Author:

Your Life Story – The Hard Part Made Easier

We all have a story to tell. Our lives are filled with meaning – and we long to make sense of it. Sometimes this is the incentive we need to sit down and actually start telling that story. I want to write my memoir. I want my children and grandchildren to know about me. They live too far away and this might be the only way I can truly reach out.

So the writer sits – and ponders. Where do I start? Do I begin at the beginning? I was born on April… That’s where the boring begins and never ends. We live in chronological time but our life experiences overlap. Some set the tone for future success. Others come back to bite us. There is no true order to a life well lived.

So how does a writer start a life story? Perhaps the most effective way is to begin with a life turning point, a fork in the road experience. We have hundreds of these: anything from the sublime (I fell in love at the age of sixteen and never looked back), to the obvious (my first job gave me the sense of independence I had been searching for). Here are a few kick-start examples.

  • My first day at school was the day I fell in love with learning.
  • My parents separated when I was eight and it took a long time for me to understand that it hadn’t been my fault.
  • My first loss was our pet dog Nippy. That was 28 years ago and I still miss him.
  • I sang solo at our Grade 5 Christmas concert and the stage bug hit me hard.
  • I became seriously ill while in high school and the lessons I learned have stayed with me.
  • When I was ten, my father let me visit his office, and that’s when I knew what I’d be doing for the rest of my life.
  • My first best friend is still a friend today, 50 years later.
  • My first major travel experience happened when I was a teenager. I will never stop travelling until I have to.
  • I quit school in Grade 10, got a miserable job, and realized how important education is, so I returned and got my graduation certificate. Then I became a doctor.
  • I fell in love as a teenager and suffered through a horrendous break-up, just like most others. Still, it changed me.

While a turning point can take place at any point in life, it’s often easiest to start your writing with one that happened as a child or adolescent. That fork in the road experience may end up affecting your life in surprising ways, and as you write, these may surface in other stories.

Your turning point experiences do not need to be dramatic. To start my own life story, I chose one that was less than sublime, but it did capture an essence of who I was at the time. It was nothing more than me as a three or four year old, standing alone in the middle of railway tracks in an isolated northern Quebec village, and looking out to where the tracks converged on the horizon. It was my first realization that something must exist beyond that point. Otherwise, where did the trains come from? Of course there’s a rest-of-the-story here as well. My parents had no idea about me hanging around the rail lines, and they had even less of an inkling that my friend Harry and I (or is it Harry and me?) were placing rocks on the tracks. They found out when the police came calling. I still remember hiding under the chair the officer was sitting in, and listening to his warning: “If you were older, you would be in jail.” I became a very good boy after that!

The hardest part of writing your life story no longer needs to be getting started. Use the suggestions above to jog your own memory. Choose one turning point experience and write a short 2-3 page story on it. That’s all. You are on your way.

 

Memoir Writing Hurts So Good!

Writing memoir hurts so good! I read that somewhere and often open my talks with it. Writing memoir hurts so good! This might be a great book title. It captures why so many of us want to get our stories down, whether it’s for ourselves, our families, or the world. I’m reminded of a dignified gentleman who once took my course. A retired intelligence officer with a foreign government, he had a great life story to tell – but couldn’t tell it. So he focused on all the exotic places he had visited. Another student, this time during one of the transatlantic cruise ship crossings, wrote her story because she wanted a re-write of her life. It gave her the chance to answer Dr. Phil’s question, ‘How’s that working for you?’ by finding out where it wasn’t working. It was painful writing and yet, cathartic too. She actually enjoyed the process. Writing memoir can hurt so good because it involves rebirth and rekindled hope.

More and more people are capturing their own stories. Over 750 copies of our book Writing Your Legacy are now available at public libraries here in Canada, the United States, Ireland, Holland (okay, just one copy there), Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore. On average, over a quarter of them are currently on loan. People want to be heard. They want to leave their children and grandchildren a legacy.

I’ve been invited to speak at this summer’s annual Writer’s Digest Conference in New York. Be assured that I will stay well grounded. There are several fellow speakers and most (probably all) have far more professional chops than I do. Jill Abbinanti has written for Law & Order, Deborah Cahn was a writer with The West Wing, and wrote and produced ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy for eight seasons, and is currently involved with the TV series Vinyl, which is co-produced by Mick Jagger. Jennifer Keisbin Armstrong has written for the New York Times Book Review, Sarah Domet has her Ph.D. in literature, Kerrie Flanagan has written for six Chicken Soup for the Soul books (now that’s a major cred!), and Jen Grisanti, was Head of Current Programs for Aaron Spelling’s company, Spelling Television, Inc. The list goes on, from A-Z. I got as far as G for Grisanti. Time to stop. Well, maybe just one more thing. The keynote speaker is novelist David Baldacci. I look forward to meeting him but first, I’d better read one of his books.

Note to self: Every year, the conference sets aside time for a book-signing event. Authors sit behind desks – their signing pens in hand – chatting with delegates and maybe selling a few copies. Last summer’s conference featured New York Times best-selling suspense writer Jonathan Maberry as keynote speaker. The line-up in front of his desk was very long. Beside him sat another author, lesser known, and she was very much alone out there. She could have pretended to look busy but instead she sat there in regal silence with a welcoming smile on her face. Perhaps she was thinking: “My day will come.” But first she had to pay her dues. She did it well – and I let the moment stay with me. I knew then that my book had just been released and that one day I would be in the same position – paying my dues. I have the feeling that these dues will be paid in blood at this summer’s conference. I will likely be sitting right next to David Baldacci. I suppose I can sit there stoically with my iPad, checking facebook, or I can take mindless notes, or – now here’s an idea – maybe I ought to get up from my own desk, walk over to his line, get a signed copy of his latest novel “The Last Mile”, and start reading.

Writing Hurts So Good! Yes, I like that phrase. I might use that for my next book title.

Richard Campbell

Capturing Those Great Moments

While visiting here in California over the holidays I’ve taken note of many vignette moments. These are the occasions I’ve stumbled upon fleeting glimpses of daily life as we know it. Fodder for our life stories. Here are a few travel observations I’ve made over the past couple of weeks.

On our flight to San Jose I found the American Airlines flight attendants on board to be among the very best I’ve experienced. Just before landing, ours was working the rows thanking each of us for flying with her. You’d think she was the company owner. As Brenda joked; Air Canada would never hire her because she’s too friendly.

While in California I received the latest online alumni newsletter from my old high school. In it was an ad offering beer mugs for sale. Beer mugs? It’s a high school!

I’ve visited the local Barnes & Noble store three times to check on the lone copy of our book for sale. Using a bit of guerrilla marketing I moved it three times from its obscure spot in the reference section to a promotional table of new titles at the front of the store. Each time it’s been moved back to where it belonged. If it hasn’t sold by the time we leave for home I’m going to buy it! It looks too lonely.

Only in California? I think I saw what I saw. There’s a shop nearby that caters to pets, which is reasonable and common. But this one is a pet pharmacy. Really?

This is movie land. I’ve dreamed up an interesting movie script idea. Guy meets girl and decides that he is going to marry her. He tells a couple of people. Meanwhile the woman, after meeting him, tells her friends that she is going to marry him. The friends all decide not to spill the two secrets. Meanwhile the guy and gal start a relationship but it isn’t working out…

We witnessed something nice on Christmas Eve day as we were heading home from last minute shopping. A street guy was standing at a busy intersection looking for money. We gave him some and while awaiting a red light we saw a police car drive up and stop beside him. Instead of telling the guy to move on, the officer handed him a sandwich. We were a bit in awe of that kind gesture.

Fresh lemons on lemon trees. I see them everywhere, even right on our street. For our Christmas Eve dinner we actually had one of these – a neighbor had given it to us. It tasted so good! It reminds me that every time I walk along our streets and pass by the lemon trees I have a powerful urge just to pluck one off a branch – all for me. So far I haven’t done this. I mustn’t ever…

On Christmas Day, just as the sun was setting over San Jose, we drove past a Christmas tree which had already been tossed out on the side of the street for pick-up. Did someone not get what they wanted? Did Puff the family cat topple the tree one last time?

Just after Christmas I was sitting in our back yard when I heard the neighbors pull into their driveway. Then I heard this. Wife: I feel so embarrassed that we just gave away our Christmas gifts. That was it. I really would like to hear the rest of this exchange.

In just a few short days I observed these life moment vignettes. They will add context to the story I continue to create about my own life journey. All of us live moments just like this but we soon forget them. When you stumble into moments like this, capture them with a pen and notebook, or take a photo. Then they can become part of your own story – one shared with family and friends. It might be the perfect New Year’s resolution.

To Blog Or Not To Blog

To Blog Or Not To Blog

I’m reading a book on blogging. It’s by Robert W. Bly and it’s called Blog Schmog. His thesis is that blogging as a marketing tool works mainly for the few who sell blogging services. For the rest of us, blogging is little more than (I quote) rambling, streams-of-consciousness musings about a particular topic of interest to the author, largely bereft of the kind of practical, pithy tips that e-zines, web sites, and white papers offer. Could that be me? He adds: The problem is that there is already too much content, and we don’t want or need more. I’m not sure my blogs even offer much real content, let alone wisdom, insight, and ideas. According to his research a typical blogger is a guy over sixty with a ponytail or big, bushy beard, hoping the free speech and trendiness of blogging might give them that old 1960s feeling of being revolutionary, countercultural, cool, and hip. Those are his words, not mine. At least that’s (mostly) not me. Then he adds: Bloggers ostensibly want to communicate with others, but their real motive is self-promotion.

Okay, so I have a blog that talks about life story writing but does that make me hope that you, the reader, will check it out and perhaps buy what I offer? Yes, I’d like to sell lots of books to keep my publisher and agent happy. But mainly, my mission is the subject itself: helping people tell and write their life stories. It’s all about strengthening family ties. It’s all about self-calibration – finding out if you’re where you want to be in this crazy life journey. It’s all about leaving behind your legacy – and believe me, there can be no greater gift than that.

You don’t need to buy our book. There are dozens in the market place. I’ve read most of them and many will get you started and hopefully see you to the finish line. No matter which one you select, the real work belongs to you. It’s your story and only you can tell it.

In an earlier blog, I listed life story writing books that are well written and informative. They bear repeating.
Note: I’m not including our book Writing Your Legacy because I don’t know where to place it in my listings. It’s too new and untried.

My Top Five
The Power of Memoir: How to Write Your Healing Story by Linda Joy Myers
Writing Your Life: Putting Your Past on Paper by Lou Willett Stanek
How To Write Your Own Life Story by Lois Daniel
You Don’t Have to Be Famous: How to Write Your Life Story by Steve Zousmer
Courage and Craft: Writing Your Life Into Story by Barbara Abercrombie

Five Honorable Mentions
Shimmering Images: A Handy Little Guide to Writing Memoir by Lisa Dale Norton
Writing Life Stories: How to Make Memories Into Memoir by Bill Roorbach
Writing the Memoir: From Truth to Art by Judith Barrington
Elderwriters: Celebrate Your Life by Sue Barocas
Your Life As Story by Tristine Rainer

Each of these titles can help you explore the idea of writing your own life story. As a legacy to your children and grandchildren, nothing else comes close.

Richard Campbell

Not a Professional Writer? Does it Matter?

We were visiting with a friend yesterday – someone we hadn’t seen in years. When he asked what I was doing, I mentioned our new book, Writing Your Legacy. “Can I show you something?” He quickly handed me a hardcover bound book titled, My Father. It was beautifully inset with photographs, news clippings, and short stories chronicling the life of his now deceased parent.

Our friend is not a professional writer. Nor is he a graphic designer. My Father is a work that came strictly from the heart. It is a family heirloom that will last for generations.

People still ask: How can I write my own story when I’m not a professional writer? I’m a doctor, a dentist, a trades-worker, a stay-at-home Dad, or an office worker. I haven’t written much of anything for years.

Research shows that expertise in any particular subject is gained after about 10,000 hours of effort. Seven years of focused experience will make you the go-to expert in your field. Here are two simple facts that say you can write your life story without being a professional writer.

1) You have put far more than 10,000 hours into living your own life. You are the expert in all things you.
2) You wrote essays and papers throughout your academic schooling. You passed. Those writing skills are exactly what you need to write your life story.

Professional writers write, rewrite, edit, and rewrite again until it’s right, and then they rewrite some more. It involves a revolving door of change and creativity, often against deadlines. We don’t need to do that.

At a writing seminar in St. Louis, I learned a valuable technique from Jason Womack. He travels the world telling folks how to be more productive with their lives. He suggests the 15 Minute Rule. Focus intently on what you are doing now, but only for 15 minutes. Then stop, do something else and go back to another 15 minutes of deep focus. He claims that you will get far more accomplished in just a couple hours of deep focus in a workday than you can otherwise. It certainly works for me. It’s the one way I can banish all the distractions from my writing.

So begin your life story project slowly. Ease into it just as you would when stepping into a hot bath. Soon you will luxuriate in the warmth of old memories. Let them soak for awhile. The words will follow.

Richard Campbell

Legacy Themes – Writing Your Life Story in a Nutshell

There are many ways to write your life story. If you were to check out any number of books on the subject, you would find that the majority will show you how to write chronologically. When and where were you born? Where did you live and go to school? What were your favorite subjects? Write about your first job. Describe your wedding, your children, your hobbies, your retirement. It’s like reading a flow chart of your life. Start to finish, A to Z, all in order. Except that life doesn’t always work that way. It can sneak up on you unexpectedly.

Legacy writing is different. You write short two to three-page stories on life events revolving around core themes. These include the first significant turning point in your life, your family, your life’s work, your self-image, the male-female equation, your spiritual journey, and so on. There are ten core themes that encapsulate your life and an additional 25 themes that can enhance its telling. Leil Lowndes, internationally recognized author and speaker, calls them mini-memoirs.

In our book, Writing Your Legacy, Cheryl and I use these mini-memoir themes. Here’s one example. Let’s take the very first core legacy theme, Forks in the Road. This is what it looks like.

Forks in the Road

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Yogi Berra

Yogi Berra meant that life is full of choices and that we need to make them. We need to keep moving forward. Our lives are filled with turning points. These are the times when we take big or small steps forward. They can be our ah-ha moments when new understanding leads to change in the way we do something. They could represent something simpler: the day we first fell in love was the first day we learned what joy could do to body and soul. The phone call that offered the job we’d worked so hard to get. There may have been a trip abroad that forever changed our outlook on our life. Possibly you read a book that opened your eyes to new ways of seeing. Each of us has our own unique turning points. Major ones such as a graduation, marriage, or death of a loved one, are common to most. Less obvious ones also have their impact, sometimes much greater than expected. All of them change the flow of our lives in some way.

Probing Questions: Take time to review the following questions. Each one serves as a clarifying point that dips into your mind’s recesses, searching for long forgotten memories. Some questions will resonate more than others. Allow one or two of them to serve as the basis for your thematic story. Or they may lead to other observations that can power your story. They serve as guidelines only.

1) As a child, turning points often happen to us, as a result of our parent’s choices or circumstances. Was there an early turning point in your life that may have changed the course of
your life? What were the circumstances?
2) Education often opens doors and new opportunities for us. Was going to school a big step for you? Was school a haven or a hell for you?
3) Significant people in our lives affect us in many ways. What people most influenced your fork in the road experiences? Were they your parents, relatives, friends, or teachers?
4) Our life is a mix of events that are out of our control and others that we instigate. Did the many changes you have experienced in life happen ‘to you’? Or did you choose the road to
take? Do you see a pattern in your life?
5) Change results when a turning point is reached. Do you regard most of your fork in the road experiences as positive? Did any of the negative ones become positive after the fact?
6) Often when change and transition come too quickly in our lives we try to hold onto the past. What change did you struggle against? How did it turn out?
7) We may not always choose the ‘right’ road when we are faced with options. Have you ever made the ‘wrong’ choice? What happened? Could you change it? Do you have any regrets?
8) Was there a change in your immediate family such as a death, divorce, bankruptcy that caused a major change in your life?
9) Natural disasters can wreak havoc in our lives. Were you ever impacted by a tornado? Hurricane? Flood? Earthquake or other natural disasters?
10) It is often said that life is change. Having lived as long as you have, have you developed an attitude towards change that helps you cope with the uncertainties of life? Do you welcome
change or try to hold onto the past?

Now you choose one of these ten points to write your 2-3 page story about. When you repeat this process using all ten of the legacy themes, you will have a complete 7,000 – 8,000 word story covering every significant part of your life.

If you wish to enhance your life story, it can be done in two ways. You can expand upon each of these ten core legacy themes, building each into a multi-page document. Instead of 2-3 pages each, they can be expanded at will. There are a total of 25 additional themes, each one having the ability to add depth to your life story. Brought together, they will turn your work into a significant manuscript.

Richard Campbell

Life Story Writing in The Big Apple

Every year my publisher (Writer’s Digest) hosts its annual Writer’s Conference at the Roosevelt Hotel in mid-town New York City. It’s an old dowager kind of place built in 1924 and resembles those grandiose CP Hotels that once dotted the Canadian landscape. Guy Lombardo played Auld Lang Syne there every year and Lawrence Welk started his career in the same building. It’s also been featured in movies such as The Dictator, French Connection, and Wall Street. Today it rates maybe 3-Stars but not much more than that. The elevators are slow and it has that slightly unkempt ambience – perfect for writers.

The Roosevelt has a nice traditional dark bar just off the lobby. The Madison Club Lounge is where I could finally have my favorite cocktail drink, the Tequila Lemon Fresca. I had discovered it there the year before. After the first day sessions ended I drank two in quick succession – on an empty stomach – and had to bail out. After that I was happy with one per day.

I digress. We registered and attended the first couple of sessions. Our plan was for Brenda and me to attend different ones so that we could get as much information as possible. It would have taken too many of us to catch all of them. Bonus: The conference featured a bookshop with lots of relevant titles – and mine was there! What a joy it was to watch as people picked it up – and sometimes bought a copy. I surreptitiously photographed the first time that happened.

The sessions covered every conceivable writing topic. Every genre came alive in its presentation. Fiction, non-fiction, memoir, horror, gothic, romance, traditional publishing, hybrid publishing, self-publishing; something for every starving writer. One of the sessions focused on Acting Like a Writer. The presenter was an actor who did lots of improv comedy. His opening line was: “So you’re an actor. What restaurant do you work in?” It was the one session where I took no notes. He had an engaging manner but I found little substance to his talk. He did say one thing that I will never forget. His wife once called him a charmer. He liked that until she said: “People don’t trust charmers.” The charmer always wants something. I will keep that in mind.

Conferences are important for their networking possibilities. I met many writers, a few agents, and I made some lucky connections. Phil Sexton is my Writer’s Digest Publisher and he is going to get more Writing Your Legacy copies into the Canadian market. I also met the editor of Writer’s Digest Magazine. Everyone was open to friendly discussion. There was a huge cocktail party scheduled for Saturday night, followed by a general author signing party. We had a previous commitment. Hailing a cab down to SoHo, we enjoyed dinner with an internationally acclaimed author/speaker and her erudite sea captain husband in their historic loft. We finally made it back to the hotel at 1:15 AM. It was like meeting old friends.

It’s odd returning to a conference site right after it ends. That happened early Sunday afternoon. There were still remnants of what once was. The signs and posters had been taken down and they lay scattered in heaps on top of desks covered in tangled drapes. I saw one big sign still standing on its pedestal. It was a list of significant authors and their book signing times. At the bottom was another list, this one of all the authors present. My name was there. One memory. Just as the conference was ending I noticed that my books had sold out (which was later confirmed by my publisher). Yay! That meant that I wouldn’t have to do a book signing scheduled for that last hour. I wouldn’t have known what to write.

Later in the day, Brenda and I walked up to the 5th Avenue Barnes & Noble Store. I wasn’t giving up on my dream to see our book on its shelves. While there a year ago I had vowed that I’d see it this time around. Two days earlier, just before this conference started, I had gone there to check – but there were no copies available. I wasn’t giving up. I went back for a second look. And I found it. I found two copies. Shamelessly I bought one of them. I just had to do it. Note to self: In just a few moments, 50 % of the book’s stock in that store had been sold – to me. Finding our book in that huge store on 5th Avenue in New York City was a life highlight.

Our flight out was from LaGuardia. Vice President Joe Bidden has compared it to a ‘third world country’ and it has been ranked as the worst in customer service in the U.S. We experienced that first-hand while trying to order and pay for breakfast. After a quick flight to Buffalo, we drove across the border into Canada and stopped at the St. Catharines Chapters store. Writing Your Legacy was there. Another Yay!

Attending conferences can be expensive. I’ve gone to very few in my life, all of them since I moved to Ontario in 2011. Sometimes I wonder: If I’d attended a few before that time, would my writing career be further ahead now than it is? Probably. But I might also be drinking too much of that Tequila Lemon Fresca.

Richard

Today is the Day – Official Release Date of Writing Your Legacy

Today our new book Writing Your Legacy: The Step-by-Step Guide to Crafting Your Life Story is being officially released in bookshops across North America. The European release date is July 30th. Many people already have their copies, thanks to Amazon. It seems so much easier to have things brought to you rather than having to go out and get them. I have a tiny confession. I think I was the first to order a copy and that was way back in September 2014 when we were still working on our main draft. Talk about pressure to perform! For some reason Amazon was able to jumpstart the process. I’m guessing that the bulk of sales will come from that source. Now it’s up to the public to make or break our book. If it’s good, it will survive. To help this happen, your reviews on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Chapters/Indigo (wherever the book was purchased) would be greatly appreciated.

In my research library I have 50 + books on life story writing. I’m going to list the best ones here with my recommendations. I look for two things.

1) Is it easy to read? That may sound shallow but I don’t enjoy trying to get through dense tomes with breaks far and few between. That’s not the way I learn.

2) Does it offer a better way of writing your life story than through chronological, year-by-year autobiography?

Note: I’m not including our book Writing Your Legacy because I don’t really know where to place it in my listings. It’s too new and untried.

My Top Five

  • The Power of Memoir: How to Write Your Healing Story by Linda Joy Myers
  • Writing Your Life: Putting Your Past on Paper by Lou Willett Stanek
  •  How To Write Your Own Life Story by Lois Daniel
  • You Don’t Have to Be Famous: How to Write Your Life Story by Steve Zousmer
  • Courage and Craft: Writing Your Life Into Story by Barbara Abercrombie

Five Honorable Mentions

  • Shimmering Images: A Handy Little Guide to Writing Memoir by Lisa Dale Norton
  • Writing Life Stories: How to Make Memories Into Memoir by Bill Roorbach
  • Writing the Memoir: From Truth to Art by Judith Barrington
  • Elderwriters: Celebrate Your Life by Sue Barocas
  • Your Life As Story by Tristine Rainer

Each of these titles can help you explore the idea of writing your own life story. As a legacy to your children and grandchildren, nothing else comes close.

Richard Campbell

The Toughest Life Stories to Write

Many of us have hair-raising stories that have never been told. Veterans find it hard to articulate the intensity of war they experienced. Former addicts worry that their redemptive words might sound too preachy. Survivors of family violence do not want to embarrass anyone. Their life stories remain silenced.

My life story writing classes usually have about ten participants. We share one theme per session; it could be about family, work, social, spiritual, or personal values. At some point during the program, usually around the fifth class, the trust that has been developing results in one or more students sharing very personal information. It is often about betrayal in marriage, or a profound disappointment with a son or daughter. Surprisingly, this revelation is met with nothing more than quiet acceptance and reaffirming comments. Jim Birren, founder of Guided Autobiography calls this the “Oh” phenomenon. The person suddenly understands that his or her story could easily be one shared by others in the group. Our life journeys often intersect. The irony is that no one is encouraged to reveal such information. Sometimes it just happens.

When do we tell particularly tough parts of our life story? Many life story writers will say that you must always tell the stories – that you must be honest with yourself. But first ask: Who will be reading this? Is it for my children, or perhaps my still very young grandchildren? Would they be able to grasp the deeper meaning to these stories? Are they ready to let go of the man or woman up on the pedestal? It might be wise to choose your audience first. If the story is for your eyes only or if it meant for your adult family members, then write as you will. Tell all – with one caveat. Be kind in your words. Don’t blame others, no matter what. Tell your truth as you know it but understand that there are other perspectives out there. Each has its own truth. Do not tell someone else’s story.

Here’s an example. One class member divorced her husband and wrote two pages criticizing him. He came across as narrow minded, bigoted, and mean spirited. Unfortunately, her words made the reader feel uncomfortable. No one could be that bad. Was she perhaps inadvertently writing something of herself into this diatribe? In telling his story, she was putting herself into it as well, and making both look like caricatures. Wisely, she discarded this life story theme, choosing to give it time and new perspective.

When writing about the tough stuff in life, we need to remember two important points. Readers will only find value in your story if it involves a search for answers and healing. It must include a journey towards redemption, understanding, and perhaps, forgiveness. If your victimhood plays out through the narrative without resolution, there can be little to learn from your experience. Second, the tough things in life often make the best stories.

Perhaps the best advice to consider while writing about the hard things in life is the Alexandre Dumas quote: “The merit of all things lies in their difficulty.” Find this in your stories. It can be your road to redemption.

Richard Campbell

A Life Story Writer’s 10 Most Common Fears

Taking on a life story writing project means stepping out of your comfort zone. It means trying to push the bar a little higher. It means putting yourself on the line. It means stress. Isn’t there enough of that already? Why add more? Why write? The answer is found in this anonymous quote: Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

Let’s look at the top ten common fears life story writers face when we confront the blank page.

Fear of Inadequacy
Fear of Criticism
Fear of Success
Fear of Getting Started
Fear of Commitment
Fear of Having Nothing to Say
Fear of Being Too Old
Fear of Exposure
Fear of Too Much Work
Fear of Rejection

That’s enough to scare just about anyone off writing; anywhere, anytime! For each of us, there will likely be one or two key fears that stand out from this list. Often it is a combination of two fears, those of having nothing to say, and getting started. But what about fear of success? Who wouldn’t want that? Incredibly, many people don’t wish that upon themselves. That raises the stakes. Success might throw them even further out from their comfort zones.

So let’s look at how we can throw some cold water on these fears and put them out for good. Here are five ways you can challenge them. These can all be found in our book, Writing Your Legacy.

Face Your Fears
Which of the above fears are they? Name them. Call them out. Then start writing. None of them are going to hurt you. They are in your mind.

Take it One Step at a Time
Feeling fear means that you are projecting yourself into the unknown future. Step back into the present moment and start writing.

Connect With Your Intended Readers
Who are you writing for? Your family? Future generations? This is your gift to them. It will become a valuable document for them. It will be appreciated.

Accept the Possibility of Failure
The only real failure is to not even try.

Find Your One and Only
Is there one person in your network who will offer unconditional support while you write? He or she need not read your work – but merely offer encouragement and sometimes, a gentle push forward.

In his book ‘You Don’t Have to be Famous: How to Write Your Life Story,’ Steve Zousmer suggests a unique way to deal with your fear. “Pick something you know you can write without bogging down…anything that gets you moving. Before long, probably without realizing it, your writing muscles will loosen…

One last piece of advice: You are the expert in all things you. No one else can write your life story better than you.

Richard Campbell