One question people always ask me when they're ready to write their book is, "Emily, why does the world need another sob story?"
Inevitably when someone's ready to write the book that will serve others, it involves a vulnerable story of struggle. And you know what, I ask myself that question too, "Why is it that stories of struggle often provide the most authentic connections?"
So, these days, whenever I get extremely confused, I ask my fifth graders. They pretty much know everything and they tell it to you straight. This past week they gave me a big epiphany on this subject. Finally, it's really hitting home: this is why the world needs your story.
You see we just started reading Witches by Roald Dahl.
I hadn't read the book before I made that decision, but I thought it sounded cool. Then I got to the part where the child is trapped for eternity inside a painting where she appears and disappears feeding ducks (page 9), and I put the book down. I'm the mother of a toddler. This is my new worst nightmare.
Why was I going to torture an entire class of twelve-year-olds with this? What was I thinking? I've seriously got to stop assigning books that I haven't read for myself. Who does that?
I went back to my classroom panicked, but instead of sending them all back to the library to exchange their library books, I asked them, "Why do we read things that scare us?"
Of course, their answers are brilliant. We synthesized them into 3 main points:
- You to learn more about life through vicarious experience, than you would reading only happy stuff.
- Reading allows you to express pent up emotions that you may have been frightened to feel.
- You connect with characters at a deeper level when something vulnerable, scary or difficult is shared
Now, let's make this super actionable as it applies to your book. Sit down with a blank sheet of paper. At the top of the page, write the gist of your story. Then, underneath that, answer three questions related to the post above.
- What did you learn from it?
- What universal emotions does it express?
- Who do you think you will connect with and serve if you shared it?
The answers to these three questions are the reasons you need to write your story. You can use it as a preface to a book, an about page, or even an entire memoir. And when you focus on these three points, it's not about you anymore, it's about the people you are serving.
That discussion in my 5th grade class actually got me keyed back in to something I wrote in a journal two years ago, when I first started exploring the idea of becoming a writing coach:
"Most writing exists to share information. Stories exists to share emotion, to share what it feels like to be alive. Through stories the entire spectrum of human experience has meaning and value. As humans we can’t control what will happen to us, but if we love stories, no matter what happens, we will never be alone."
This is true for readers, and the creative writing process as well. Just by getting the story onto the page you feel less alone. And whenever you feel self-conscious about writing your story, remember there are always more people who need your help, there there are people putting themselves out there and helping.
If you know someone with a story, who needs a nudge, don't hesitate to click on the share buttons below. I'm always here for those who need it.