My mother has asked me this regarding my memoir about my sexy single girl travel adventures two or three dozen times, hoping to protect the innocent (herself, my fiancé, Russian and Brazilian and Israeli and Australian bartenders).
And it’s a seductive idea, this notion of hiding in fiction. I’m terrified of publishing what is a more entertaining version of my diary. But despite the warm blanket that pretending to fictionalize one’s life presents, I just can’t do it.
When I am reading fiction, I don’t know for certain that the life into which I’m peeking is a real possibility for an actual person to live. And what greater joy is there in the world than introducing another person to a brand new possibility?
“I tried this because of you, and it changed me”— – these are easily the words that I’d want to hear above all others, including the big ones: “I love you,” “You won the lottery,” and “I love you and you won the lottery, Madame President.”
This desire to inspire is especially important to me because the question “How did you even think to do that?” has surprisingly turned out to be the most frequent question I’m asked in my life as a writer and traveler.
How did I think to become a sitcom writer? How did I think to go to Iceland? Not how did I get into Hollywood? Or what did I love most about Iceland?
It seems to be the most mystifying to people that I even thought to make many of the choices I’ve made in my life in the first place. The hardest thing for people to imagine is simply imagining.
People have been buying plane tickets after reading my book. They’ve been writing me that they were finally inspired to have adventures that they were afraid to have before reading about me getting over my skittishness and going out to have one.
My first notes call with my editor had to be rescheduled because she was on a girl’s trip in Iceland—that she was inspired to take because of reading my manuscript. If I die tomorrow, and no one else reads the book, all of the potential embarrassment of sharing my true life’s story has been worth it. Another human had an adventure because of my story. My heart is full.
Would those plane tickets have been bought if I had written a “novel” about a single girl making the most of her freedom? Maybe. But knowing for sure that you aren’t the first person in the world to do something scary makes it just a little less scary.
And I would never want to risk those passport stamps.
Congrats to Zoe R., Leslie P., Tanya F., Charisse R., Lynne K., and 195 other members of the Read It Forward community! Their entries were selected at random to win an Advance Reader’s Copy of What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristin Newman.
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RIFers! If you were to write your life story, would you write a memoir or a novel? Tell us in the comments!