The lizard is one of the most intriguing animals in the African traditional folklore. This fascinating reptile – which comes in different colours – is credited with such depth of wisdom that is way beyond its languid appearance. One of such traditional stories about this creature best illustrates why people write autobiographies.
According to an African proverb, the lizard must nod its head in self-adulation after jumping down from a tree in the absence of external applause. That describes the motivation when one sits down to write the story of his life. It is a moment and opportunity for self-appraisal; and a little self-praise.
Writing about oneself could be a tough call. You really want to be the hero without appearing to be making yourself one. You realize it is the best avenue to tell the story of your rising and falling. So, how do you balance your great intentions with your not-so-great actions? Which one are you likely to give prominence?
See what I mean? Writing an autobiography comes with its huge challenges. Autobiography is really a story about you but not for you. Hence, you have to decide what to tell the reader; and predict what the reader must find interesting about you. One must choose between being braggadocios and being modest. Excess of each may diminish the value of the work. It is a delicate balance act.
An autobiography presents an excellent opportunity to tell one’s story, explain one’s decision, and advocate one’s ideals without a counter-objection. But the story teller must be authentic as readers and researchers will base their opinions of you on the words you use and the emotions you display. As an autobiographer, one must understand that what one thinks of oneself is different from what others perceive.
An autobiography is a clear insight on one’s thoughts; an x-ray or a reflection of the mind of the writer. It is also a defense of his or her actions and a direct expression of the feelings. It gives the reader unhindered access to the wholeness of the personality of the writer. Writing an autobiography also gives the writer the opportunity to create a unique perspective of his world.
Since an autobiography is a story of oneself, it is usually assumed to be credible story because it is direct “from the horses’ mouth.” However, due to the fact that the autobiographer writes with the intent to persuade, readers often remain skeptical about what they read. This is a major disadvantage of the literary genre. Readers may feel that rather than to inform, an author’s true purpose is to persuade them, perhaps through over-embellishment or outright lies.
Another obstacle is that many autobiographers have poor writing skills because they were not trained to write. This is a great challenge because a good story that is poorly told may not even be read. A good writing must have coherent sequence and literally flow of events.
So, it is obvious that while writing an autobiography can be fun and fulfilling, it is not without its down- side. But hey! Who cares? Like our proverbial lizard, you have to look inward; take two nods of self-approval, and move on to the next challenge.
Enefiok (Enee) Udo-Obong is a good friend of Biographical Legacy and Research Foundation (BLERF) and the author of the fast-selling autobiography entitled: “THE SILVER LINING: TURNING MAJOR SETBACKS INTO MAJOR VICTORIES”.
Enee is a two-time Olympic Medalist (Gold in Australia in 2000 and Bronze in Athens, Greece in 2004), a three-time National Champion in the 200m and 400m race and a six-time Medalist in the National Sports Festival.
Named Nigerian Sportman of the year in 2000 and winner of the DELE UDO prize in athletics achievement (400m) in 2002, he was also nominated as one of the 50 MOST INFLUENTIAL YOUNG AFRICANS by AFRICA DIGEST that same year.
He was the captain of the Nigerian team to the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, UK.
Enee is a graduate of the University of Calabar with a B.Sc. in Human Anatomy. He is very active in community development and is the founder of the Silver Lining Foundation which promotes the education and training of talented sportsmen.
“At BLERF, we committedly promote and encourage the reading, and writing of biographies by distinguished Nigerian Achievers. If you have published a biography, BE A FRIEND OF BLERF, send us a copy for review”. – Sera Ekemini Osso, Senior Research Editor, BLERF.
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