When is it a good time to share your story? And..... should you share it at all? I always encourage writer to WRITE their stories. There is a huge power in recording your life, or someone else's. But should you publish it? That is another question all together. The answer is, not always. Read why here.
You may think everyone has a story to tell, but that is simply not true. Most of us are actually consumers of stories. A rare few are writers. Think of all the books you read. Think of all the social media you consume.
How much do you read vs put out into the world?
So, when you feel you have a story to share, it is a powerful calling. But what if it's embarrassing to you? Or your family? Or it’s very personal? What if it may hurt or embarrass someone else (and what if you really want it to)?
When I started my career as a journalist back in the 90s I used to write a lot of ‘first person confessionals’ for magazines. You know those ones.‘My husband slept with 900 hookers" "My face was mauled by my dog on my wedding day’, ‘My parachute never opened.’
Those kinds of small, tight, sensational ‘moment in time’, stories make such great reading.I worked for a UK tabloid as a cub reporter, and really learned that the crazier the story, the more readers love it.
But should these kinds of stories be longer? Are they a book?
Most personal stories touch other people and make them feel connected or understood. We read them to know we are not alone – in grief, or loss, or rage, or addiction, or midlife, or bankruptcy, or disease, or weight issues or crushing on a professor.
"When private matters are made public, there will always be protests: leave it out! But there will also be readers who feel consoled and affirmed, grateful for the risky stuff left in," writes Blake Morrison in On Life Writing.
Almost any author will tell you that it is NEVER the book sales numbers that count. It is the letters, messages, reviews and people who count. If you touch just a few lives, it matters. They seldom have to be crazy stories, just very human ones.
All stories that you put out into the public have an impact. Most have a positive one.
But not always. I was sued – along with the respective magazines I wrote for – twice in my 15 year career as a journalist. The one is a story I will always regret. It was the ‘900 hookers’ one. Except there was a photo of the hurt and accusatory wife in the magazine and she was clearly recognisable. Her ex-husband was a senior partner at a law firm. It destroyed his career and almost his life.
Most often, we soften or pick this up defamation, libel or just hurt in the editing phase of a book. That’s when we ask the hard and legal questions. But self-publishing means many authors skip this step where professional editors or publishers assess the book. They may say no, don’t share this one.
In his essay “Why I Write” (1946) George Orwell gave four reasons for writing: aesthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse, political purpose and, topping his list, “sheer egoism”, which he defined as the “desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc”.
Over the years of working on memoir books, I chose now to only work on books in which everyone wins, and nobody gets hurt. It can be the hardest, cruellest, craziest life story, but if you own it, if you get legal advice, if you give the right to reply, and if you write it with honesty and ownership, then you will make something good come of it.
Some questions to ask yourself before you hit ‘publish' on Amazon
Is this going to hurt anyone - intentionally, or by omission?
Is that okay with me?
Is this better shared this with my inner circle?
Would this work better as a 'my story' for a magazine in a shorter 3,000 word format?
Should I wait a year?
Books that Matter
Here are 5 authors in our circle who launched their books in the last new months that have touched people’s lives already.
Kate Emmerson – my friend, and partner in retreats and all things wonderful and wild - has finally released her long-awaited book 10 Lessons on Living Location Free We will be interviewing her in January.
Running in Heels: From ICU to Ultramarathons by runner Zoë Scholtz on her fight back to life, health and healing.
The Fourteenth Wife by Kelly Alder. An incredibly powerful memoir about her search for belonging and family after losing both her parents to Aids. The hashtag #cultsurvivor on her instagram meant the book was picked up by UK Daily Mail and her story shared you can read the article here - How I became a cult leader's 14th wife (see pic below)
Blind, Broken, Brilliant by Theresa Robberts. The tagline says it all 3% sight, 97% attitude. Inspiring and humbling.
Jenny Barnard released her heartfelt and well-received book Raising Beautiful Children in an often ugly world.
_ Note all these links go to Amazon.com. Search for them if you are under another Amazon territory