The client was at the top of his profession, and he was one of those rare types who seemed to rise through the ranks without getting a single hair out of place.
On paper, he appeared to be utterly without drama or conflict. He was reared in a good home, went to good schools, got a foot in the door of his chosen profession, worked hard, etc. He joked that he sometimes introduced his wife as “his first wife,” after 32 blissful years of marriage.
“My life is so boring,” he said, “but my children want me to write a memoir for the grandkids.”
I told him that when you scratch the surface, no one’s life is boring.
Some conflict turns lives upside down: wars, hurricanes, addiction, violence. But most conflict isn’t big at all.
Lives are changed with the subtlest of events. Someone once told me that she left her fiancée, and packed up and moved to another state three days later, all because of a look he gave her across the dinner table.
The facts of our lives are not our life stories, but they provide the building blocks. As Dwight Swain noted in Techniques of the Selling Writer, “Facts exist independently, outside people. But they have meaning and/or significance only as we have feelings about them; react to them.”
One way to get to the heartbeat of a “boring” life is to ask the following:
Many excellent memoirs delve into the quietest of lives. If you pick the five or six milestones of your life and answer these questions, you’ll be off to a good start with your own life story.
--Ann Kellett, Ph.D.
Ann Kellett Editing