Who should write a book?

Ten years ago I was at my first writers’ conference and feeling what many young writers feel at writers’ conferences. I was inspired and overwhelmed. Delighted and frustrated. Hopeful and defeated. I had this intense sense of belonging—like I was in my element and with my people. I also had an intense urge to drive home and binge TV shows.

During Q & A after a session on memoir writing, an attendee asked the panel a question that stopped my heart for a moment. He asked: “Does it annoy you that so many people are writing memoirs these days?”

I don’t know what was behind that question for him, but for me it was loaded with everything I had been asking myself. What am I doing here? Do I have anything to add? Does the world have enough writing?

The panel host gave the microphone to Carlos Eire, author of the beautiful Waiting for Snow in Havana. “Interesting,” he responded. “I’m not sure how to answer that. I suppose I wish every person who ever lived wrote a memoir. Just think how rich humanity would be.”

That answer changed writing for me. I didn’t hear Eire say that every person has it in them to write a critically acclaimed memoir. What I heard is that life is richer when everyone is actively creating in it, engaging in it, and taking seriously their experience within the broader human one. And that any creative contribution, however humble, is a gift to the world.

Writing for me isn’t about “being a thought leader” or “saying something new” or “having it figured out.” It’s about participating in worthy conversations, saying what we mean, and paying attention.

Carlos Eire inspired me to keep writing, but he also sparked my interest in supporting others in their writing. I honestly believe everyone should write a book. It’s just a matter of whether you’re willing to write it.