What I’ve learned about how to write a book over the years, is this:
Writing a book that has the power to change lives is not a science.
It’s an art.
There’s no set of cardinal rules you can follow that will guarantee your success.
But when you think back to the books that have transformed your life, you’ll begin to notice some common themes.
I know I have. And it’s these themes that will help you write a book that makes it into people’s hands and hearts, and never leave.
That might sound easy, but it’s not.
Because it will require you to open your heart. To be vulnerable, and share your truth.
It will require you to meet and face all of yourself, and confront your deepest feelings and fears.
To cross the bridge between the two worlds every day, and journey back to your desk and write about it.
This is how you write a book that has the power to change lives, and your own life, too.
Write from your heart
The best articles and books I have ever written are the ones where I haven’t tried to please anyone, or write what I believe to be a “winning” story.
I’ve ignored rules about creating click-worthy headlines, and flooding the page with keywords.
And I’ve removed myself from thinking about how people will react or respond to my writing when I hit publish.
When I think of the writing that has had the deepest impact on people, there’s one common thread tying all those pieces together:
I wrote from my heart.
I can’t write to please everyone, but someone, somewhere will be touched if I put my heart into it.
I took the time to really connect to myself, and tap into my rawest and truest emotions.
I literally turned my heartbeats into words, and poured them out onto the page.
And you can feel it when you’re writing like this. You’ll feel a potent energy moving through your body. As the words are emptied out, you’ll feel a sweet sense of release. And you’ll be left with a tingling inside knowing that you just made magic.
The power of writing from your heart is, when people read it, they’ll feel it too.
And this is what moves people. This is what takes your book from good to unforgettable.
Write the book you want to write, not the book you think you should write
It can be tempting to write about what we know, because it’s easy. It’s what we know. We can do it with our eyes closed. And we know we can manage a book’s worth of words, no problem.
But what you know might not necessarily be what excites you the most. And this will show.
It doesn’t matter if you’re the most knowledgeable person in the world on a particular subject – if it feels blurgh to you, it’ll read as blurgh.
Don’t write what you know—what you know may bore you, and thus bore your readers. Write about what interests you—and interests you deeply—and your readers will catch fire at your words.
― Valerie Sherwood
So as sensible as it might seem to write the book you think you should write, I invite you to resist the urge to.
Write the book you really want to write.
The one that’s going to keep your flame ignited all the way to the end. The one that’s going to keep you showing up at your desk each day and writing.
Write the book that feels the most adventurous to you. The one that was given to you by the Divine for a reason, and was seeded in your soul.
Write the book that only you can write.
How to write a book that changes lives: Write with courage
I always ask my clients, “are you writing things that scare you?”
Are you digging up all that lurks in the darkness, and exposing it to the light?
Are you daring to meet and face all of yourself, even the parts you’re afraid of?
Because this is what it means to write with courage.
And this is how you overcome years of fear, blame and shame that has weighed you down. This is how you break free from the self-imposed chains that bind you. And this is how you give your reader permission to do the same.
Don’t ever let anybody take away your voice. You have something to say, your soul has a story to tell. Write it. There is never any reason to be afraid. Just write it and then put it out there for the world. Shove it up a flag pole and see who salutes it. Somebody will say it’s crap. So what? Somebody else will love it. And that’s what writing’s about.
― Melodie Ramone
There will always be people who don’t like what you have to say.
There will always be people who give your book a one star review on Amazon, and say they threw it immediately in the bin (true story).
And there will always be people waiting in the wings to criticise what you’ve created.
That’s the thing about art. You’re only responsible for half of it. The other half – once you birth your creation into the world – is completely out of your hands.
But don’t ever allow anyone’s voice to silence yours.
Dare to write with courage. Lean in to the things that scare you.
Let people know they are not alone
Your job, no, your duty as a writer is to show people they are understood in this world.
To help them make sense of their feelings as they see you making sense of yours. To show people that all of us are dealing with the same pain, the same struggles, and the same heartache. It’s your duty to help people heal from your art. And let them know they are not alone.
Do this, and you’ll create something that truly has the power to change people’s lives, all over the world.
Because nobody wants to suffer in silence, and carry the weight of their burden alone. And nobody should have to either.
Whatever your biggest and toughest challenges have been in this life, there is someone somewhere who is experiencing them too.
Speak to them. Write for them. Show them they are not alone.
Write to change your own life, too
Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink. Drink and be filled up.
― Stephen King
So much of the time, we do things in life because of what we think we will get.
We put in crazy hours at work, because we hope it will land us a promotion and a raise.
We spend a tonne of time and money planning our wedding, because we think that will make us happy on the day.
And we write a book in the hopes that it will get published, get picked up by Oprah, and bring us money and fame.
And we lose sight of what really matters. We don’t enjoy the process, and all the days that lead up to the thing we’re hoping for. We grow disconnected from what we’re doing, and why we’re even doing it.
The thing about writing a life changing book is, it needs to change your life too.
And not because of what it gets you once it’s done.
It has to change your life while you’re writing it.
It has to challenge you, push your boundaries, and make you walk all the way to the edge of what you believe is within you.
And it has to make you grow and expand, and take a soul stretch every day; leaving you in awe as you look back on the journey you’ve been on.
It has to fill you up, and make your heart swell. Every day has to really matter to you, and be infused with meaning and purpose.
Do it right, and writing a book won’t just change people’s lives. It will change yours, too. In ways you can’t begin to imagine.
So you see, there’s no secret.
There’s no magic potion you can drink, or equation you can follow, that will help you write a life changing book.
It really comes down to creating a piece of art from your soul, and gifting it to the world.
Without expectations, or hidden agendas.
Just open your heart, listen, feel, and write.
This is how you write a book that changes lives.