Natasha Miller is a WSJ bestselling author, the founder and CEO of Whole productionsand she runs Memoir Sherpa.
If you’re a successful entrepreneur, thought leader, or industry titan, you’ve probably considered writing a book, are writing one, or have already published one. And I’m guessing 90% of you thought it would be best to put out a topic or a “how-to” book within your field.
Perhaps you wrote this type of book to use as a sort of business card or a more voluminous business brochure. It could have been used as a lead magnet, to raise your profile or to get talking gigs. You may have published it to help your clients or clients and just push goodwill into the world. These are all common and legitimate reasons. We need your ideas, strategies and tips/tricks.
But you know what the world needs so much if not more than this tutorial works? I think we need to hear your story – your life story. We have to be brought to your lowest inflection points and, of course, your highest – there has to be a balance. We need to hear your lowest 5% of experiences that you may not dare to say out loud. We need to understand what it feels like to reach the peak of your successes and the emotional journey it took to get there. We need to look beyond the gloss of Instagram posts and congratulations that have been published.
Vulnerability and honesty can help build authentic connections with readers.
The more honest and vulnerable you are, the more we learn from you about the important lessons that we can’t see on the surface. Along with the tools, hacks and frameworks, we understand what else it takes to achieve greatness. Being vulnerable can create a deeper relationship and greater trust with your readers. Be careful – it can even lead to opportunities you never thought were meant for you.
In my memoirs, I wrote about things I hadn’t even admitted to my best friend or therapist. Why I thought it would be easier or safer to put it down for the world to read, I’ll never know. These excerpts from my book get a huge response. I receive private messages and emails from people who share what my writing means to them. I received a note that brought me to tears from an entrepreneur in Colorado.
People respond to me in a much more meaningful and authentic way. I believe that the bonds and relationships that are built are much more interconnected than they would have been if I had published a book about growing a business.
Diana Raab, PhD. writes: “Reasons for write a memoir include preserving a family’s legacy, learning about your ancestors, searching for your personal identity, gaining insight into the past, or healing from a traumatic experience.” That’s another added bonus for writing a memoir. I am sure that in addition to inspiring and motivating those who read my book, I will also leave an indelible legacy for my family and ancestors.
What’s a good place to start?
In my experience of helping people write and publish memoirs, I’ve learned a few best practices. A good place to start is to make a list of the major turning points in your life. Note the incredibly high, successful wins, but also the lowest times – even the times when you may not be ready to admit “out loud.” This list is just for you at this point, so don’t hold back.
The key to a successful memoir is to be vulnerable and honest. If you have not yet shared your vulnerabilities, you will need to start practicing them and experience the emotions and reactions you will receive. You don’t have to tell all of your secrets; there are things you shouldn’t say. But writing a safe and only successful story is a story no one will want to read. Your honesty and humble vulnerability allow your readers to trust you. Writing your life story may initially look like an essay or journal entry. Memoirs are not diaries, so you have to massage the text by adding color, dynamism, tension and detail.
Look through your inflection points and identify one core message. This will be the lens through which you write your stories so that your theme is known without mentioning it. Having one main theme or message will help your readers understand what they are getting into and make it easier for them to consume and understand. Yes, you probably have a lot of messages you want to get across, and maybe you still have 2-3 books in you. Do yourself and your readers a favor and understand the power of one idea.
Think about marketing your book as you write it. Waiting until you’re done or thinking you can make a few social media posts once your publish date is up isn’t going to help you. Some things you can do now are:
• Lead your community through your journey – share when you write, what you write with or write about and how you feel about the process by posting on social media and email.
• Ask your community to vote on which stories, book titles, and album covers you want to share. Make them part of your process.
• Involve your community in asking who would like to become a ‘trusted reader’ at the end of your writing process.
If you talk to them now, they’ll be ready to support you when it’s released.
You can experience the same opportunities that you could have by publishing a book on a subject with your life story. You can help people. Not by telling them what to do, making a list of actions or facilitating a strategy, but by letting them peek into the depths of your own personal “hero journey” and show them more than what they see on social media posts. You can prove them by showing them that even though you may be struggling, you can achieve the goals you set for yourself. But you must be relentless in the pursuit. Being ruthless is the core message of my book.
What is your core message?