Writing you history while you can

Biographer Michael Taylor.

By Tania Phillips

Everyone has their own little story – or so John Lennon said and no one knows that better than biographer Michael Taylor.

After forty jobs in 40 years and thirty years of creative writing Michael believes he finally found his calling – writing other people’s stories.

And for Michael it’s not only a job that he loves but something that he believes is important and something we should all do – whether we employ someone or do it ourselves.

“I write people’s life stories so I guess I’m a biographer by profession,” he explained.

“The main reason people have their stories written is for family reasons – to pass the story down through the generations,” he said.

“I had to give a talk to a Probus here in Noosa and I was telling them how important it is to have their story written down. Not necessarily for me to do it, but certainly for them to do it themselves, which most people are capable of doing.

“So there is something there as a record as opposed to just having photographs and unreliable anecdotes which is what most people are left with when they leave this life.

“I’ve fallen into this and I’m just a genuine believer in the value of people writing their life stories or having them written.”

Michael admits his profession is a pretty “unique” and something he fell into but something he loves. As well as talking to the subject he likes to research the times and events around. He said he started out advertising a few years ago and now doesn’t have to with word of mouth. It’s obvious he has found his niche, doing around four a year and being booked-up into next year, attracting interstate clients as well as locals.

“By the end of this year I will have written 17 biographies and life stories,” he explained.

“When I finished high school I had no idea what I wanted to do for a living – I was only 16 years old – I thought I’d just say a few different things for say 40 years or so and I’ll make a decision and that’s kind of what happened.

“After 40 years I wrote a memoir because I’d had about 40 jobs – I’d always liked writing, from the age 30 I did some study, writing courses. I pretty much wrote constantly but you really can’t make a living form writing unless you’re a journalist I guess.

“I just wrote and wrote so when I got to 55 I realised I’d spent 40 years doing 40 different years. I wrote the memoir called Number 41 – 40 jobs in 40 years. I only wrote it because I like writing, I thought it would be a good subject to write about and then someone read it and they said that’s a really good story could you write my story. I said sure so I did and they really enjoyed it and I thought maybe there is something in this.

“So I put an ad in a magazine and got a good response and I’ve been flat out ever since. I spent 40 years looking for the perfect job in the perfect place and I finally found it and now my business is called Number 41. It had been staring me in my face for 30 years.”

He said he had always loved writing but had never worked out how to make a living out of it until now.

“The past four years that’s what I’ve been doing and I’m the luckiest guy alive– I’ve been doing something I enjoy doing and something I see the value in and I’ve met some really interesting people from barristers to billionaires,” Michael said.

“I’m doing a billionaire later in the year and everyone in between.

“My first client was a single lady in her sixties who had a really troubled life, she had one copy printed and that was where it was going to stay I don’t think she was even going to show her family.

“In her case the reason for having her story written was more a cathartic one – an emotional release, just wanting to tell her story. It is that case for lots of people but mainly people write their stories and have it written down for family reasons – there’s usually not a commercial aspect to it because it is really hard to have a best seller in this country.

“To make money from a book, it’s just not going to happen so rarely is that someone’s aim and if it is I tell them it’s probably not going to happen.

“I’m not a great writer, I’m never going to write a bestseller, what I’m good at is collecting together lots of information. It’s not just a person’s memories when I talk to them, it’s also their diaries and letters and documents, photographers and other resources, they give me a box full of those and I do a lot of my own research as well which turns up some really interesting things which quite often the client didn’t know about it.

“It’s also talking to other people in their lives like family and friends and business associates. “

“I use the analogy that it’s like a bunch of jigsaw puzzles that I put together and make a picture out of them.”

 

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