– by Leona Choy
I’ve never taken a “selfie” picture with my smart phone camera. One of my grandsons showed me how easily it’s done, but it just isn’t my thing. I’m self-conscious by nature.
Writing and publishing one’s memoir or autobiography, however, is a selfie on paper with indelible ink with which I agree. It isn’t conceited or prideful to write one’s own story, to deliberately turn up the kleig lights on the stage where you are performing your life drama. After all, what is one of the first actions of a president vacating the White House? He writes his memoirs. He wants to have some control over his legacy before it slips out of his hands into the hands of someone else who may think otherwise about him and his accomplishments during his time in office.
One doesn’t have to be a celebrity with name or face recognition. So if I dare to write my memoirs, do I think that I am somebody? Of course I am. Every person is somebody special and important to God and to one’s family and friends and to the larger orbit of his influence. Since God gave me life and invested decades in my learning experiences and polishing my rough edges, wouldn’t He expect me to be a good steward by passing on to others an account of my life? I too want to have some control over my legacy.
I got my start in publishing by ghostwriting selfies for prominent people who were not writers. That led to writing biographies, both historical and current. Then followed a number of “with” and “as told to” biographies. In my capacity as an editor I walked about a dozen non-writers through the arduous task of turning their dreams into their published life story. I wrote my late husband’s biography. I taught workshops on the how-to of writing one’s story. I published a book based on those workshops titled This is Your Life—Write It! Leave Legacy Footprints which has gone through several printings.
While doing all the above, I still didn’t get around to write my own autobiography until I turned 77!
I thought that might be my final book, given my age and the fact that I already had over thirty books in print. Perhaps it was time to retire. It turned out that my auto-bio, Czeching My Roots: A Heritage Saga, was only a launching pad for much more writing ahead. A lot more was still to happen: cancer, widowhood, more world travel for research, adventure and ministry. Little did I know that I would write and publish more than a dozen books yet. These included a couple of auto-bio sequels, the most recent of them, Writing for the Supreme Editor: My Wordsmithing Life, just off the press. Having been blessed and surprised with longevity, I keep living out the sayings, The Best is Yet to Come and It’s Always Too Soon to Quit.
I invest my time currently coaching emerging writers, whether they are youthful wanna-bes or seasoned seniors, aspiring or expert. I affirm them in their dream to write to publish, to try their wings by writing a selfie in some form. They know themselves better than anyone.
Whether or not a memoir is destined for wide publication is not the primary reason to write one’s life. The writer of a selfie stands to benefit the most from the exercise. While sharpening his writing skills, he gains perspective on his own life. He creates an extension of himself that has some permanency. He exposes his real self, imperfect as he is, to his family first of all—if they ever get around to reading his book. Jesus stated it realistically: a prophet is not without honor except in his own country. As writers, let’s face it—we might not receive our loudest applause from family.
A selfie gives the writer the opportunity to express what might otherwise be difficult face to face before those closest to us. It is a legacy thing. My descendants generations removed won’t be able to know me in person, but by reading my selfie they will understand my dreams, hopes, feelings, needs, loves, hurts, struggles and joys and compare them with theirs. We need to own our shortcomings while not dwelling on them. If we have acquired wisdom and enjoyed successes, we don’t profit our readers by down-playing them with false modesty.
Writing a selfie is like looking at our lives in the rear view mirror from whatever season of life we find ourselves. We have a chance to trace with gratitude the loving hand of God even in the ups and downs of our life journey. Writing a memoir is a fascinating scenic drive to look all the way back to the foothills of our childhood and even underground to the history of our forefathers.