It may seem the most natural starting place for first-time writers; to write about themselves.
Writing about ourselves comes in many forms.
- Journal writing. This is usually a private, often therapeutic form of writing (and not the same as presenting a story in diary entries as a literary device).
- Autobiography, one’s own life story, or Family History with a broader perspective. The history of a family or an individual’s involvement in an important organization or a ground-breaking institution might be the key to the larger story that may inspire, inform, educate or set the record straight.
- A history or personal history about a time, a place, or an organization as seen through the eyes of the author is also a form of personal writing.
- And, entrepreneurs often write a history of the family business. These non-fictions are often described as legacy books.
- A collection of essays can also be a personal form of writing.
Another option is a memoir. This type of non-fiction book focuses on a specific period or event in the writer’s life – not as broad a look back as an autobiography. The majority of memoirs are penned by celebrities (or their ghostwriters), with recent titles from the likes of Tiffany Haddish, and Amy Schumer.
But beware memoirists! Without a celebrity-like platform of your own, many agents and publishers will back away slowly if you say “I’m writing a memoir.” Especially if it is your first book.
One writer who writes about her life is Michelle Tea. In an interview with Fiona Sturges in The Guardian, the author of the collection of essays, Against Memoir, said, “My daily life is informed by my past traumas. I don’t dwell on them and neither do I bury them. … People say that it’s cathartic to write about certain things. I don’t feel like it’s cathartic, but I also don’t feel like it’s opening a wound. I feel like it’s just talking about life.”
But if you are not writing a memoir, if you are writing a how-to or self-help book, for instance, it is still reasonable and expected that you include some of your personal experiences. How much of your story then becomes an important question in your writing.