I recently finished reading Tara Westover’s extraordinary memoir, Educated, about her fundamentalist, abusive upbringing in rural Idaho—and how getting an education saved her.

What a gripping story, written beautifully. Just the kind of unflinching memoir I love.

For all of you aspiring memoirists out there who wonder whether anyone would want to read about the difficult things that have happened in your life, I highly recommend picking up Tara’s book.

As an editor who helps authors bring their stories to the page all the time, one thing especially stood out to me about this memoir.

Tara tells her full truth, start to finish. But all it takes is a quick Google search to discover that Tara’s truth is not the same as her parents’ truth.

I point this out, because I know so many would-be authors who keep their stories inside out of fear of upsetting their families.

Tara’s parents are still alive, and they’re relatively public figures. They have disavowed her story, but say they still love their daughter.

 

"Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” ― Anne Lamott

 

Fact is, memory is an interesting thing. Each of us views the world through our own unique lens—and it may look different to us than it does to other people.

But that need not keep us from bringing our truth to the page. Educated is a shining example of this sort of bravery.

At the same time, just because each of us can tell our story—as viewed through our own unique lens—that doesn’t mean we are ready to do so.

Over 20 years of working with authors, I’ve learned that readiness is the key to all books—perhaps especially memoir. For books are born on a schedule, and the schedule might not be “ours.”

So how do you know if you’re ready to write your personal story of trial and triumph?

Ready to broadcast your life in a public way?
Ready to face potential criticism and difference with your family?
Ready to be totally honest, even when it hurts?

I created a video to answer these questions. It’s a quick self-assessment; just three questions. I hope you’ll watch it, because I hope you’ll write your story!

 

Are You Ready to Write Your Life Story?: Three Questions To Self-Assess

 

Kelly Notaras is the founder of kn literary arts and the author of THE BOOK YOU WERE BORN TO WRITE: Everything You Need to (Finally) Get Your Wisdom Onto the Page and Into the World, published by Hay House. An editor for 20 years, she’s worked at HarperCollins, Penguin, Hyperion and Sounds True. She speaks regularly at the Hay House Writer’s Workshops and offers consultation by appointment. Find out more about how she can help you with your book.