|I'm Certainly Living a Ragtime Life. 1900 sheet music cover|
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Often when we think of memoirs, we think of people who have had struggles and difficult lives. The heroic stories of overcoming abuse, addictions, health challenges, and other harrowing situations seem to sell books and get media attention. But what if you've led a reasonably normal life where little that was really bad happened to you? Is an easy regular type life worth telling others about?
My life has been interesting by the standards that many would consider, but it's also been a very good and mostly easy life. Oh sure, I've had some kind of bad things that have happened in my life, but in retrospect they weren't that bad. I survived relatively intact with hurts that I've gotten over for the most part.
Divorce is never a good thing from my point of view and I've had two of them. I went through some tough times with those divorces, but they were nowhere near as bad as some divorce stories I've heard. And in the end I think I came out ahead in a better circumstance after each of them. No harrowing divorce or child custody stories there.
So what does one do with a good life when telling the memoir story? With the divorce stories I could dramatize them a bit more than they were, and indeed there were some dramatic story-worthy parts to those. My life on the road is filled with stories that many might find interesting. The years of my childhood might be worthy fodder for memoir. The stories are there. They always are there in any of our lives.
The interest factor comes mostly in the telling of the stories. There have been memoirs that I've read that by all standards should have been fascinating except the storytelling was dull and lifeless. On the other hand I can think of some memoirs that on the surface did not seem extraordinary, but the telling of the stories was so engaging that the books had my attention throughout. A poorly written memoir can turn a great life into a lackluster sequence of events while a well told narration can make a trip to the grocery store unique and interesting.
My good life? How should I tell it? A comic approach can be very entertaining, but comedy is not so easy for all of us. A lighthearted saga filled with hyperbole and fun anecdotes might work well. Or maybe I should just tell it like it was in my own voice.
A good life doesn't have to be a boring life.
Do you like to read well-written accounts of events that don't seem particularly eventful? How does a book about suffering and sadness affect you? Would you rather read about a tragic life or a happy life?