Updated: Aug 1
Imagine you are on the brink of writing a book, and the question is, should my book be a memoir or a self-help?
These two powerful genres stand out for their ability to touch hearts and minds. Both forms of writing delve into the depths of personal experiences and insights, connecting with readers emotionally.
But which is right for you?
In this article, I’m going to look at some reasons why you might choose one over the other. As you read this, notice how you feel when you look at the reasons. Is there any resistance to either – explore it?
I have found it easier to write self-help because when I write a memoir, I feel naked and exposed. Those feelings haven’t stopped me because I am one of ‘those’ that likes to be pushed out of her comfort zone.
What is a Memoir?
You probably know this already. However, at its core, a memoir is a part of your life written like a story from the author's personal experiences, reflections, and memories.
Unlike an autobiography that encompasses an individual's whole life, usually someone famous, a memoir often focuses on a specific period, event, or theme. The beauty of a memoir lies in its raw and authentic nature, as authors share their vulnerabilities, triumphs, and life lessons with readers.
Many read like fiction and can seem wilder than fiction, but others also share elements of self-help woven between the stories.
The last memoir I read was Girl Walks Out Of A Bar, it was shocking, powerful, and eye-opening, and it made me think a lot about my party days and my father’s alcoholism.
Benefits of Memoir Writing
Cathartic And Therapeutic
Every memoir I have written has been cathartic and therapeutic. Writing a memoir is an opportunity for self-discovery and healing. It allows us to make sense of the past and find closure.
As a side note, this is also an opportunity to explore any healing themes with a professional so that you can write from a less vulnerable place. I’ll be writing shortly about memoirs and traumatic memories.
Memoirs can be emotionally charged, as writers bare their souls and openly express their feelings and thoughts. This emotional connection resonates with readers, fostering empathy and understanding.
Inspiration and Empowerment
This is where you show the ‘if it's possible for me, it’s possible in the world’ side of inspiring others. Stories touch hearts and souls by demonstrating the resilience and strength of the human spirit. They offer valuable life lessons and insights that can guide others through their own challenges. This is the part I love, seeing others overcoming horrible things and living their best lives.
You Love Telling Stories
I think that this is a great outlet for creativity. Our inner storyteller is lurking in there somewhere. I’m trying to write a novel and finding it hard, but I love writing my stories because I find it healing.
What is a Self-Help Book?
Again this is pretty obvious. A self-help book is a genre that aims to offer guidance, solutions, and advice to readers facing specific challenges or looking for ways to grow.
These books address various topics, including health, relationships, career, and spirituality. They are often structured to provide actionable steps for readers to implement in their lives. You’ll see a lot of x steps to or the x keys to something.
They can and often do include personal stories, but not as in-depth as a memoir. I like to read a mix of stories and self-help, but I primarily want to know how to do something, so I prefer that the book is introduced with a brief story, followed by chapters that show how to do things. You may not agree, but I like a self-help book I can dive into and try things out.
Benefits of Writing a Self-Help Book
Without a doubt, this is a powerful motivation. When I write, I want to support others to be able to do things and walk away with a great outcome. Then, of course, there are practical tools and strategies to overcome obstacles and support others to achieve their goals.
Who doesn’t want to be seen as the subject matter expert? A book will enhance your credibility and authority, opening up opportunities for lots of other things like speaking and developing other products and services.
I’ve thrown this in because, in the past, lots of people thought that writing a book would make them lots of dosh. While the book might, it’s more likely that the author will make more from products and services because they are seen as the expert.
Reasons For Both
Preserving Personal Legacy
Legacy is what you leave behind. This could be when you depart the planet or leave the room. Many write to immortalise their experiences and stories for future generations, creating a lasting legacy that can inspire and impact others for years.
My mum has written many books for the family as part of her preparations for departing Earth (we hope many years in the distance). She wants one of each of her books on the bookshelf for others to read when she is gone.
For others, this leaves fragments of their lives and wisdom.
I believe that many people have a calling. You might have known about it forever, or it may have become apparent as your life evolved. You may call your calling your soul purpose or your mission, and you may even call it the business of your life. The names are not important. What is important is that you can bring it into being and serve the right people so that they, too, can make a difference, live a good life, and leave this world (or the room) a better place.
Making a difference and feeling fulfilled drive many of us, and I have a question what do you want to leave behind?
Now for all of the c reasons…
Your book connects you to others who need to hear your words, know what is possible for them and gives them the motivation to come and work with you.
Your words inspire change in others and the world.
Going through stuff, however, that shows up and coming out the other side as a published author is amazing for your inner confidence.
Whether you believe it or not, you are an expert. The trouble is, you probably take all your knowledge, skills and experience for granted and assume that everyone else can do what you do too. They can’t.
We all have competitors; I bet only a few have written and published books. It is said that out of all of the people who start to write, only 2% complete their project. Therefore, your book will give you an ‘unfair advantage.' Plus, this ONE THING can turn into many things and provide you with a treasure chest of resources. Yes, even a memoir.
Convert – Leads To Customers
A book is a brilliant marketing tool. It is more than your business card; it makes an introduction like no other. It works for you whilst you sleep and prepares your market for you.
Your book is only one way to say what you do. Following publication, you can launch in many different ways to demonstrate this. That could be workshops, online courses, videos, mastermind groups, webinars, live streams, blogs, or programs; the ideas are endless.
Why Do You Want To Write A Book?
That’s a lot of reasons. However, it does come back to your motivations and why because anything without a why will generally get ignored. Go on then, you know you want to ask yourself the question, why do I want to write a book?
It is important to get clear about why you want to write, what you want to write about, how you will make it all happen and what if you didn’t.
Your readers will have expectations. Your role as a writer is to make sure those expectations are met while at the same time fulfilling the purpose of your writing. Getting clear on your “why” will help you gain this clarity.
Why Your Book?
This is something that comes up a lot.
Why would anyone want to read my book or story? You may feel your story or business concept has been explored and told a thousand times.
Think of all the films you have been to see. So many seem to be similar, yet there is a central idea that is different, that takes us by surprise and has us gripped, right through to those final moments when THE END comes, and we are left sitting staring at a blank screen, wanting more. Unlike a film, we cannot add special effects or thrilling sounds, but we can add the things that make it different, according to you.
When you share something that gives you purpose, it can only serve to inspire others who read it.
Ask yourself what you want to feel when you read your book. What do you want others to feel? Excitement, passion, the familiarity of sipping tea with an old friend, in tune with the conflict and energised into action? What do you want them to know or do?
How on earth, you may ask, can you create a unique book when so many people have been ill, divorced, climbed a mountain, been abused, sick and healed, travelled the world, built businesses and are experts in your domain……?
What makes it different is your take on it, your inner vision and wisdom, how you did what you did, and how you convey your inspirational message and purpose to the reader.
Choosing Between Memoir and Self-Help Book
Ok, it's time to think about choosing between the two. The decision ultimately depends on your goals as an author and the message you want to convey.
Choose a memoir if you have a compelling personal story and if you have experienced transformative life events or overcome significant challenges. A memoir allows you to share your journey and offer hope to others facing similar struggles.
Memoirs help you to create a greater emotional connection with your readers and share the depths of your emotions and experiences. They can be a therapeutic process, allowing you to explore your past, find closure, and embark on a journey of healing. That’s what they do for me.
Another reason that is often overlooked is if you want to write a novel that covers some of what you went through, it may be easier to write the memoir first to get it all out. Though. of course, you may choose the fiction route first. I used to love writing short creative stories that melded real life with fiction, and you wouldn’t want to be the baddie of the piece.
Choose a self-help book if you want to help others. If your primary goal is to offer guidance, solutions, and support to readers facing specific challenges, a self-help book enables you to provide actionable advice. As we have said, this kind of book positions you as an authority on the subject.
A word of caution here is just because you can write a self-help book doesn’t mean you have to. I once wrote a book called Healing Osteoporosis Naturally. I healed a fractured spine and a few other things, and writing the book was cathartic, and at the end, I felt like an authority.
But did I feel passion for the subject? No, I didn’t, and so I never published. But I will forever be grateful that I did it.
And there we have it. I think that a lot of people write self-help first because it feels easier than a memoir. If your memoir covers traumatic stuff, this is a good way to get your wisdom out there without going into any depth.
Start whichever calls to you. You can always change your mind.
Whichever path you choose, remember that both genres have the potential to leave a lasting impression on the lives of your reader.
Dip your toe into memoir with this 10-Day Kickstart Memoir Writing Experience.
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