Many people are afraid to write down their lifestories because they have no training in writing, which usually translates to feeling they have no talent in that area. Does it matter if you have no talent in writing? Only if you want to be published and make money from your story. For most people, their families and friends will be reading their stories – if they ever get written – and people who love you won’t care if you are not a polished writer. You may find that as you work on your stories a lot of passion comes forth and that will show up in your writing. After all, your stories are an intimate part of you, obviously things that made enough of an impression to remain in your memory. Passion is what will lift your life stories above the earthly realm of dry dirt facts. For those who are perfectionists, read on.
The Huffington Post (among many other news media) recently interviewed bestselling memoirist Mary Karr (Liar’s Club, Cherry, Lit). HuffPo asked Karr, “Do you think quality writing can be taught?” Karr responded, “Absolutely… when I went to graduate school I would’ve said I was among the least talented of the students, I was certainly the least smart, or less educated. But I worked very hard… I rewrite, and rethink and reconsider.”
Geoff Colvin, senior editor of Fortune Magazine, has a new book out called Talent is Over-rated: What Really Separates World Class Performers From Everybody Else. He believes that performance is shaped by teachers and practice, not innate talent. “A growing body of scientific research shows that it isn’t so – that specific natural abilities don’t explain great performance.” You’ll have to read the book to know exactly what the “deliberate” practice is that helps people succeed in their endeavors (it requires feedback), but the point is that there is hope for us all that we can be trained to be better at anything. Of course, you know that.
Most of us will never be perfectly great writers, but we can be good enough – certainly good enough to write our own life stories for family. And if we’re worried, we can hire an editor. Or bake some cookies for your (grand)child’s English teacher in exchange for their advice. If you’re really bad at writing, then anyone can help you!