Commonplace

“Don’t fucking lie. Seriously, don’t fucking lie. Don’t claim to have been the only white girl gang-banging in South Central. Don’t claim to have been raised by wolves. Don’t claim that you took a root canal without pain killers. You are not a bad ass. You are a writer. The first step is to accept this and not fucking lie.

“Accept the limitations and boredom of your life as the challenge of writing. Accept your profound lameness as the wages of your craft. The problem is never that your life isn’t interesting enough, it’s that you aren’t looking (or writing) hard enough. Don’t lie. Not to your readers. And not to yourself. Be a skeptic of your own recollections. Ask your family and friends how they remember things. And don’t fucking lie. Don’t pretend that you are a victim while you are, in fact, holding the great power of print. Most of the people who will appear in your book (assuming they are real because you haven’t fucking lied) will never have a chance to defend themselves. You have the power. Don’t lie to yourself and pretend you don’t.

“Great memoir requires great courage and an appetite for sincere self-skepticism. To do this, you cannot fucking lie.”

—Ta-Nehisi Coates, giving advice on writing memoirs

About Walter Biggins

Walter Biggins is a writer based in Athens, GA. His work has been published in RogerEbert.com, Bookslut, The Comics Journal, Salon, The Baseball Chronicle, Jackson Free Press, and Valley Voices: A Literary Review. Follow him on Twitter (@walter_biggins), and check out his bimonthly newsletter (https://tinyletter.com/Walter_Biggins).
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