I’ve spoken with a number of first-time authors, some of whom were just starting to write their first books, and others who were writing shorter pieces. There’s a curious phenomenon I’ve observed to be surprisingly common. People want to hide their best stories.
I can remember a number of casual conversations with aspiring authors would wanted to write how-to books on vanilla topics, such as how to write a business plan, or how to reduce tax liability by taking deductions. In most cases, the book ideas contained nothing new. I must confess that I have deflated the hopes of several starry-eyed authors who thought they had conceived a viable idea, only because they failed to adequately research the already-saturated market.
There’s another side to this, however. When I ask these same people about their backgrounds and personal lives, they always have fascinating stories to share. Sometimes, the stories are funny. Sometimes, they’re sad. Sometimes, they’re jaw-dropping. Every time, the stories contain infinite value. But they almost never recognize it. When I ask first-time authors how they feel about sharing their stories, there’s a question that usually comes up: “You don’t think people would be interested in that, do you?”
People are eager to fill volumes with generic advice. That’s not a bad thing, provided that you can add something of value. But your story is original. It alone is uniquely yours. It alone provides new perspectives that no one but you can offer. You have an opportunity to allow others to experience what you alone have experienced. What generic advice or how-to formula can create that kind of value?
A story doesn’t happen once in a lifetime. A story happens once in a billion lifetimes. Stories are as unique as DNA, and they are just as fundamental to who you are. Like DNA, stories can be passed from generation to generation. Like DNA, stories change a little bit each time. Over time, they define cultures.
Why do people hold back their stories? There are a lot of reasons. Sometimes, it’s self-doubt. Sometimes, it’s fear of what people will think. Also, remember that your story may sound less interesting to you than to someone who didn’t live your life.
The next time you’re thinking of writing, tell us a story.