Somewhere between “I was born into a family of snobs” and “I am proud that I have overcome so much in my life” . . . she lost me. Actually, everything in between those two sentences threw me off. Let’s say there was a lot of improvement needed before sending her manuscript to the printer.
Among other things, practically every sentence began the same way. This familiar start to each sentence is something I’ve seen in a lot of writing, particularly in memoir and autobiography.
There is no “I” in Team. But for so many memoirists and autobiographers, “I” seems to be the default word for beginning practically every sentence.
“Well, of course,” you say. “Using ‘I’ is a must because it’s my story. After all, I did all of those things, and all of that stuff happened to me.”
Listen, we all know you did it. However, this does not mean you have to begin every sentence with the word, I.
Believe it or not, starting a sentence with I tends to hamper your storytelling. It’s a crutch. It’s the easy way in, so to speak. Starting each sentence with I makes you the subject and the focus of every single sentence you write, and that’s just boring.
When writing your life story, mix up your sentences a bit. Focus on the action, and expand from there. Draw the reader’s attention to another person, an item, the time of day or year, an emotion, a feeling, or a sensual experience—something you touched, saw, heard, tasted, or smelled. If the sentence must focus on you, end with yourself rather than beginning with yourself. In other words, start with what happens, and then tell how you felt about it.
Good storytelling includes a number of engaging elements with which you can begin a sentence. As difficult as this might sound, you really can write an engaging personal story without relying on “I” at the start of each sentence.
Here’s a challenge for you: Write a short story—let’s say 1,000 words—about yourself, where none of the sentences begin with “I”. It’s possible; it really is.
When you’re done, post a comment below and share how it felt.
If I can write this entire blog post without starting a sentence with “I”, you can do it!
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Anita R. Henderson is president of The Write Image, LLC and creator of Write Your Life. Known as The Author’s Midwife, her work with professionals and entrepreneurs has resulted in multiple award-winning books and has helped authors grow their media and online visibility, speaker platforms, industry credibility, and overall confidence in their ability to write a compelling, high-quality book and leverage it in their business or career.