When you are writing own your story remind yourself that it is …. a story. It has to stand on its own. Everyone has a story. Belief that yours is somehow more interesting than somebody else’s is demeaning to them. When you put your adventures out there, other people will learn about them and tell you about their own; then you’ll wonder why you thought you were so special.
The difference between you and other people is not the events in your life or your family’s life, but the fact that you have written them down and shared them with others. Most architects, dentists, plumbers, and airline pilots do not write down what they have seen and heard, but you do.
In some respects, the popularity of your writing depends on your audience. If you are writing for family members who are interested in the fact that Great-Grandpa Moskowitz was a Jewish cowboy in Minnesota, or that Great-Uncle Boogaloo Mandrake gave a series of sold-out concerts in Carnegie Hall playing the harmonica, they will be entranced, because those stories enhance their own. If your audience is more general, you have to apply the principles of good writing. A newspaper editor whose name escapes me said, “The easiest thing to do is to stop reading.” Pace the revelations, express yourself in sentences appropriate to the subject matter, create an arc to the story (a beginning, a middle, and an end), and, if possible, find some humor in it. When asked why his books were such a good read, Elmore Leonard said, “I just cut out the boring stuff.” One thing that most people will find boring is that you have relatives that are waaaaay more interesting than their own.
Humbling yourself before the audacity and richness of other people’s live takes the pressure off you. When the game is on the line, the best coaches say, “Go out there and have fun.” Read Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, then get started.Tags: leaving a legacy, The business of writing, the writer's life, writing your story