Pit Lit and Writing Your Memoir

I sat riveted to the TV last night watching with the world as the 33 Chilean miners were rescued at the San Jose mine. While overcome with awe and joy, I also thought: What an incredible story! Sure enough, among the journalists given free access during the miners' 70 days of entombment, one has announced a book deal already. Jonathan Franklin of The Guardian will have his book "33 Men" published by Transworld in 2011.Other TV, book and movie rights are pending.

Then I felt depressed. My lifestory isn’t nearly as engaging, dramatic or unusual as those stories. Who would want to read my story when they could read a Pit Lit memoir? Why bother telling my boring little tale?

After I’d cried a bit and given myself a little shake, I thought about it. I’m not famous. I don’t have authors bugging me to ghost write my autobiography. But, if I didn’t tell my story, who would? The fact is : my life is my story, no one else’s. I’m the only one who can tell it my way. My brothers have their own take on our shared histories. My sister who is 10 years younger, has her story. My parents’ stories are their stories and form only the backdrop to my own.

It’s difficult to give yourself permission to write or continue writing your memoir. It’s a contract with yourself that has to be renewed daily. We play little games to trick ourselves into writing. I’ll just write it down. Maybe I will cut it out later. Pretend that this is a story in the 3rd person and what is happening is happening to another girl, not to you.

When we do this and produce a scene or two, we are still self-critical and often tempted to chuck it. The best thing to do is wait. Put it aside and wait a day, a week or months. Often in the fresh light of another day , what we thought was garbage, now looks brilliant, or at least salvageable for a first draft of our memoir. The lesson here is to write, keep writing, and save everything. You may not in the end, have a memoir like one of the Chilean miners, but you will have your memoir and someone will want to read it. You may be surprised how many.

Copyright © 2010, Ruth Zaryski Jackson


Kathleen Pooler said...


I think we all feel this way from time to time- that our story is mundane and who would ever want to read it. But mundane can capture our attention too as we all live mundane lives with our own personal twists..our unique stories can hit a chord with others and strike a universal note that we can relate to. Thanks for a thought-provoking post and keep writing on- only you can write your story.



Ruth Zaryski Jackson said...

Thanks for your comments.We each have our own stories to tell, don't we? The trick is to tell a universal tale with a unique and fresh slant so others will want to read it!