As a memoir ghostwriter, personal historian, and teacher of autobiographical writing classes, I often tell my students and clients of all ages, “You’re never too young to write your life story!” So naturally this recent headline caught my eye on the HLN website: “Too young to write your memoir? Not these celebs!” The story focuses on the recent release of Olympic gold medal gymnast Gabby Douglas’s memoir “Grace, Gold & Glory.” It stirred a lively online discussion, which I had to join in:
As I read the article and comments, I immediately thought of Ben Rubenstein. Ben came to me seeking support to tell his story of overcoming two major battles with cancer. His resulting memoir is Twice: How I became a Cancer-Slaying Superman Before I Turned 21. Try telling Ben he was too young to write about his life!
Those who would argue that you must have reached a certain arbitrary age to be “eligible” to write something about your life in a book may be confused about the difference between a memoir and an autobiography. The two terms are often used interchangeably, and for the most part the definitions really don’t matter much these days anyway. But it can help to think of a memoir as telling a “slice of life” or an account of one dramatic life experience, whereas an autobiography attempts to give voice to your entire life. I would still argue that even if you set out to write your autobiography, you should not have to pass an age test. If you want to reflect upon your life and your age happens to fall far below the senior discount line, more power to you. But with a memoir especially, age is far less important than what you have to say.
This is something I discuss in my book, Your Life Is a Book And It’s Time To Write It: An A-to-Z Guide To Help Anyone Write Their Life Story. I explain how in my work as memoir ghostwriter and teacher of Writing Your Life Story classes, I’ve had the privilege to assist students and clients from 19 to 94. My message is this: the time to write your life story is when that voice inside you tells you that you have something important to share, something that may reach and even inspire others. Have you overcome an illness or disease or some other crisis? Did you achieve a dream or something greater that you could ever have imagined to be possible? Did you have an adventure that will forever change who you are and how you look at life?
Then you have the right to write about it in a memoir, or whatever you want to call your account of your life experience. You are not too young. And if you get the urge to write another memoir 30, 40, or 50 years down the road, you won’t be too old to write it!
– Kevin Quirk is a memoir ghostwriter, personal historian and teacher of Writing Your Life Story classes who assists clients of all ages in writing the most meaningful stories of their lives.