Valuing your life experience

For many years I have taught people who are interested in writing autobiographically, whether about an aspect of their life, such as their childhood, profession or hobby, or maybe the whole of their life story, with all that this entails. Some people have written to self-publish a book for their families, others, like one of my writers, Sally Herbert, with her brave and moving book, ‘The Missing Pieces of Mum’, have written successfully for wider publication.

One of the things however, that many people keen on writing autobiographically have in common, is that they often fail to fully value their own life experience.

I’ve met people with extraordinary life experiences that have worried that no-one would want to read about them. And I’ve eventually concluded that the reason people think this way is that their own life experience is ‘normal’ to them. They therefore think it is ‘normal’ to everyone else! Sometimes they have experienced something out of the ordinary: think of Amanda Owen raising nine children whilst farming in one of the remotest parts of the UK. Other times they give us an insight into something which is within our common experience, such as being a vet or a midwife, but which we don’t really know much about in detail. Most people reading the books or watching the subsequent TV adaptations of James Herriot’s life as a vet or Jennifer Worth’s ‘Call the Midwife’ would agree that these life experiences are both interesting and entertaining.

So, what about your life? What have you experienced that other people might be interested in? I would wager that most people, particularly once you get over a certain age, have something interesting to impart, a story worth telling.  And if you are not sure about your writing skills, these can be learnt or improved. But whatever you do, don’t tell me your life hasn’t been interesting, because you know what, I won’t believe you!