It seems it should go without saying that you are uniquely qualified to write your memoir. And yet, the voices lurk at the edges of your consciousness: Who do I think I am? Am I a fraud? A wannabe? We live in a culture that forces us to mistrust our deepest impulses. We tend to mistake practicality for wisdom and statistics for the truth.
When I met with the publishers of my first novel (who had just paid me an obscene amount of money) I was flown to New York and took the elevator to the top of a skyscraper to a room where seven publishing executives sat. They asked where I had studied creative writing: “Was it Iowa Writers’ workshop? Irvine Writing Program?”
I hesitated before responding sheepishly that I didn’t really study anywhere, at least not formally. Frankly, I just read a lot, took writing seminars, and wrote a shit ton in my bedroom for over a decade.
Well, the room fell so quiet you could hear a cow fart in Saskatchewan. Imagine their dismay that they’d squandered their precious advance on some unschooled Philistine.
I don’t think it is essential that we endure a Darwinian vetting process to be given permission to write our truth. Whether conscious or not, our culture throws up all sorts of intellectual firewalls to dissuade or silence us.
Release Your True Voice
There is a disparity of middle-aged white male privileged writers whose stories lead to the perception that these books reflect our collective reality. While the gap is narrowing, the disparity is real. Whenever I listen to discussions of literature on the radio, we seem expected to bring our sophisticated minds rather than our wild animal selves, our emotional curiosity, our spiritual hunger. We are expected to worship at the shrine of consensus, but one’s truth is by definition anomalous, even subversive.
The irony is that what the marketplace is looking for is You. Your true voice. You must let go of your desire to appeal to some godlike patriarchy. Dismiss the notion of gatekeepers staring down their spectacles at you, deciding whether or not your life is worth telling.
You hold all the power.
What makes your story compelling isn’t the outward accomplishments that you have achieved (that’s autobiography). But, rather, your willingness to write honestly and authentically about your inward struggle.