Reading about celebrity memoirs can be a chancy business: you can find yourself windowshopping in a world that seems so unreal it’s almost fanciful. But when I read an article about global popstar Ricky Martin’s new book called Me, I was struck not by the headline “Martin is ‘letting it all out’ in his memoir” but by the subhead just below it: “Writing ‘Me’ was mostly therapeutic.”
This healing, restorative aspect of writing is a rich and fascinating theme — and one that many of us have experienced firsthand — some of us through journals or diaries, and others through stories or books that we’ve read and written. I was interested to see Ricky’s take on it. From what I read, writing his book was a not just a way for him to publicly “come out” after years of hedging about his personal relationships, but a way of making peace with himself and bringing together two facets of his life: “Ricky,” the onstage heartthrob and “Kiki,” the person those closest to him know.
“Why it took me so long, I don’t have an answer for that,” Ricky observed. “All I know is that everybody has to go through their journey, through a spiritual process, to confront themselves. Some people are able to do it when they’re 17, some people can’t do it until their 30s.”
The idea that writing can help us achieve a sense of wholeness and a deeper understanding of who we are and why we are the way we are is surely one of the most compelling of reasons to pick up a pen or fire up our computers. Just think of some of the most compelling memoirs you’ve read. I’m sure at the heart of them you’ll find the urge to take a fractured life and restore its wholeness. What is there about language, about words, that gives them this restorative power?