You’re Not The Star Of Your Memoir

Photo Credit: Eidy Bambang-Sunaryo via Unsplash

Your memoir isn’t really about you.

That may sound strange, as a memoir is the story of your life, but honestly most people wouldn’t have the inclination to read it unless you are famous. Otherwise, what draws people to read a history of someone else’s life?

When they see themselves in your writing.

The Sad State Of My Current Memoir

I’ve been working on my memoir for the past three years and only have a rough draft finished. I keep telling myself I don’t have time to edit or rewrite, but that’s not the whole truth. I could spare myself some time every day if I worked super hard and made it a priority above other things. Yet, it still sits here untouched on my computer.

I believe the reason I stopped is related to honesty. Reading over what I’ve written, I realize I’ve omitted certain events because they make me look bad or seem embarrassing. It’s like I cherry picked what events would make it into the book and which would stay in my memory never to be revealed.

If I ever tried to publish it the way it is now, it wouldn’t be a real memoir.

It would be a book where I’m both a superstar and a martyr. Oh, look at the terrible things that happened to poor me. I’m a victim of circumstance and certainly didn’t do anything to cause them. Why, I’ve never made a mistake in my entire life.

That’s a horrible reason to write a book.

The reason people relate to stories and want to read them is because they have made mistakes, too. They’ve gotten in terrible situations and are looking for a way out, or they feel guilty about things they’ve done in the past, or they are survivors wanting to know how another person survived the things they’ve been through.

There Will Be No Sugar-Coating

I will return to my memoir one day this week. When I do, I’m going to rewrite and tell everything, even those parts that make me ashamed. Even my mortal fear of criticism won‘t stop me. I will rip open my heart and let it all pour out onto the page and anything less than that be damned.

Some people won‘t like it and think I’m a terrible person. Those aren’t the ones who matter. Even if only one reader is helped by me exposing my failures and celebrating my victories, the book will have been well worth it. If just one person says, “She did it; maybe I can do it, too,” then my memoir will be a great success.

The truth is, I’ve had some pretty bad things happen in my lifetime, but I’ve caused bad things to happen as well. The difference is that I took part in my own survival, made things right where I could, forgave myself and came out a stronger woman in the end.

Still, the memoir isn’t about me, and that’s something to keep in mind as I edit. The memoir is always about the reader. They are the stars of my book, the ones that shine bright enough to light up my path to make it to the end.

Those people are my true focus, the ones that might struggle and feel alone. I want to honor them by showing that I’ve been alone and helpless and feeling stuck, too. I want to light up a path for them that I’ve taken where things turned out all right. I want to give people a sense of connection and something they can relate to in their own lives.

The “I’s” Have It

Sometimes it’s difficult to do all that when your memoir is filled with “I’s.” “I did this, then I did that, then I did this other thing.” When you change the perspective, it’s easier to stop using that word so much, and your writing will be something that other people can relate to. They may be reading your book, but in reality they’re looking for themselves in the pages.

There are so many benefits to writing your story for the world to see. I learned a lot about myself just from writing the first draft, and I hope to learn more as I edit. There’s something about putting it all out there that is so freeing. It’s truly a healing process.

Maybe you’re not famous, but the world needs to hear our stories, regardless. Besides, fame is overrated. What really counts is the impact you leave on the world and making it a better place than when you found it. Even if it’s just for that one star out there who really needs it.