3 Puzzle Pieces to Writing a Book You’ve Lived

My life is pretty interesting. Maybe not remarkable compared to the subjects of viral videos, for instance, but still not shabby. Nevertheless, interest and excitement are relative. So there’s no guarantee that what happened in my life would interest you at all. Still, I wrote a book. And so can you.

While many people seem genuinely shocked that I wrote a book, in conversation, a number of folks express their desire or plan to write one. Seeing that I held off for many years before making a focused effort, I want to share 3 pieces to the puzzle that come into play when you’re writing a book that you’ve lived.

1. Don’t feel obligated to include every detail.

One of my toughest tasks was knowing what to cut. My story includes disappointment, dysfunction, and divorce. However, it’s not about what ‘they’ did to me. It’s about my heart posture and frame of mind, why I allowed certain things, and how I responded and recovered. In that, I didn’t feel I had to explain every detail of certain events to tell my story.

Why? Because there’s a fine line between the time that something is being done to you, and the time that you begin allowing it. So, there was no place for blame in my book. The details point to me; the pieces that involve others surround the story as framework.

2. Be healed of what you plan to reveal. 

Did I cry on my keyboard as I recalled certain events and typed them onto the page? Yes. But the majority of my tears served as gratitude for who I’ve become since then. And, if I’m honest, a few were in regret of preventable mistakes (had I known better). Lastly, I did cry a bit as I remembered the pain of lost love, especially friends who no longer light up my day with their calls and visits.

Despite the tears, I didn’t feel the need to “work out” any of my pain on the page. Writing to heal yourself happens in your journal. Writing to heal others requires you to possess a 3-D view of all parties. When you do it right, every story doesn’t have you as the hero…or the villain. Most times our best advice teaches others how to clearly see their own role and responsibility in a situation.

3. Don’t be afraid of feedback.

Want to write a good book? Allow folks to read it as you go. Get eyes that you trust on your work as early in the process as possible. When you have chapter or two, give it to a trusted friend. Not the friend who loves everything you do. Give it to the one who won’t hesitate to let you know when your story doesn’t reflect exactly how things went down.

Also, grab some folks who don’t know you well and let them read it. You need folks who can alert you when something’s missing from the story. If you only let friends who know the story read it, they won’t be able to warn you of the holes.

As a bonus, I’d add: Don’t be paralyzed by fear and the negative voices. As a creative person, I often battle whether or not my work matters. There’s a voice constantly trying to convince me that no one cares about the words I’m agonizing over. It was years before I realized that if that were true, the voice wouldn’t be bothering to talk to me about my little words!

Second, in regard to fear, my book contains some stories that my family doesn’t know, but it does not contain feelings about my family dynamic that they don’t know. There’s a difference. You shouldn’t be afraid to tell your story after you processed it. But I suggest you do not use your writing as an opportunity to speak what you’ve spent a lifetime afraid to say to someone. For that, I suggest you grab your journal, a counselor, or mentor to help you process.

And finally, when you think it’s all done, get it to a professional editor. Once you’ve put your heart and soul on paper, it only makes sense to get it polished!

Have thoughts or other suggestions on ways to tell your story? Feel free to share them in the comments.

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