Read a lot of women’s magazines, and you start to notice something. A lot of articles start with first person anecdotes. Our writer has been struggling to schedule date night, to lose weight, to find a method of birth control she doesn’t hate, to get ahold of her finances. She achieves some epiphany, and then we move into the bulk of the article.
There are a few reasons for this first person approach. First, it seems relatable. I’m just a girlfriend sharing a tale! It’s how much of the blogosphere operates, me included, and we’re comfortable with this format. But second, it is really, really hard to find anecdotes from other people — who are willing to let you use their real names — that perfectly illustrate your point.
When you use your own life, however, you can be very selective about details and mold the story into its most convenient form.
I’ve been pondering this as I’m editing Mosaic. Some people like to write about themselves. I’ve never been one for over-sharing. My life also isn’t that dramatic. I was working on a money piece for a women’s magazine once that didn’t pan out in part because I’ve never had any big money problems. I’m lucky, for sure. I’m also kind of even-keeled. Life is not lived in epiphanies. I can’t create rock-bottom-and-redemption-moments where they don’t exist.
I’ve realized, in editing my manuscript, that I’ve sometimes thrown in personal anecdotes because I haven’t done enough work. I haven’t found a story from another woman — who is willing to let me use her real name — that illustrates the same point. Some Laura stories are OK. But this is not a book about me. When I’m writing about myself, I’ve often given in to the lure of lazy writing.
The good news is that I recognize that, and I’ve got time. That’s why I’ve done a number of additional interviews this week (thanks to everyone who volunteered!) and I’m hoping to do more. This is a book about 1000 days in the lives of professional women and their families. I’m just a few of those days. Best to keep the proportion in check.