Write something you’d never show your mother or father
~ Lorrie Moore
This quote is at the beginning of my latest release, Broken Pieces. I share it because this particular quote had a huge impact on the writing of this, my third book, on me as an author, as well as a woman.
As a nonfiction writer of two previous and bestselling Amazon books on humor, I fully intended to write the third humor book, covering relationships and love in my normal satirical manner. And yet…when I sat down to write, what surfaced were stories from my childhood.
THE HARD STUFF
About the sexual abuse I suffered at age eleven. About the attempted date rape in college. About the abusive relationship I had with a man whom I loved with all my heart – whom I dumped eventually…who later killed himself. I poured out stories of love, loss, grief, abuse, and trust. Yet, I struggled mightily with which direction to take: write and share these deeply personal stories in the form of prose, poetry, and essays, or continue on with my ‘brand’ of nonfiction humor, essentially ignoring everything I had written.
Writing about the hard stuff is something many authors choose not to do in a nonfiction format – mostly because of fear of repercussion from family members, or even the person(s) who committed the crimes. Giving ourselves permission to address normally ‘taboo’ subjects isn’t easy. For me, I feel as if this book was inside me for years, waiting patiently for me to write it all down and share with others.
Give yourself permission to write the hard stuff. Don't self-edit. Get in that headspace and just go. You're a grown up. Write like it.
But it’s more than that. As writers, we must give ourselves permission to admit imperfection, to explore those thoughts most people avoid, to share our vulnerability. No, not explore – more study and analyze. That’s what writers do. Bad things happen to good people all the time. When it happens to us, it takes time – in some cases, a lifetime of time – to look back on our past with perspective and the courage to share. Because that courage can help others, not just us.
Many people who do allow themselves to write about their pain find healing and closure. Others, like myself, find that talking about it helps us connect to others who have suffered and survived. It’s who we become after these experiences that show us who we are.
A critical piece of putting together my ‘pieces,’ was to hire an editor (as I had with my previous two books). Part of showing our vulnerability is recognizing what we are good at and when we need help. My book is what it is because of our intense work together.
Some people still shy away from reading about difficult topics as much as writers avoid marketing them. However, sharing our true authentic selves connects us in ways even we could never imagine. Already a nonfiction writer, I purposefully changed the tone of my author blog to discuss these difficult real-life experiences. I also invited fellow author colleagues to write their stories as guests on my blog.
The reason for this is two-fold: to show readers another side of me while prepping them for my more serious release, and to give visibility and exposure to author colleagues who may not be able to write about such experiences on their own blogs.
The response has been amazing. One hundred forty-three reviews (at this moment) on Amazon, five award-wins, and a contract with a publishing company to create the print version. I’m now working on the follow up, Broken Places.
If I’ve learned anything from this experience (of writing, release, and marketing) is to encourage authors to trust their vision. Sometimes we have to get our head out of the way and listen to the stories that skim along next to us, waiting until we’re ready to reveal them. Writing these stories isn’t exploitative (a fear many authors have); it’s raw, it’s honest, but it’s our truth.
Rachel Thompson is the author of the award-winning Broken Pieces, as well as two additional humor books, A Walk In The Snark and Mancode: Exposed. She also owns BadRedhead Media, creating effective social media and book marketing campaigns for authors. She lives in California with her family. Connect with Rachel on Twitter @RachelintheOC and @BadRedheadMedia.