Tuesday, June 28, 2016
Your Story Doesn't Matter - And That's A Good Thing
Your story doesn't matter because it is all in how you write/tell it. 99% of your memoir writing is about your voice, your approach, your angle, your understanding, and only 1% about the story itself. Even if two people have the same pretense - writing about having grown up with alcoholic parents and how that shaped their future relationships - even the same one line summary: "Growing up with alcoholic parents, I learned love is giving your all to someone else. In my failed marriage, I learned otherwise," - there are two different books, only partially influenced by the fact that their lives are separate.
People worry to me all the time that their lives are not interesting enough. Not enough happened to them (usually, the worry goes, not enough trauma, or only trauma). Really, truly, this is irrelevant. What matters is wanting to write about it enough to stick out a project, to really care and be curious.
If, for some reason, a person is exempt from this worry, then they worry that their voice is too boring, not lyrical or flourishy enough. This, too, is irrelevant. We can learn to build craft, we can take classes and practice - but even more importantly, your individual voice - shaped by your totally unique life - is more important than the story itself. If you are not a poet, don't try to write a poetry memoir. If you tend more towards descriptions, lean into those; dialogue, lean into that.
How you write whatever your story is, whatever the facet, approach, angle, and voice, is not only the most important point - it's also the most flexible point. So many people get overwhelmed by all the choices, which is a fair response. Learning to listen to your own mind and voice can help you discern the correct way in - the right way to write it, to edit it, to revise it. The choices may be endless but the right options are inside you, just waiting for you to discover them.
Your story is more than just the who and what and when - it is also the why and the how.
Your understanding - and how you express it - is what matters most. This takes time to find, but is intuitive and open. Your story, thankfully - since in memoir you can't go back and change your life - comes mercifully far behind in second.