What narcissistic urge would compel anyone to write an autobiography? A memoir, yes. Memoirs can be light, entertaining, thought-provoking, rabble-rousing, titillating, (insert your own adjective here) but most of all they’re mercifully brief.
Memoirs can be read and enjoyed by almost anyone, partly because they don’t go on forever. But an autobiography? Page after page of ego.
Take one subject, yourself. Dredge up every memory of every experience you’ve ever had, then spread it out for all the world to read. Well, if not all the world, at least your family and friends. It’s worse than Facebook.
How much better to expend the time and energy you would put into your autobiography in actually living your life well and doing something with it. That might be worth writing about. Then when you’ve moved on out of the picture, let someone else tell your story.
That way the world will remember you as having been modest and unassuming (with the exception of those family members who know you best) and you won’t be publicly embarrassing yourself
O.K., so you’re going ahead with it in spite of these warnings. At least play by a few rules. Let’s say you’re writing for posterity, wanting your descendants to know the part you played in the grand scheme of things, a noble goal indeed.
Be original, don’t copy everyone else. Don’t use too many cliches. We all started out kicking and screaming. It’s nature’s way of jump-starting us after the shock of leaving the womb. Somehow we already knew we blew it and everyone of us would go back if we could.
Since that isn’t possible, start by describing you first conscious memories. Maybe nothing happened until you were 10 years old, that’s fine, just don’t carry on about fighting with your siblings, hating your parents or ganging up on your teachers. Those stories have already been written.
Narrow the early experiences down and get on with being a teenager. Now we’re getting someplace. The teen years are painful while we’re experiencing them but somehow they pass, we live and we finally look back and laugh. Just the term “teenagers” can bring a smile, maybe because we’ve all been there.
Who can forget the voice cracking while asking for, or accepting, the first date? The noses bumping and the braces locking with the first kiss? The agonies of insecurity? Why did you crib the notes from that A-plus student? He’d had a bad week and as a result you both flunked. Your answers were better anyway.
Why did you turn left instead of right during the marching band’s big show piece at Homecoming? You brought the whole trombone section down like dominoes. Not everyone has that claim to fame.
However, that’s enough with the teens. Did you go on to higher education? What about your first, second or third jobs, all begun with such promise? How did they end up?
What about the Love of your Life? the second love, the third? Any more? Your variations on those universal experiences probably seem unique to you, and now you’re relating them to anyone who will listen. Are their eyes glazing over? Do they yawn and sneak a wink at one another as you rattle away?
Time to quit. Even your practical jokes have turned stale. Dropping ice cubes down someone’s back may have been hilarious at 18 but it was hardly original, and repeatedly telling the story gets boring.
Write your autobiography if you must. Just remember to keep it moving; keep it BRIEF!! Otherwise, get back to your memoirs.