I’ve lost count of the number of times that someone has told me, “Everyone tells me that I need to write a book about what I’ve been through.” There’s nothing wrong with writing a book to capture your story, but it’s always good to stop and ask the question: Is there a way for me to make a difference with my story right now?
Here are five ways that your story can make a difference without being traditionally published:
Speaking – Whether you do this via video or in-person, your spoken story can captivate and motivate an audience. The internet is full of people telling their stories so, add yours to the mix! Don’t hold off because you’re worried that you give your message or story away before your book is published. You can tell parts of your story now, and it will build trust with your audience, and they want to hear more from you.
Last month, my friend Wendy passed away. She’d battled cancer for five years after several decades of drug abuse. She was a pastor’s kid who begged her parents to get married at 14 years old. By the time she was in her mid-20’s, Wendy had been married and divorced three times, a single mom to three kids and had gotten her college degree. She spent several decades addicted to methamphetamines before getting sober seven years ago. Wendy never asked me about writing a book. She spent her life (between cancer treatments and surgery), speaking at Celebrate Recovery gatherings, churches and more. She spoke to tens of thousands of people over the years, and God used her to make an incredible difference in so many lives.
Fiction Writers: I’m not leaving you out! Many fiction books deal with faith-based themes like forgiveness, reconciliation and unconditional love. Fiction writers can use their characters, plot and even verses to construct inspiring messages for book clubs, ending their talk with sharing the first two or three chapters to the group and inviting them to subscribe to a newsletter for future book updates.
Mentoring – Many people want to write a book because the assumption is that their story only matters if thousands or millions hear it. I’d argue that. Remember the well-known saying, “To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.”
You don’t have to wait until your book comes out to help others. People need help now – and best of all, you don’t have to go far to find someone. If someone has approached you and requested mentoring, seriously consider saying “yes.” Start with a three-month trial and go from there.
You will be a trusted voice and listening ear for someone who is working through what you’ve overcome. Additionally, as you share your learned experience (wisdom) one-on-one, you’ll hone your project’s language and framework. This can only make your book better!
Giving Your Story As a Gift – Your story can be a gift to your family. For fiction, consider writing a special novel just for your family. You can integrate family customs and dishes into your story and give your work as a gift for the holidays. (You should start writing now if you want to get it done in time for Christmas…)
Nonfiction: If you’ve been through a hard experience, chances are, your family doesn’t know about the ah-ha moments or the courageous moments that got you through. You can share that with them and inspire the people that you love.
Years ago, my friend’s husband embezzled a million dollars from their family and friends. She had no idea until she was served with the first of many legal documents suing their family. It took years of legal proceedings as well as a long divorce before she could breathe again. Once it was over, she sat down and typed out everything that happened for her adult kids who weren’t home during the drama and still had questions that she couldn’t emotionally answer.
After she wrote everything down, she had the pages printed and threw a cover on it just for kicks. She gave copies to family and close friends to share her journey and how she learned about God’s forgiveness in the process. They really appreciated reading what would have taken too long to cover in conversation.
Online Course – Creating an interactive, online course can educate and inspire others! This is an idea worth checking out if you’ve been through something and want to help others, but traditionally publishing a book on the topic may disrupt your branding, platform or there isn’t a unique concept to attract a contract offer.
Write It for Yourself – That’s right. Whether fiction or nonfiction, some books need to be written for the writer but no one else. Every project that you write teaches you something. Every project pushes you to the next project, so no word is ever wasted.
If you have a story simmering in your soul, dance it out with your fingers on your keyboard. When it’s on the pages and you can see it, then your story is out. No matter what you decide to do with it, give yourself permission to be okay with allowing that story to be for your eyes only. It’s okay. It really is. One of the agenting slogans that I read early on was this: “Every story should be written down. But, not every story needs to be published.”
QUESTION: Which one of these interests you? Also, what would you at to the list? I’d love to see other ideas on how writers can make a difference with their stories while waiting for a book contract.
Kristen Joy Wilks
This makes me think of my husband’s story. He isn’t a writer and I doubt he will ever write down his testimony. But he is a camp director and while he tries to avoid talking about himself, many times over the years the campers and staff have talked him into sharing his testimony or at least part of it. His is such a powerful story of redemption and how God can step into your life through the kindness of His people and change everything. Every time he shares, lives are touched. While his story will never be a book (unless I write it, ha!) it has touched the lives of so many children and young leaders in spoken form.
Kinda funny…the more I live my story the less I want to write it. Everyone dies, but I want, more than ever, to live…
…if only in imagination.
I thought last night might be the last,
the tumour in the lung’s increased,
and I felt I was slipping fast,
and sought a way to be at peace…
but this is not a story
that in the main I want to write
for there’s no inspired glory
in battling the fall of night.
I’d rather write of hard-rock bands
made up of tattooed unicorns
who travel to far-distant bands
there in arenas to perform
songs they never yet have played
’bout wood-nymphs’ dance in leafy glades.
I love the imagery of tattooed unicorns in a hard-rock band!
Andrew, you’re writing your story every time you type up one of your marvelous poems. Don’t think that because you’re limited in how much you can write, you’re not having an impact, because that would be very wrong.
Elissa, thank you for this. It is so hard now, and your affirmation means the world.
My pastor has coined a phrase…’lost in the process of dying’…and it’s so true. It has been such a long, long fall, and I have tried so hard to document the positive and address the negative, that my head’s really been spun around. I’m writing this at 2244 local, on the night of 4-19-21, and I’m afraid to lie down to sleep. For the nightmares, and for choking on my own breath.
I’ll be here every day I can. As Puddleglum said in ‘The Silver Chair’ (are you a friend of Narnia?), it’s better to be faithful to a good an decent made-up reality than to a cold existentialism.
Janet Ann Collins
When I was a kid my grandfather lived with and told us stories about growing up in San Francisco in the 1800s. A few years ago I wrote those down and gave them to my cousins as a spiral-bound Christmas gift. I’ve NEVER given another gift that was so greatly appreciated.