Every ordinary life story is extraordinary!

Every ordinary life story is extraordinary!

How to Tell Whether You’re a Writer

How to Tell Whether You're a Writer little girl writing in a book

And why you don’t have to be a writer to write a great memoir

When you’re a writer, you write. You can tell whether you’re a writer just by looking at the sheer volume of your work. Do you have notebooks full of essays, poems, stories or even just thoughts? Is your computer filled with files of creative or expository writing?

Writers Write 24/7

When you’re a writer, your mood and the outside world may influence your subject matter, but none of that keeps you from writing. When you’re happy, you write. When you’re angry or sad, you also write. When you’re bored, you write, but when you’re so busy you don’t have a minute to spare, you still write. You don’t have to be an avid reader or a student of writing to be a writer. Some writers just have a feel for language without all that much example to follow.

Sometimes the writing is just in your head. This is when you’re not in the stage of getting it down on paper or into the computer. You’re more in the gathering stage—observing life in a way that writers do, with chapter titles or lines from a movie scene script scrolling across your mind.

Parents sometimes seek my advice. “My kid wants to be a writer,” they’ll say. “Is it easy to make a living from writing? Should my kid major in writing in college?”

I have only one response. “A writer writes,” I say. “Whether writing as a living or doing it as a hobby, if your kid is a writer, your kid will write.”

I think you might as well try to make money from what you love to do, but if you have another calling you’d rather pursue professionally, writing will still be there. Kids like that can become lawyers, and then the part of the job they love most is writing the brief. They can graduate with a major in business and still find lots of writing opportunities in marketing and other aspects of their job description. And if it does just end up as a hobby, it can be a very satisfying one.

Skill Level Is No Measure for Whether You’re a Writer

You can be a writer and yet not write very well. You may have an amateur hand at poetry or grammar errors in your essays or poorly constructed transitions in your short stories. Still, you get joy from the process of putting your thoughts into words, the words into sentences, the sentences into paragraphs, and you see where I’m going with this.

The opposite is true as well: you may write very well but not be a writer. Your boss may ask you to do a lot of writing in your job because you’re good at it. Maybe you’re able to knock off a speech for your sister’s wedding in an hour, and perhaps grammar and spelling come naturally to you. But you don’t choose to write for pleasure. You’re out doing other things. If you’re that person, you are not a writer.

Think about a natural athlete. How many of those have fallen by the wayside? The star high school basketball player, the gifted Little League pitcher, the promising tennis prodigy. Something else catches their interest, and the sport fades because, while they have more talent than everyone around them, their heart is not in the sport. If your heart is not in writing, you’re not a writer. But you still can write.

What skill level can determine is how much validation you receive about your writing. Typically, gifted writers receive a lot of encouragement in school, but I worry about writers who have more love than talent. A teacher who gets overzealous in criticizing your writing can kill the passion in you. That’s a real shame.

For one thing, you can improve in time. But mostly, if you love to write you should be encouraged even though you won’t be writing for a living or maybe even sharing your writing at all. The process of writing can be healing, so don’t give it up just because some teacher didn’t nourish your desire to write.

Both Writers and Non-writers Can Write a Memoir

If you’re trying to write a memoir, don’t worry about whether you’re a writer. Just keep at it until you finish your memoir. It may be your only completed written work or the only writing you’ve ever taken on voluntarily. Writing a memoir may be important to you for a lot of reasons; enjoying the writing process doesn’t have to be one of them.

And if you’re a writer in your heart and soul, a memoir may just be another format you feel like trying out. You may believe that you’ve lived an ordinary life, but you find it an exciting project to describe in writing the world that is uniquely yours.

My Own Example

I think I was pretty much born a writer. I wrote a song when I was about twelve, I always wrote my own cards for my parents’ birthdays, and I started writing poetry in high school. None of that came about as a conscious decision. The way a friendly person makes friends from childhood on, I just wrote as part of who I was.

My English literature major in college seemed an obvious choice, since in high school I received good grades on my term papers and enjoyed writing them. But halfway through college, when I took a couple of journalism courses, I had a name for what I really was: a journalist. I was a reporter. I could write up any set of facts. I realized that I enjoyed doing research and conducting interviews more than relying on my imagination to come up with plots and develop characters for creative writing. I never dreamed about writing the next great American novel.

Since then, I’ve been lucky to have been a working journalist, a grammar teacher, and eventually a memoir coach, editor and ghostwriter. But even though I write professionally, I still write for myself. My computer files’ labels tell the story: “old writings,” “miscellaneous writings,” “song lyrics,” “parenting reflections,” “speeches,” “TV pilot,” “poems,” “script ideas,” and dozens of titles of stories.

Even this blog—no one forces me to write it. I just like getting my thoughts down. I’m a writer. Maybe you are, too. Or maybe you’re not. That’s okay, and your memoir may still be amazing.

 

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Then just set up a chapter and start writing your memoir. Don’t worry about rules. There are no rules to writing your memoir; there are only trends. These trends are based on techniques and features identified in current top-selling memoirs. At best, they’re the flavor of the month. If you’re capturing your life in print for your family, for your own gratification or to inspire readers, rather than aiming to set off Hollywood screenplay bidding wars, these trends don’t even apply to you. You’ll write the memoir that suits you best, and it will be timeless, not trend-driven.There are no rules, but there are four steps:

1. Theme/framework
2. Writing
3. Editing/polishing
4. Self-publishing

You’ve researched this, too, and you’ve been shocked at the price for getting help with any one of those steps, much less all four. That’s because most memoir sites promise to commercialize your work. They’ll follow a formula based on current memoir trends, because they want to convince you that they can turn your memoir into a best-seller. These sites overwhelm you with unnecessary information not to help you, the memoir author, but to address Search Engine Optimization (SEO) algorithms so they can sell more.

That’s not what we do at Write My Memoirs. Our small community of coaches, writers and editors are every bit as skilled as any you’ll find, and we charge appropriately for their expertise and the time they’ll spend helping you craft a compelling, enjoyable read. But you won’t pay an upcharge for other websites’ commercialization, the marketing that follows, and the pages of intimidating “advice.” You can sell your book if you like—we have ISBNs available for you—but our organic process of capturing your story takes a noncommercial path.

If you want help with any or all of the four steps above, choose from our services or save money by selecting one of our packages. If you’d like to talk about what’s right for you, schedule a call. One year from now, you can be holding your published memoir in your hand. And at that point, it will be a big deal!