How to Get Past That Underlying Question as a Writer
There is one question that I get asked four to five times a week at least. Usually, it is approached with a sense of vulnerability, and a lot of hopefulness.
“Is my story good enough?”
This one question has bundles of personal, emotional baggage wrapped all into it, no matter who the person is! When telling a story, whether it is a personal story, a fictional journey, or one you are writing for someone else, there is usually an attachment directly from your heart to the story you want to share. That attachment is not a negative one; it actually keeps the story ALIVE and breathing.
The truth is, everyone has an extraordinary story. I know that this is a bold statement, and sometimes overused, but it carries weight. The reality is that we all get bored with our stories. Even the most mundane-sounding stories in our minds can be transformed on the page into the juicy, inspiring adventure it was when you experienced it. It all depends on how well it is written, the presentation, and the passion that lights the pages ablaze!
In the fiction world currently, dystopian stories became extremely popular thanks to the series, “The Hunger Games”. Since the blow-up of Katniss and her world and the plethora of stories that arrived on the heels of its popularity, most fictional literary agents are not looking for yet another dystopian tale. However, there is an exceptional twist to this genre--which can be quickly evidenced by watching Netflix! (Let’s just say dystopian tales galore.) If a story is unique and well-written, there will be, somewhere, a market for it.
But how do you get from “Is my story good enough” to having a well-written book of any genre?
Here’s the thing:
I guarantee that there is something inside of your story that makes it unique from anyone else's! The cover or the outline at first might seem easily comparable to others, but let's be real, there is no one else in the world that is exactly like you - with either your lived experience or your imagination, or both.
Only you have the insights, experiences, know-all, and lessons that you bring to light. Even if the theme and emotions are similar to another book, your voice and perspective are the book’s breath; it’s what makes it come alive, and uniquely different from anyone else's.
I have an amazing friend, Jason Coombs, who reached out to me because he wanted to write a book and has been speaking on recovery from drugs and alcohol. Now, this book might have been one of those hidden under the stacks of other books talking about recovery. . . but Jason is no ordinary author.
At the beginning of his journey, Jason reached out to me because he was unsure that his story could be different enough to stand out from the crowd, yet he felt a deep need to share through his eyes. He wanted to write a book of great significance, that could save lives, relationships, hearts, and a family’s sanity. What did he do? Jason wrote the book he wished his family could have read, so they could have more easily survived the hell he put his family through because of his own addiction.
Jason wrote his book called, “UNHOOKED: How to Help an Addicted Loved One Recover”. I am delighted to tell you that not only did it become a national bestseller, but Jason is seeing a massive ripple that his book has created. Every so often, Jason will text me one of the emails, the texts, and the calls that he receives from people who have been dramatically affected by his book.
“So, I just finished reading one of the best books ever written on addiction!! I’m going to put in a purchase request at my work to see if I can purchase some of those books of yours, Unhooked, to use for our program. I think it would do wonders for patients and families to read.”
“I can't say enough about how helpful this book has already been to me. I have been in a devastating war to save my daughter's life from addiction for 5 years. I have read SO MANY books on addiction, codependency, enabling etc. & there are a lot of great resources out there. But THIS BOOK - this book has become my compass and road map - a trusted companion, providing practical advice and easy to implement tools, as well as comfort and hope. This is both an easy to follow guide book and a gripping tale of the author's own journey of addiction. I highly recommend it to anyone that loves an addict & wants to help them recover, while also reclaiming their own sanity. I have gained a new perspective, and an increased empathy for the suffering an addict experiences. I am learning how to allow the "gift" of natural consequences while still loving my daughter and remaining hopeful. I am grateful to finally see a path to healing that isn't tied to an outcome, like it has been in the past. I'm ready to "get off the beach". Thank you Jason Coombs for all you are doing at Brick House Recovery to help these precious addicted souls, and for helping people like me, a suffering parent so full of love and despair for my child that I was desperate and drowning. May God richly bless you and your family as you continue this important work.”
“Thank you, Jason, this book has been an eye-opener to understand the addiction process and has enabled me to become more empathetic and learn that this is a disease. The insightful steps to take for every step in this process have been life-changing. As I read this, I found a journey to my own recovery and have been able to apply the tools and techniques shared in my life. This has not only been helpful with my relationship with the addicted loved one but I have been able to apply this in my other relationships and other areas of life. Tools and techniques that will be helpful for life. As a way to say thank you personally, I reached out to Jason to say thank you for sharing his story. I have recommended the book to several people and I am still recommending it to more people I meet along the way. I highly recommend this book.
Thank you Jason for your story and work. Keep helping more people!”
To see that process from first asking if his story was good enough to now witnessing the authentic change that occurs from his words is sincerely empowering, and moves and humbles him daily.
I invite you to learn from Jason, to see that no matter what your story is, with passion and purpose, it can become a tool to change the world! Now that is a bold statement, but like with Jason, I have seen it over and over!
If you want your story to surpass “good enough”, you get to ask the hard questions and do the hard work.
Ask yourself: Where can I be willing and open to write about my vulnerabilities? How can I dig deepest to tell my greatest story--my legacy story?
Be sure to create a timeline. Many people forego this, just writing down memories or ideas of plot points. When you create a timeline, you suddenly see patterns develop, and plot lines thicken! For nonfiction, you will see aspects about yourself and your journey you never even realized before -- and I’m not kidding! Suddenly you discover your “mundane” story has nuances that knock your own socks off.
Ask why you chose the path you did. Then go deeper. What can you see that has happened in your life or your character’s lives that you realize now happened for you, instead of against you? Like Jason, you might find that in your greatest darkness lay the seeds of your greatest glory.
Write the story for YOU, first. I can’t emphasize this enough. Your first draft -- even your first several drafts are usually to figure out what you have
Keep it real. After your final draft to yourself, rewrite additional drafts designated to that one person who will benefit most from your sharing. It seems counterintuitive in our “sell to the masses” culture, but when you write to be of service to the one, it reaches. . . it will reach tens, hundreds, thousands, perhaps millions or more from the clarity of your thoughts and sharing.
There you have it, my friends! Own your voice, go deep and recognize that your story is one worth writing. You are more than good enough and so is your message.
You can learn more about the ripples from Jason's work at BrickHouseRecovery.com.