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Setting Aside Self While Writing an Autobiography

Many a person writing an autobiography can get extremely nervous about the road ahead. And it’s not just the normal writing process or pre-publishing jitters that get them jumpy.

It’s a matter of how they’re going to come across to readers.

“Am I going to sound egotistical?” they want to know.

From a personal and personality perspective, that’s an admirable question. Writer or not, everyone on the planet should be aware of their tendency to make it all about themselves.

The ability to be egotistical – aka, self-focused; aka, narcissistic; aka, the embodiment of obnoxious and ridiculous combined – resides within all of us. Some people may express it more obviously, but we’ve all got it in us nonetheless.

Therefore, if you're writing an autobiography and the previously mentioned question has popped into your head, congratulations on being self-aware!

To help you stay that way, Innovative Editing poses a Writing Challenge in the following statement.

Just because it’s all about you doesn’t mean it has to be all about you.

Sound weird? Let me explain. This is your story and, as such, you’re the star of the show. As well you should be. But think about other stories, whether fiction or non-fiction. How many of those main characters or primary figures operate in a vacuum?

The answer is next to none, if not none altogether. So give credit where credit is due, actively acknowledging who influenced you along the way, both directly through personal interaction and indirectly through inspiration.

People who directly influenced you could include parents, siblings, extended family, neighbors, teachers, mentors, classmates, friends, spouses, children and the like.

People who indirectly influenced you could include politicians (though probably not), historical figures, past and present inventors, past and present philosophers, celebrities (though hopefully not) and the like.

Either way, anyone capable of writing an autobiography in the first place has been positively influenced by someone. None of us operate in a void.

Take the case of Rayana Reedar, a previous Innovative Editing client whose name I’ve changed here since she’s not yet published. Rayana led one of the most difficult lives I’ve ever come in contact with.

Truly. Here are just the bare bones of some of her background details:

  • As a child, she was stolen away from a loving father by her severely psychologically damaged mother.

  • Left completely isolated most days, she developed extreme OCD tendencies, which she had no choice but to combat and treat on her own.

  • Since the therapy she chose was learning how to sing and act, her mother started pimping her out to child scouting agents in order to take the resulting paychecks for her own purposes.

  • After being kicked out of high school due to significant behavioral problems of her own, Nayana managed to once again personally pull herself up, get her GED and be accepted by a college – where she fell into an intensely abusive relationship that only showed itself as such after she got pregnant.

Nayana pulled herself up by her own boot straps time after time after time, only for someone to come along and try to kick her down yet again. This girl was used and abused by almost everyone in her life.

Yet she still managed to find inspirational figures to mention: her father, her aunt, her son, God. And she listed them off genuinely and graciously, oftentimes with great detail.

I sincerely hope your life’s story is filled with far fewer examples of negative individuals than Nayana’s. Chances are exceedingly high that it is.

In that case, you shouldn’t have too much trouble writing an autobiography that doesn't sound egotistical. If Nayana can do it, I’m convinced that anyone can.

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