Commodifying Myself: What Does it Mean to Sell Our Most Intimate Stories?

It was a strange feeling walking into a local gas station and seeing my own face staring back at me from the newsstand.

It was an even stranger feeling buying a copy to go along with my morning coffee when my wife asked. I made sure to fold the paper over when I placed it on the counter, hoping to avoid any awkward looks, or even more awkward conversation.

Granted, I knew the story was coming out. I had met the local newspaper's lifestyle reporter over coffee early one morning the week before, doing my best to answer all of his questions about my new book and our journey to England and back again without stumbling over myself or getting tongue tied.

It was a weird feeling to hear from friends throughout the day, telling me they had read my story. Surreal, really. Particularly because I had been so painfully honest about my childhood, and about some recent struggles in our journey.

And because now it was out there, for the entire county in which I grew up to read.

What Does It Mean To Sell Our Stories?

That night, Jen and I watched a movie about a man who was desperate to make a buck or two, willing to do anything to get ahead, and how he found a way to do so by capturing on film the grisliest stories he could find, and then selling them to the local TV news station.

Going to bed that night, I began to feel sick.

Is that what I'm doing? I asked myself. Even worse than this guy, is that what I'm doing with my own grisly stories?

       Photo courtesy of Image Journal blog.

       Photo courtesy of Image Journal blog.

Are those of us who write memoir--to put a very fine point on the question--whoring ourselves out? Is writing memoir a work of self-commodification?

These questions brought to mind something I wrote for the Image Journal blog a while back, asking what it means to sell our stories.

The answer, I came up with, was that not only is self-commodification the kind of thing we can't actually do by writing our stories, but it's also not even what the memoirist is after. Especially not the Christian memoirist.

Here's the post I originally wrote on this question of what it means to sell our stories for the Image blog, "Commodifying Myself." I hope it's helpful for those who are sharing their stories in an effort to help others face their own story.