People sometimes write in the first person because they think it’s easier than writing about something else. This is false.
It’s harder, right?
Rule number one, if you’re going to write in the first person, you have to understand that the bar is way higher than if you were writing about a person, another object, another activity.
Because the reader’s expectations are higher. Nothing to do with you. Has to do with the reader. The reader has been educated on stories of great people.
When you read an autobiography, who do you read the autobiography of? You read Hillary Clinton’s autobiography. You read General MacArthur’s autobiography. You read a biography of Julius Caesar.
You read biographies and autobiographies of people who have done something extraordinary in the world. That’s what you’re thinking when you’re hearing someone tell their own story.
You’re thinking, oh, this guy, or this woman, was the one who cured cancer, who discovered a continent, who broke the code of some famous puzzle, who…
So when you’re expectation is that high, that’s what you have to deliver. If you’re writing about yourself, you’re facing these sky high expectations of what the story is going to be about.
So that’s sort of problem number one.
And problem number two is, when you write about yourself, you are engaging in a self-indulgent act. Now, I don’t mean that in the sense of a narcississistic act or an egotistical act.
But you are turning your gaze inward.
You are dealing with the contents of your own heart and mind and experience. And that raises people’s suspicions.
So the first question we have is, now, who is this person who thinks that they’re so interesting that I have to read what has gone on in their life.
And I think that expectation concerns me as a writer.
I’m not sure I have a good answer to the question of why someone should care about my life so much. And that means that I have written about my own life very sparingly.
Now, not never.
I told a couple of stories from my own life. But I mean, the number of things I can talk aobut from my own life that I think justify the self-absorption and can compete with the grand stories that are told about people’s lives out there is very small.
It’s two or three, and I can only tell them in a context where you will accept the kind of diminished dimensions of my own personal narrative.
Malcolm Gladwell Teaches Writing