Qualifications needed to write an Autobiography?

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Sushan
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Qualifications needed to write an Autobiography?

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This topic is about the December 2021 Philosophy Book of the Month, A Dream For Peace: An Ambassador Memoir by Dr.Ghoulem Berrah



Until I read this book, I have never heard of Dr.Ghoulem Berrah. And then I googled about him and did not find much. Most importantly there were not enough details to cross check what he has written.

There are many celebrities and far more famous people who have not written any autobiographies. But this author has chosen to do so (This is not intended in any way to disrespect this renowned diplomat). So what makes one qualified enough to write an autobiography? Why people write autobiographies? Is it to make others better by taking him/her as an example? Or is it merely because of his/her ego?
“There is only one thing a philosopher can be relied upon to do, and that is to contradict other philosophers”

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JackDaydream
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Re: Qualifications needed to write an Autobiography?

Post by JackDaydream »

@Sushan

One aspect of writing an autobiography may be as a form of reflection and understanding. One task which was given in a religious studies class in sixth form was to write a 'spiritual autobiography'. I found this such an interesting task and it lead me to reflect on my own inner experience. It felt like an important excursion into philosophy.

Shortly afterwards, I discovered the autobiography written by Carl Jung, 'Memories, Dreams and Reflections'. This book was a thorough examination of his life and looked at its meaning. However, this takes autobiographical writing beyond the expression of self to develop it as a genre of expression. Also, autobiography is a possible form of writing philosophy, rather than it being a form of academic writing and one writer who has done this is Bryan McGee.

Of course, there is a difference between writing for reflection and writing to be read by other people, but it may be that reflective writing can be done in such a way that it can be improverised on to make it worthwhile reading for others. Perhaps, the genre of autobiographical writing offers scope for looking at inner life and philosophy rather than just being about the lives of rich and famous people.
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Re: Qualifications needed to write an Autobiography?

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Sushan wrote: December 4th, 2021, 5:58 am So what makes one qualified enough to write an autobiography? Why people write autobiographies? Is it to make others better by taking him/her as an example? Or is it merely because of his/her ego?
I was stuck by the oddness of this thread title.

There is only one qualification to be able to write an autobiography and that is to be literate enough to tell your story.
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Re: Qualifications needed to write an Autobiography?

Post by Gee »

Sculptor1 wrote: December 4th, 2021, 9:47 am
Sushan wrote: December 4th, 2021, 5:58 am So what makes one qualified enough to write an autobiography? Why people write autobiographies? Is it to make others better by taking him/her as an example? Or is it merely because of his/her ego?
I was stuck by the oddness of this thread title.

There is only one qualification to be able to write an autobiography and that is to be literate enough to tell your story.
I agree. Getting it published is another story; if you can't, then what you have written is a journal or maybe a diary.

Gee
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Re: Qualifications needed to write an Autobiography?

Post by Sculptor1 »

Gee wrote: December 4th, 2021, 1:59 pm
Sculptor1 wrote: December 4th, 2021, 9:47 am
Sushan wrote: December 4th, 2021, 5:58 am So what makes one qualified enough to write an autobiography? Why people write autobiographies? Is it to make others better by taking him/her as an example? Or is it merely because of his/her ego?
I was stuck by the oddness of this thread title.

There is only one qualification to be able to write an autobiography and that is to be literate enough to tell your story.
I agree. Getting it published is another story; if you can't, then what you have written is a journal or maybe a diary.

Gee
Then you need to ask what are the qualifications needed for getting published.
These days that bar is very low, since there is a range of self publishing routes.

Beyond that the needs are the same for any book. Why would another person want to read what you write, is the question.
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Re: Qualifications needed to write an Autobiography?

Post by JackDaydream »

@Sculptor1
It is interesting to know what are the qualifications to write, especially in the realms of autobiographical ideas and philosophy. Unfortunately, a lot may come down to popularity. Personally, I feel that I have a lot to say but no audience, so it makes me feel like giving up writing and speaking. It may be that those whose autobiographies will be heard will be those in positions of prominence, or unusual circumstances, while others' voices will be disregarded and silenced as being so insignificant. One question may be what makes one's life interesting to others?
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Re: Qualifications needed to write an Autobiography?

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Sculptor1 wrote: December 4th, 2021, 7:06 pm Then you need to ask what are the qualifications needed for getting published.
These days that bar is very low, since there is a range of self publishing routes.
I know someone, who paid a lot of money to have his book published. He believed he had made some serious breakthroughs in the study of consciousness and dark matter. I purchased his book, mostly in support of his work, but found that he was in serious need of an editor, ghost writer, or proofreader. That can be a problem when one is not a professional writer, so I would not recommend this route for most people.

We used to be able to send short stories to magazines for publication, but magazines are not doing well right now, so I am not sure this is a viable way to gain experience.

If you are going to send your work to a publisher, I recommend that you make your first chapter a "grabber" with emotional interest -- or else no one will read the rest of the book. So, it won't get published. These people have to read a lot of books, so if you can't get their interest in the first chapter, they are not going to read the rest -- they will go on to another book.
Sculptor1 wrote: December 4th, 2021, 7:06 pm Beyond that the needs are the same for any book. Why would another person want to read what you write, is the question.
Because you have allowed them to get inside you. That is what makes the writing good, it is like looking through someone else's purse or their bedroom dresser drawers; good writing is damned personal. And we are curious about other people, other perspectives, other experiences.

It does not matter if you live in interesting times because all times can be interesting, all lives can be interesting, and all circumstances can be interesting, if the writer finds them interesting and they are presented in a personal way. My English professor tried to get me to take a class that teaches one how to write a book because he thought I was a natural writer, but I did not want to write a book. I knew that I would have to put too much of myself into it in order for the book to be good, and I like my privacy. Even a fictional book tells a great deal about the author.

Gee
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Re: Qualifications needed to write an Autobiography?

Post by Sculptor1 »

Gee wrote: December 5th, 2021, 1:41 am
Sculptor1 wrote: December 4th, 2021, 7:06 pm Then you need to ask what are the qualifications needed for getting published.
These days that bar is very low, since there is a range of self publishing routes.
I know someone, who paid a lot of money to have his book published. He believed he had made some serious breakthroughs in the study of consciousness and dark matter. I purchased his book, mostly in support of his work, but found that he was in serious need of an editor, ghost writer, or proofreader. That can be a problem when one is not a professional writer, so I would not recommend this route for most people.
You can self publish at no cost. You can also get free advice about editting and proof reading.
You will also need to promote your book. That is the thing that legacy publishers already have an infrastructure for, and the only good reason to go the old route.

We used to be able to send short stories to magazines for publication, but magazines are not doing well right now, so I am not sure this is a viable way to gain experience.
The opportunities for this are way bigger than they ever have been in history. You can even get your short stories read out by volunatray and professional voice actors too, with no loss of copyright.
The only difference is that the story will be podcast rather than in paper.

If you are going to send your work to a publisher, I recommend that you make your first chapter a "grabber" with emotional interest -- or else no one will read the rest of the book. So, it won't get published. These people have to read a lot of books, so if you can't get their interest in the first chapter, they are not going to read the rest -- they will go on to another book.
Grabber strategy is good for all routes, unless you are established with a following.
Most films not begin in the middle with the action and immediately retreat to "One year earlier" - or one week etc. As mosny films are designed for Netlfix, and other open source outlets where people surf the intro before choosing to stop and watch the whole thing.
Sculptor1 wrote: December 4th, 2021, 7:06 pm Beyond that the needs are the same for any book. Why would another person want to read what you write, is the question.
Because you have allowed them to get inside you. That is what makes the writing good, it is like looking through someone else's purse or their bedroom dresser drawers; good writing is damned personal. And we are curious about other people, other perspectives, other experiences.
Celebrities and other notorious people have the advantage here. If you are an unknown then you have a hill to climb.

It does not matter if you live in interesting times because all times can be interesting, all lives can be interesting, and all circumstances can be interesting, if the writer finds them interesting and they are presented in a personal way. My English professor tried to get me to take a class that teaches one how to write a book because he thought I was a natural writer, but I did not want to write a book. I knew that I would have to put too much of myself into it in order for the book to be good, and I like my privacy. Even a fictional book tells a great deal about the author.

Gee
True.
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Re: Qualifications needed to write an Autobiography?

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JackDaydream wrote: December 4th, 2021, 8:13 am @Sushan

One aspect of writing an autobiography may be as a form of reflection and understanding. One task which was given in a religious studies class in sixth form was to write a 'spiritual autobiography'. I found this such an interesting task and it lead me to reflect on my own inner experience. It felt like an important excursion into philosophy.

Shortly afterwards, I discovered the autobiography written by Carl Jung, 'Memories, Dreams and Reflections'. This book was a thorough examination of his life and looked at its meaning. However, this takes autobiographical writing beyond the expression of self to develop it as a genre of expression. Also, autobiography is a possible form of writing philosophy, rather than it being a form of academic writing and one writer who has done this is Bryan McGee.

Of course, there is a difference between writing for reflection and writing to be read by other people, but it may be that reflective writing can be done in such a way that it can be improverised on to make it worthwhile reading for others. Perhaps, the genre of autobiographical writing offers scope for looking at inner life and philosophy rather than just being about the lives of rich and famous people.
What an iinsightful comment. That is a real good use of on autobiography, to reflect over one's self. Though we can leisurely ruminate over and over about our past life, writing it will take the rumination to a different and more useful level. When such a self reflection is good enough to be used to mentor others, then it should be published for the betterment of the others. But it should be seen and assesed by someone who knows the fellow, yet can do an unbiased judgement since anyone will see his/her own work as faultless unless pointed out by someone.
“There is only one thing a philosopher can be relied upon to do, and that is to contradict other philosophers”

– William James
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Re: Qualifications needed to write an Autobiography?

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Sculptor1 wrote: December 4th, 2021, 9:47 am
Sushan wrote: December 4th, 2021, 5:58 am So what makes one qualified enough to write an autobiography? Why people write autobiographies? Is it to make others better by taking him/her as an example? Or is it merely because of his/her ego?
I was stuck by the oddness of this thread title.

There is only one qualification to be able to write an autobiography and that is to be literate enough to tell your story.
Seemingly I have been wrong that everyone will understand the real question without just going for the meaning of the words. Yes, you are correct. If one can write, he/she can write anything including an autobiography. Many people write diaries, but they do not allow them to be read by others. But some people like this author choose to reveal their personal doings, thoughts, and matters to the whole world. What make this difference? What makes someone more prone or more suitable than someone else to tell his/her story to others?
“There is only one thing a philosopher can be relied upon to do, and that is to contradict other philosophers”

– William James
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Re: Qualifications needed to write an Autobiography?

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Gee wrote: December 4th, 2021, 1:59 pm
Sculptor1 wrote: December 4th, 2021, 9:47 am
Sushan wrote: December 4th, 2021, 5:58 am So what makes one qualified enough to write an autobiography? Why people write autobiographies? Is it to make others better by taking him/her as an example? Or is it merely because of his/her ego?
I was stuck by the oddness of this thread title.

There is only one qualification to be able to write an autobiography and that is to be literate enough to tell your story.
I agree. Getting it published is another story; if you can't, then what you have written is a journal or maybe a diary.

Gee
I think publishing whatever the book (an autobiography or something else) and the related business part is quite complex. Usually the editor has to be satisfied about the quality of the book. But not all the good books are published, but only the potentially profitable ones get through. Even Lord Jesus wrote an autobiography, an editor may reject it if he/she think that it may not make any profits to them. So the content is not the only thing that matters, but the way that you present it. So when we apply this to the already published memoirs and autobiographies it leaves the question whether the book carries the truth or what the audience expects!
“There is only one thing a philosopher can be relied upon to do, and that is to contradict other philosophers”

– William James
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Re: Qualifications needed to write an Autobiography?

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Sculptor1 wrote: December 4th, 2021, 7:06 pm
Gee wrote: December 4th, 2021, 1:59 pm
Sculptor1 wrote: December 4th, 2021, 9:47 am
Sushan wrote: December 4th, 2021, 5:58 am So what makes one qualified enough to write an autobiography? Why people write autobiographies? Is it to make others better by taking him/her as an example? Or is it merely because of his/her ego?
I was stuck by the oddness of this thread title.

There is only one qualification to be able to write an autobiography and that is to be literate enough to tell your story.
I agree. Getting it published is another story; if you can't, then what you have written is a journal or maybe a diary.

Gee
Then you need to ask what are the qualifications needed for getting published.
These days that bar is very low, since there is a range of self publishing routes.

Beyond that the needs are the same for any book. Why would another person want to read what you write, is the question.
Self-published books have become best-sellers. At the same time the ones that have selected by editors have gone into dustbin. So maybe it is not just about writing or publishing, but marketing and actually selling. An editor can read a book and decide whether it is a good one or a bad one. But how can he really guess whether it will be well sold or not? And what makes an editor the ultimate judge to select what books to be published or not? I think it just depends on the experience of the editor, with some luck included too.
“There is only one thing a philosopher can be relied upon to do, and that is to contradict other philosophers”

– William James
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Re: Qualifications needed to write an Autobiography?

Post by Sculptor1 »

Sushan wrote: December 7th, 2021, 4:44 am
Sculptor1 wrote: December 4th, 2021, 7:06 pm
Gee wrote: December 4th, 2021, 1:59 pm
Sculptor1 wrote: December 4th, 2021, 9:47 am

I was stuck by the oddness of this thread title.

There is only one qualification to be able to write an autobiography and that is to be literate enough to tell your story.
I agree. Getting it published is another story; if you can't, then what you have written is a journal or maybe a diary.

Gee
Then you need to ask what are the qualifications needed for getting published.
These days that bar is very low, since there is a range of self publishing routes.

Beyond that the needs are the same for any book. Why would another person want to read what you write, is the question.
Self-published books have become best-sellers. At the same time the ones that have selected by editors have gone into dustbin. So maybe it is not just about writing or publishing, but marketing and actually selling.
Most importantly it is about the content- let's not forget that.

An editor can read a book and decide whether it is a good one or a bad one. But how can he really guess whether it will be well sold or not? And what makes an editor the ultimate judge to select what books to be published or not? I think it just depends on the experience of the editor, with some luck included too.
It's probably worth saying that quality, literary merit, and excellent insight may result in a failure.
IN a world that thinks that Rebel Wilson loosing 70lbs in weight should be more newsworthy than all of her successful films, one has to question the value of merit and quality.
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Re: Qualifications needed to write an Autobiography?

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JackDaydream wrote: December 4th, 2021, 7:56 pm @Sculptor1
It is interesting to know what are the qualifications to write, especially in the realms of autobiographical ideas and philosophy. Unfortunately, a lot may come down to popularity. Personally, I feel that I have a lot to say but no audience, so it makes me feel like giving up writing and speaking. It may be that those whose autobiographies will be heard will be those in positions of prominence, or unusual circumstances, while others' voices will be disregarded and silenced as being so insignificant. One question may be what makes one's life interesting to others?
Answering your last question; I think it is the way that you present it. Anyone will have challenges, ups and downs in their lives. But only few of them are good story tellers, and out of them only a very few will decide to write and publish a book. And that few becomes interesting to a big audience.
“There is only one thing a philosopher can be relied upon to do, and that is to contradict other philosophers”

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Re: Qualifications needed to write an Autobiography?

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Gee wrote: December 5th, 2021, 1:41 am
Sculptor1 wrote: December 4th, 2021, 7:06 pm Then you need to ask what are the qualifications needed for getting published.
These days that bar is very low, since there is a range of self publishing routes.
I know someone, who paid a lot of money to have his book published. He believed he had made some serious breakthroughs in the study of consciousness and dark matter. I purchased his book, mostly in support of his work, but found that he was in serious need of an editor, ghost writer, or proofreader. That can be a problem when one is not a professional writer, so I would not recommend this route for most people.

We used to be able to send short stories to magazines for publication, but magazines are not doing well right now, so I am not sure this is a viable way to gain experience.

If you are going to send your work to a publisher, I recommend that you make your first chapter a "grabber" with emotional interest -- or else no one will read the rest of the book. So, it won't get published. These people have to read a lot of books, so if you can't get their interest in the first chapter, they are not going to read the rest -- they will go on to another book.
Sculptor1 wrote: December 4th, 2021, 7:06 pm Beyond that the needs are the same for any book. Why would another person want to read what you write, is the question.
Because you have allowed them to get inside you. That is what makes the writing good, it is like looking through someone else's purse or their bedroom dresser drawers; good writing is damned personal. And we are curious about other people, other perspectives, other experiences.

It does not matter if you live in interesting times because all times can be interesting, all lives can be interesting, and all circumstances can be interesting, if the writer finds them interesting and they are presented in a personal way. My English professor tried to get me to take a class that teaches one how to write a book because he thought I was a natural writer, but I did not want to write a book. I knew that I would have to put too much of myself into it in order for the book to be good, and I like my privacy. Even a fictional book tells a great deal about the author.

Gee
One's self experience makes a fiction better. And I agree with you that no author can totally exclude his/her self from what he writes, even though it is a mythical story. When someone talk about his/her own experience it is presented in a better and a more palatable way. I think this is very much applicable to memoirs and autobiographies as well. When the author puts his/her heart into his/her writing there will not be much left for the editor to correct or change.
“There is only one thing a philosopher can be relied upon to do, and that is to contradict other philosophers”

– William James
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