Archive for April, 2010

Have You Ever Told Anyone You’re a Writer?

In my class “Becoming a Writer While Keeping Your Day Job,” I ask each student to introduce himself or herself and tell me something about what they write or why they took the class. I get the normal answers and that helps me focus the direction of the lecture.

Early in the lecture I ask them, “Has anyone here ever told anyone they’re a writer?” Typically fewer than a handful of hands go up. I focus on those who raised their hands and say, “Once you tell someone you’re a writer, you probably get two questions. What are they?”

Within seconds, they respond, “What do you write?” and “Have you been published.” Yep, those are the two questions I expected to hear.

Then we discuss how the implication (from those questions) is a person is not a writer unless they’re published. I debunk that idea immediately by telling the class that I can promise everyone attending that they won’t be published unless they write.

What about you? Have you ever told anyone you’re a writer? If not, why not? After all, a writer writes AND SOMETIMES gets published. But if you don’t write, you’ll never get published.

Find some time every day to work on your writing. What counts as work? Research (including interviews, reading, observing, experiencing), working on your rough draft, rewriting, etc. Strive to spend 30 minutes a day that you’re currently wasting (you determine if that means you get up 30 minutes earlier, go to bed 30 minutes later, turn off the television for a half-hour, stop surfing the web for a half-hour, etc.) and use that found time for writing.

And if people interrupt your writing time, let them know you’re working/writing and you’ll get back to them shortly. The important thing is you write and don’t worry about getting published until you’ve written something publishable.

Happy writing!

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Memoirs Are Hot Again

After the fiasco of A Million Little Pieces, memoir writing lost popularity. But all that’s changed and memoirs are hot again.

Last month I did a class on writing memoir at a local college and student ages ranged from the thirties to the seventies.  I even had a married couple attend.

It’s clear that people want to write their memoirs, but the reasons for writing them are varied. Some want to leave a legacy for their families, some want to share their story so others can learn from it, and some want to help others write. All are good reasons for writing memoir.

Here are some tips to use when writing about your life.

  • When you tell your story, make you the main character–not your dominating parent or your doting grandparent or your evil relative.
  • Be sure to put some feeling in your memoir. You’re not writing a diary that chronciles facts. You’re writing about your life and you have feelings (good and not so good) that make you real to your reader.
  • Avoid squandering your authorship. By that, I mean give yourself permission as the author to write your experiences with as much importance as you give other people’s experiences/accomplishments.
  • Remember to include the commonalities in life you share with your reader. That could be a holiday ritual, a fear you overcame, a joy you felt, etc.
  • Create contrast in your story. When you take the ordinary and discover the extraordinary about it, you’ve got a winner. One doesn’t have to look any further than the Susan Boyle video to see that.
  • Have a reason for everything you include in your memoir. No one wants to read your entire life story–if you start with your birth and move to the current time, you’re writing your biography, not your memoir.
  • Include little things that impacted you. For example, if your father answered the phone every time you called home and rather than talk with you, he turned the phone over to your mother, that could have an impact on you, even if it seems like a little thing.

Only you can write your memoir. Now you have some tips to help you, so get going because there’s no time like now–tomorrow is not promised to any of us.

Happy writing!