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

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