Advice from Phillip Lopate on Writing About Your Own Life


One of Lois Roelofs’ reading assignments for a recent writing conference was Phillip Lopate’s Writing Personal Essays: On the Necessity of Turning Oneself into a Character. In “Write Along with Me,” she relays great advice from Lopate on writing personal essays and memoir, while contemplating how best to document her own life story.

Think of your quirks

No one wants to read boring stuff, so look for those things that make you unique. None of us is the same, so capitalize on it. When folks tell me they could never be a nurse because of the awful bodily things we have to do, I laugh and say, “I understand. Not all people can be excited about bowel movements.” I’m serious. When a patient had been constipated from days on narcotics, I felt as good as the patient when the stool softeners, or the enema I’d given, finally worked. And…

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