As a memoir ghostwriter and personal historian with 15 years of experience, I often smile when I hear some common misconceptions about who chooses to write a memoir, and why. These myths usually fall into two categories:
1. The only people who feel the urge to write their life story are elders who wish to reflect back over their lifespan while in their 70s, 80s or 90s.
Yes, it’s true that writing a personal history, autobiography or memoir is a natural and healthy inclination for many seniors. Personally, I think anyone who has reached that stage of life can benefit from telling their life story. But my experience tells me that it’s often just as strong a motivation for people who may be quite a bit younger. I’ve assisted clients as young as 19, and I’ve worked with dozens of men and women in the broad midlife spectrum: 40s, 50s and 60s. Something has happened to them in their lives that calls them to write about it, and they see no need to wait until they’re “old enough” to be justified in pursuing their autobiography. Often their stories are especially compelling.
2. Anyone who really wants to spend the time, energy, and money to write their life story and publish it in a book must be driven by a big ego.
Totally untrue!! Most of my clients call upon me to ghostwrite their memoir or autobiography because they sincerely wish to preserve their story for their children, grandchildren and other loved ones. Often, family members have been pestering them to do it for years, and it has taken them a long time to summon the nerve to do it. My ghostwriting clients and Writing Your Life Story students often tell me they want to stay away from the splotlight. They don’t want to be seen as “tooting my own horn” or making more of their life experiences than their stories merit. Then, when they allow themselves to dive into their memories and write their life story, they see just how rich and wondours those stories are – and how much their loved ones appreciate hearing them. Men and women who write their memoirs often touch upon many stories and experiences they had never shared with their family before, so their loved ones are especially grateful that they have taken the time and effort to capture those precious memories.
Far from being driven by ego, many of my ghostwriting clients sincerely wish to be of service to others. Many believe that writing about the challenges they overcame, or the mistakes they learned from, or the lessons taught to them by special people in their life, will encourage and inspire young people and others who will benefit from what they share. When their life story is captured in a completed memoir or autobiography, they are touched by a sense of gratitude that they could help someone. It’s not an ego boost at all.
I’m lucky. People who come to me seeking help in writing their memoir, autobiography or personal history usually exhibit the best of the human spirit. And when I work with them, I get to share a glimpse into their unique life experience and perspective. It’s often quite a wondrous ride, which I recently wrote about in a guest blog with the Association of Ghostwriters, of which I am a member. I’ll share that with you here:
Will you be the next person to take this life-affirming, gift-giving step of writing your life story?
– Kevin Quirk is an author, ghostwriter, book coach and autobiographical writing teacher who has been helping people write their life stories for more than 15 years. The author of “Life Is a Book And It’s Time to Write It,” he is a member of the Association of Personal Historians, the Association of Ghostwriters and the American Society of Journalists and Authors.