The new year is here which always comes with limitless possibilities and fresh starts. To me it’s like facing the opening of a trail in the woods. We have a sense of the forest (the big picture, our goals or intentions for the next 12 months) but the individual trails or paths that lead us to the clearing on the other side are unknown until we enter the woods and take one step at a time.
Writing a book isn’t dissimilar, especially one about your own life. The forest in front of you is familiar because you know your life better than anyone else. Only you have lived the experiences you have or hold the memories and details of them. Only you know the edges, shades and shadows of your journey here on Earth. But, turning your life’s most meaningful moments into a body of work for others to read, relate to, and enjoy is as foreign and unknown as a trail you’ve never hiked before.
The most important thing to focus on, heading into the new year and pursuing your goals or in writing a book—which I’m hoping are one-in-the-same—is the only way forward is through. Trying and accomplishing new things are not impossible. With any new thing we attempt, it’s a matter of perseverance, determination, dedication, and focusing on taking one step at a time.
This last part is important. When you’ve decided to commit to writing an emotionally compelling book about your life that is going to have meaning for you and the reader, you’re committing to a journey. Writing a memoir is not a sprint and it’s not a final destination. There are no shortcuts or faster routes if you intend to enjoy and get the most out of the experience of becoming an author and memoirist. Which is why taking one step at a time is important. This mindset is critical to your success.
The path to finishing a memoir can be seen as five trail markers or stages that lead you to the top of the mountain–publication. Those five markers will take each of us a varying amount of time, depending on a variety of factors. We all hike at different paces. We all choose different trails. Writing a book is no exception. We all work at different paces and we all choose different approaches to getting a task done.
The thing is, if we focus on the entire length of the trail ahead of us, we might not start at all. I’ve crossed paths with a lot of people who’ve toyed with the idea of writing a book about their life but feel totally unprepared, or overwhelmed, or doubtful… All of these things lead to paralysis. They take no action and remain in a mental place, telling themselves that ‘someday they’ll write their book.’
That inaction leaves them in the parking lot, staring at the opening of the trail head and never reaching the tree line. That’s why you need a couple of things to begin. A map. And a guide.
Just like hitting any trail, you need a map to show you where you’re ultimately headed. Knowing the whole trail can inform you. By knowing where you’re heading, you feel more in control of how you prepare, how you progress, and what to pack for the journey. And by having an understanding of the whole distance, you can more easily focus on one step at a time because you’re not stuck in uncertainty of what’s up ahead.
As for the guide…
There are some things that shouldn’t be done alone:
- Running through the woods at night.
- Leaving a party without telling anyone where you’re going.
- Edibles. (Personal experience and a hilarious story, too…)
- Hiking a new trail when you’re an inexperienced hiker.
- Writing a book.
That old idea of a writer holed up in their room by themselves writing by candlelight might be romantic but it’s far from practical. Every writer will eventually need an editor (several, actually), a publisher, and readers. What many people don’t know is that writers usually need other people well before those other players are involved.
And that’s where I come in as a writing guide (read: memoir coach). I meet you in the parking lot before we even get on the trail, make sure you’ve got what you need and have what it takes before we even step foot in the woods. I guide you on the writing path through the first five markers and pass you off to the next writing guide who will take you the rest of the way.
I’m not going to be the one who will bring you all the way to the summit (publication and having your book in your hands), but I’m going to ensure you get there and even introduce you to who I know can help you do so. And I promise that the view from the top is a beautiful and breathtaking sight to behold. Just know that’s only the peak. It’s not the ‘final’ destination, as it were. Reaching the top is great, but you’re only at the top for a moment before you inevitably have to come back down. The “descent” is when marketing and promotion happen.
As I said, this is a journey. It’s a long walk in the woods. But it doesn’t have to feel painful or bewildering or unsurmountable. With the right map and the right guide you’ll be well on your way to a beautiful experience that produces a beautiful book. A book that will light up your world and ours. (More on that later.)
For now, commit to this year being the year you jump on the writing path, start, and finish your memoir. I’ve got the map, I can be your guide, and the trail is already well-traveled and ready for you to step foot.
Need to feel more grounded in the memoir writing path ahead of you? Ready to write a book about your life that will light up your world and ours?
With this guide sitting by your side during the memoir-writing journey, you’ll be able to:
- Better understand the whole path to starting and finishing your book
- Execute the individual phases of writing a memoir
- Identify which part of the path you’re on
- Prepare for what’s coming next
- Communicate more specifically and effectively with the people in your life about the kind of support, guidance, or accountability you need