones. Constructed chaos may also take the form your story. There is no need to compartmentalize your life into a chronological sequence of events, after all we are constantly changing as products of our environments. Mix it up. Be a toddler on one page and a twenty-four-year-old on the next, but keep what you are talking about consistent and connected. It doesn’t have to be subject to any technical conventions or boundary beyond the intent of the author.
In recent years, autobiographies have borrowed many of the techniques utilized by the memoirist, binding facts and feelings to create a complete story. This is also a route you could go down. Dreams From My Father by former president Barack Obama is an example of this kind of writing as a lyrical, unsentimental, and compelling memoir about the son of an African father and a white American mother. It is a blend of fact and the exploration of life as a black American.
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Different writers will have different opinions on the utilization of memoir writing techniques into the autobiography. On one hand, J.M. Coetzee, author of bestselling novel Foe which fuses fiction with historical fact says “All autobiography is storytelling; all writing is autobiography,” whereas Frank McCourt, Irish author of Angela’s Ashes has this to say:
Autobiography should be more stringent. It should adhere more to the standards of journalism – assuming that journalism has the truth. The memoir gives you more scope, is more poetic, and allows you to play around with your life.
The good thing about writing your autobiography is that it is whole-heartedly your own creation. In order to get a better understanding of yourself, just talk to the people around you, maybe some old and new friends and family members if possible. This will give you an insight into what your life looks like from the outside.
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Writing your own personal memoir is an opportunity to reach across the boundaries of time and space, set the record straight, honor the people you hold dear to your heart and just to reflect on and celebrate the journey you have taken. Think of it as your own personal time capsule, an opportunity to leave your hand print on the wall of human experience, and to say to the world: “I was here, and it mattered.”
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