What would you call your memoir if you were to write one? The genre has seriously taken off these last years, and I’m obsessed. Bookstores are heaving with autobiographies written by great achievers from sport, entertainment, business or politics. Sure, they’ve got stories to tell.
But I prefer the mundane tales by virtual nobodies. I like stories of the suburbs, of childhoods as ordinary as mine, of normal people stumbling on a bit of profound life learning. I call these stories transformational growth in a dressing gown. They rely on the quality of the writing, rather than the drama of rock-star lives, and I love their raw honesty.
I also love that many people I know are having a crack at writing their story. And not just comedians and creative types. I heard of a memoir in the making by a primary school teacher, inspired to tell the stories of the children she has taught. I’d totally read that!
So, because I believe everyone has a memoir in them, I return to the question – what would you call yours?
I’ve got a bunch of titles, even though I should clarify that I’m not writing a memoir. People tell me they’re exhausting and painful to birth, and I don’t have the emotional reserves right now. I mean, the other day I cried in Pilates because they made us hold a plank for too long. Which, ironically, is the kind of scene I might put into a memoir as I inspire my reader with tales of overcoming the day-to-day malaise of a stressed wife and mother.
Regardless of how bestseller-to-be that sounds, I can only produce the name – something that encapsulates my life, and jumps out from a shelf. Currently, my front runner is Hit and Miss. Because – well – I’m very Hit and Miss.
Take my parenting. I spent two years absolutely smashing it as the president of the parents’ association at my daughter’s school. Yet I totally forgot to buy her a winter uniform. Or my cooking. I can go from a perfectly cooked feast for my extended family of 10 one night to an utterly ruined plate of sausages and mash the next.
And it’s not for lack of trying – I approach everything with the same amount of effort and care. Being a good girl is in my genes. I’m an ’80s child raised in a conservative family – our work ethic is how we expressed love. I’m so conscientious, I write lists of the lists I need to write. I’m just – Hit and Miss.
As a title, Hit and Miss is begging for a fun pun, too. Like if my story included me being crowned Miss Australia. And maybe there was a tussle backstage with another contestant and I hit her, which led to a monumental and totally deserved fall from grace … As you see, I’m far better at fiction.
Another story of my life could be summarised with the title Waylaid, in reference to my complete inability to finish a task. Note, that’s Waylaid one word. Not, as a friend thought, Way Laid in reference to an exciting life between the sheets. Genuine LOL! I mean, I’ve no complaints in the bedroom department, but middle-aged couple, married for 20 years might struggle to find its audience.
That said, Waylaid is highly relatable. It’s for every person who sets big goals and never quite gets there. I was going to adopt a plant-based diet, study contemporary dance and move to LA. Alas, I’m still meat-eating, still can’t dance, and haven’t even visited LA.
And I can’t even say I was waylaid with madcap misadventures on the road of life. I mostly got waylaid chatting at school pick-up, incapacitated with a hangover, or scrolling Instagram. So I think that masterpiece will stay in my laptop, too.
Which leads me to something I say almost daily: Oh Well, Never Mind. It’s my response to every disaster life throws at me. It describes acceptance of what is and surrender to what will be.
And it’s an apt title for the long litany of failures my memoir could be, because it works for everything. The trivial but irritating – flat tyres, lost sunnies, missed planes. The painful and inevitable – tax bills, ageing bodies, bad colds. The deeply disappointing – lost jobs, broken hearts, bad haircuts. Oh Well, Never Mind to all of it. It doesn’t remove pain, but it does allow me to shift from struggle to calm – eventually.
And Oh Well, Never Mind to the memoir I’ll never write. I’m grateful to those courageous people who do share their secrets and invite us into their hearts. Because they put their hurts, regrets and shame on the page, I feel less alone. Whatever you call it, that’s a bestseller in my book.
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