Do the Right Thing

Spirit, science, and health

Should You Write a Memoir?

Write your autobiography....even if no one reads it.

Everyone has a memoir in them just dying to get out. The memoir has never been easier to write and distribute. Personal computers with word processing capabilities, self-published print and electronic book options, blogging, and so forth all can be used very effectively to get your life story written and available to the world to read. As so many life span developmental psychologists have well researched and articulated, we all get to an age and stage in life where we like to reflect upon on our life path and journey, reminisce a bit, and develop thoughtful insights and wisdom about life that we’d like to share with others. I have worked with many middle aged and elderly people in my clinical practice over the years and so many of them have expressed their deep desire to write an autobiography or memoir to share their life stories with others.

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Yet, what might be a very hard pill to swallow is the fact that so often others really don’t want to hear your story! While many people might want to tell their story so few people actually want to listen to it or read it. Certainly many folks might be interested in the life stories of famous celebrities, high level politicians like U.S. Presidents, and athletic stars. But few are interested in the life stories of the average person or even the average relative. In an increasingly narcissistic culture, most people are interested in their own stories but not those of others. The cry seems to be, "Why bother reading this if it has nothing to do with me?"


One of my esteemed elderly colleagues is spending a good deal of his time now writing his memoir “for the grandchildren and great-grandchildren.” I think he might be thinking that all of his relatives will both read it and treaure it too. Even if his grandchildren and other relatives don’t read it, he should write it anyway. Why? Because writing your autobiography really does more for the writer than perhaps the reader. It helps us to thoughtfully reflect on our life path, consolidates our experiences and lessons learned, and gives us a sense that our story matters and is instructive to others. It is therapeutic. I’ve encouraged many of my patients, especially as they come to the end of their careers and lives, to do so. They often get so much out of the experience regardless of who actually reads it or doesn't read it.

So, use the tools that are now available to write your memoir. When you have the time and available space to document your life story go ahead and do it. Don’t be shocked if others aren’t that interested in reading it. Do it for you and if others find it of interest and worth reading then that will just be icing on the cake.

So, what do you think?

Please check out my web site at www.scu.edu/tplante and follow me on Twitter @ThomasPlante.

Copyright 2013 Thomas G. Plante, PhD, ABPP

 

Thomas Plante, PhD, ABPP, is the Augustin Cardinal Bea, SJ University Professor at Santa Clara University and Adjunct Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University.

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