Writing About Your Life – William Zinsser

I loved this book. I had no thoughts on writing a memoir or anything like such an undertaking, but I feel inspired write more about my life now. The author lived through an incredible period in time and had extraordinary experiences, but he emphasizes that readers relate and respond to your perspective on the events in your life and the larger world.

Look for small anecdotes in the larger canvas of your life. They will help you to reduce to human scale the big events you’ve been caught up in. (pg 32)

Don’t overlook the seemingly small stories in your life that shaped the person you turned out to be. (pg 35)

Reading bits of his essays were delightful and betrayed his innate optimism, which is infectious. You just feel good after reading his work. The author’s career as a teacher and mentor also really came through in his writing, I found the little bits of advice sprinkled throughout reassuring and encouraging. Some gems like:

Change is a tonic. (P 126)

Don’t weaken yourself with negative energy. (P 127)

I believe that one thing leads to another. If you tell enough people about your hopes and dreams, someday a circle will connect. (P 128)

Your options are not as limited as you think. Don’t assume that the people you would like to work for have defined their needs as narrowly as you suppose. Sell yourself as something new and different. (p 134)

Near the end he shares an essay by Pablo Neruda that a reader shared with him from the book The Gift by Lewis Hyde. It ends on a beautiful thought.

“I have been a lucky man. To feel the intimacy of brothers is a marvelous thing in life. To feel the love of people whom we love is a fire that feeds our life. But to feel the affection that comes from those whom we do not know, from those unknown to us, who are watching over our sleep and our solitude, over our dangers and our weaknesses–that is something still greater and more beautiful because it widens out the boundaries of our being, and unites all living things.”

Pablo Neruda, essay “Childhood and Poetry”

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