How Obsessively Reading Autobiographies Inspired Me to Reach Higher
When I was young (I write from the ripe old age of 22) I always felt stuck in the same place. I wanted to jump out of my house and blast into the sky on my two rocketship feet, grabbing a career and a degree and an apartment with room enough for a cow to live in with me during my ascent. So eager to get out of the place I was in, I even attempted to graduate high school early, to which, of course, my mother said no, but at least she humored me.
As I am sure many of you fellow readers and writers can relate, my favorite form of escape via books has been autobiographies. Female comedians, more specifically. I read (and still read) every book written by any woman who has been on TV. Amy Poehler, Lena Dunham, Anna Kendrick, all three of Mindy Kaling’s books, and of course, legend Tina Fey. That being said, I can’t forget the prolific essays of writers like Roxane Gay and Joan Didion.
I scoured their pages, taking notes on how I could use their tactics and their funny prose to create my own life, sooner rather than later. I picked apart their words, choosing which would be mine and would give me that life I so desired, filled with writers’ rooms and late nights and pencils behind ears and words on a page that would mean something to somebody.
When I was about 12, I decided it was time to write my own memoir. Clearly I had lived a lot of life, and someone needed to read about it. Looking back on it, I was such a little asshole. I had no life! I still don’t, really, but c’mon. I was 12.
As I grew up a little more, I realized that I couldn’t rip their lives out and paste them in the book of my own life. I didn’t grow up in Philly and become the first female head writer of Saturday Night Live, no matter how badly I wished that I had. I had to slug through my normal life, get through high school and pummel through college and finally find a career that I could squeeze all the words that I could out of and give them to whoever would read them (I’m still working on that last part).
But I never put down those books. I read and reread, I waited for the next editions (Mindy, I am still waiting for book four), and I still highlighted and dogeared. I know there are words that I missed, tips I didn’t pick up, and connection still to be had. That’s why autobiographies are my comfort books.
In fact, just this morning I sat up in bed and finished Priestdaddy, a memoir by poet Patricia Lockwood that chronicled her life living with a Catholic priest as a father, having grown up in a rectory and figuring out her own relationship with religion. I cannot speak more highly of this book. Lockwood writes so concisely, so vividly, so…like a poet. It’s one of those books that gets you back into reading. I even got personally offended when reading a review on Goodreads that said it was too much, that it tried too hard. Tried too hard? I thought. How could trying be a bad thing?
I have always been a trier (is that a word?), whether that be good or bad. I worked hard and I loved what I did, and I hope that no matter what I end up doing in life that I still try my darndest to reach for the top of the pile.
If an autobiography is the thing that keeps that spark going in me, so be it. Reading books about inspiring, successful women obsessively can only be a positive force. So I will keep pouring their words into myself until I am spilling over, and then I’ll start again.
Next time you’re sitting at home bored, or you just need a little inspiration, might I recommend grabbing an autobiography? You might even find a little inspiration. Here is a list of fully-Claire recommended books to get you started:
Priestdaddy by Patricia Lockwood
Bossypants by Tina Fey
Hunger by Roxane Gay
Yes, Please by Amy Poehler
The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling
Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion
–Claire Beaver, Content Creator