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Don't write a book

Earlier this summer, I wrote about the lasagna factor and my client Kim. If you’re curious, you can read it here. Cheryl Strayed used lasagna as a metaphor for our stories during a workshop she led. She explained that our stories have this cheesy golden top that is beautiful, but the layers beneath are where the real gold lies, the interesting, colorful, flavorful bits of life.

We need courage to dig deep, and even bolder courage to put the stuff we find onto the page and share it with the world. My client Kim is struggling with this reality. She wants to play it safe and share the glossy version. I am sorry, Kim, you did not become brilliant and unstoppable because you floated through life. Actually, you, me and everyone else encountered life-altering breaking points during our life journey.

Okay, so we know this already. But some of us (translation: all of us) work pretty damn hard to make sure that no one ever sees the fractures in our veneer. If you are hellbent on preserving your perfect veneer, then allow me to save you a bunch of time, energy, and money. Don’t write a book.

At least not a nonfiction book. Consider creating adult fiction; maybe fantasy, mystery, horror, or the favorite beach read - a bodice ripper. But please don’t waste your readers’ time with a glossy version of your career, business journey, or life. To be blunt, glossy equals boring.

Your book will be tossed onto a stack of half-read books readers thought were going to be great, but were about as much fun as reading a telephone book. For those of you who might be, ahem, unfamiliar with phone books, here’s my favorite clip from the 1997 movie “The Jerk” that demonstrates the importance of a phone book.

What your readers really want to know is how you got out of the messes you made or someone else made for you. Because the beauty is in the rising and rebirth. Again, we all know this, but every author I work with struggles with this part of book writing.

Every. Single. Author.

When it’s time to put reality on paper, the avoidance tactics kick in hard. If you’ve never written a book, your ego is pompously shouting in your head “not me, I wouldn’t avoid it!” as you read this. But it takes significant courage and vulnerability to put your warts, bunions, and scars on the page for all to read.

The Japanese got it right a long time ago when they developed the ancient art of kintsugi. The folks at the Modern Met describe it perfectly:

This unique method [of fixing broken pottery] celebrates each artifact's unique history by emphasizing its fractures and breaks instead of hiding or disguising them. In fact, kintsugi often makes the repaired piece even more beautiful than the original, revitalizing it with a new look and giving it a second life.

Emphasizing the beauty of your fractures and breakdowns instead of hiding them is part of book writing. Writing your book will change you, maybe even revitalize you. But it’s even more important for your book to change your readers.

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