The Story of My Life

I jump around between genres, both in what I read and in my writing styles, depending on my mood. I’ve been in a memoir-reading kind of mood lately. Perhaps this is because I’m in a “who am I really” kind of state in my life. At some point, I’d love to try my hand at writing a memoir. But what constitutes a life interesting enough to be worthy of people wanting to read about it? Don’t get me wrong, I love my life–although there are some days that are a challenge–but it all seems so “normal”, even boring sometimes, that I wonder what would make people want to read about it.

We want to read stories about a woman whose husband leaves her (Happens Every Day by Isabel Gillies). Or another who ate a lot of spaghetti and found deep spiritualness (Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert). Or the hilarious story of cooking dangerously (Julie and Julia by Julie Powell. While these true life story lines don’t necessarily seem like anything extraordinary, two of them have already been made into movies.

I can think of several more movies off the top of my head that have been taken from memoirs. I just can’t picture my life as that intriguing. (Although I’d like to think Jennifer Aniston would make a great me.)

So, what makes a good memoir? Is there a life lesson to be learned? Is it that we can all relate to something going on in the author’s life? Is it the “normalness” that makes it appealing? Do we just like having a glimpse into someone else’s life that we might not ordinarily have? Or is it something else?

What about you? Do you enjoy reading memoirs? Why?

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11 Comments

Filed under Reading, Writing

11 responses to “The Story of My Life

  1. I love reading memoirs and journals. I’ve thought like you that I’d love to write a memoir, or autobio, but who’d read it? Would I read it? Yet, when I read the simple stories on some of the blogs I’m enjoying, I realize that perhaps it’s the very real, timeless, momentary activities that I enjoy because they remind me of me, of something I’ve done or felt, and that I’m not peculiar. There’s a cameraderie I share with these other women writers, like you, and I really thrill to read the little vignettes they,you, are telling. e.g. didn’t you write about the wedding dress? And PlaneJaner writes about her pea plants, or furminating her dog, and Writerwoman51(I think the number is right) writes about her botched cinnamon raisin bread. I’m beginning to think that you and I, though we’ve had pretty ordinary lives can speak of that ordinariness in extraordinary ways, using language that enlivens the very mundane, that brings the spirit of the moment into full bloom. I’m glad you asked the question. I’m glad I’m not alone in questioning. We just need to trust ourselves, that the desire to write means we have something to say and that there is someone out there that will want to read it. What do you think? I’d love to hear from others on this. I think I’ll ask the others to read and comment. Would be a wonderful topic to share.
    Nancy

  2. Christine Rice

    Nancy, I love what you said: “though we’ve had pretty ordinary lives can speak of that ordinariness in extraordinary ways.” I think the more closely that a memoir mirrors my own life and experiences, the more I enjoy it. If the author has done such amazing, “extraordinary” things, then it’s harder (for me) to connect with that person’s story.

  3. Like Nancy, I also enjoy reading memoirs. I don’t think they have to be extraordinary or dark or even a life we can’t imagine. I think my connection to a memoir is in the simple struggle (I love reading that other people have those “I just can’t take my toddler any longer” days) or in the simple pleasures (I became completely engrossed in an online discussion on heirloom tomatoes a few days ago). Simple, but relatable.

    I say, “Write away!” I guarantee you that someone will be interested. I think you’ve proven that here already.

  4. tekia

    I’ve never read a memoir. I’ve just never been interested in them. I do know that each of us have a story to tell. A friend and I have considered and even talked about writing a memoir of our own. If I may give some advice ( and I agree I’m not the best person to give any on this subject since I don’t read memoirs, but still) maybe you can pick a particular year, or season, or month where something life changing happened in your life, be it good or bad and how it impacted your life or your character’s life. And I too agree with Nancy. Using words to speak of what is in essence ordinary in an extraordinary way is what will draw people to read any memoir (that’s just my opinion). I hope this helps. If you do decide to write your memoir, I wish all the best.

  5. smalltownbiglife

    We spend so much of our lives trying to stand out in the crowd, to find something extraordinary about ourselves and our lives, but I have learned through facing some personal tragedies in my life that it is in the “ordinary” that we find our comfort, realizing that God has the big picture and will be a masterpiece whether or not I pick up my paint brush or not. Every day Nature writes a memoir and very predictable, ordinary occurances are beautiful. When it comes to writing a memoir or reading one, what makes one worth reading for me is honesty and quality of the writing, the technique. With the advent of reality television, the audience-at-large is primed for the memoir. But there is enough sensationalism out there already…enough people who have lost 400 pounds or been secretly married to three women at once or…you get the picture/memoir! In life and in writing, often ordinary is extraordinary.

  6. planejaner

    Honestly, I hate memoirs. Or, to be more specific, I hate the memoirs of those whose lives look NOTHING like mine, or those stories of the rich and famous…who use their memoirs to make me think they are just like me (i.e., marital struggles, illness, etc). I do enjoy reading the memoirs of those who live ordinary lives, who reach for meaning beyond the daily-ness, who strive to share that washing the dishes isn’t just…washing the dishes, about “ordinariness”, and seeing/feeling/understanding the thread of humanity that unites and bonds and strengthens and humbles…
    the blogs I enjoy reading…do this for me. They set apart, like a rare jewel, those women who want to share what makes ordinary…holy.

    jane

    • See, Christine, Jane is one of those “ordinary” souls who can highlight the holy, the sacred in everything she does. I like reading her; I like reading you. You both give me courage. Thank you.
      Nancy

  7. Hi Christine:

    I enjoy reading memoirs about anybody who has accomplished something that’s interesting to me, be they famous or not.

    I read, “Eat, Pray, Love” but didn’t love it (had trouble identifying with her)…loved the “Julie and Julia” movie, but have not read the book.

    Wendy

  8. Christine Rice

    Thank you for all of the wonderful and insightful comments and for taking the time to share. One thing I know for sure, whether I write my life story or a fictional novel, a blog post or a love note, I have to write. It’s in my soul. It’s part of who I am, regardless if my work is published or not, for my eyes only or a legacy for my children…or even something to share with the world. Thanks for reading!

  9. I just came across your blog post and enjoyed your comments as well as those of others. I’m currently trying to write a memoir and exploring the genre. My challenges are many but the most pressing is understanding the appropriate length of the experience that I should include. Any thoughts on this?

    I relate with what you said about writing, I also have to write and cannot imagine life without this glorious practice.

    • Christine Rice

      JoDee, I wish I had an answer for that question, because if I did, I’d have an answer to one of my own. My main trouble is that I’m not sure I’ve had experiences yet worth writing about, but as you can see from other comments here, the resounding message is, if you write it, they will come.

      Best of luck with your own adventures.

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