The 13 Virtues for Autobiography Writing, inspired by Benjamin Franklin

1. Temperance

Don’t talk about a subject or event until you wear out its interest. Don’t overuse words to the point of dulling their meaning.

2. Silence

Know when to withhold your opinions from the text; allow the reader at times to draw his or her own conclusion.

3. Order

Either tell your life story chronologically, or in some arrangement that makes the narrative more transparent, interesting, or profound.

4. Resolution

Achieve that goal which you set out to reach with your narrative; don’t allow your story to be commandeered or distracted by some other purpose or ambition.

5. Frugality

Waste not one page to indulge in anecdote telling for only your sake. Do not use two paragraphs of description when one will do, nothing is worse than pages and pages with no plot or action.

6. Industry

Do not take so much time to write your autobiography that you die before it is done and it has to be published unfinished.

7. Sincerity

If you relate a tale that shows another in an unflattering light, be committed to its truthfulness and integral purpose in your story.

8. Justice

Slander no one and only say those uncomfortable untruths about others that are necessary to make sense of your own life experience.

9. Moderation

Avoid polarizing readers with overzealous views on any topic; If you must express your convictions on an extreme idea make sure to show how you are able to consider other views.

10. Cleanliness

Use clean and clear language; do not muddle your words so that you obscure your meaning.

11. Tranquility

Show to your readers that you have gained some inner peace or likewise some transformation of the self by sharing your story with them.

12. Chastity

Abstain from that which would serve only to corrupt your story and invite unwelcome and undeserving criticism.

13. Humility

Benjamin Franklin had it right when he said “Imitate Jesus and Socrates” except for the fact that it probably isn’t a good idea to be wrongfully put to death by the government before you can enjoy the proceeds of selling your autobiography.

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