What the hell does lasagna have to do with book writing?
Have you ever read Cheryl Strayed's work? Her memoir, Wild, is an award-winning bestseller turned movie. I recently attended a writers' workshop that she led, and all I can say is wow. When someone connects lasagna with writing, I'm all in.
Cheryl shared many powerful insights, but I know this one about lasagna will be helpful. Plus, what a luscious way to sneak in a food pic.
My work with my new client Kim (not her real name) serves as a good example of the lasagna thing. Her book writing journey began in mid-April. The first month of our collaboration flew by almost without effort.
And that was the problem.
We spoke multiple times in that first month, mostly while she drove to NYC for a meeting or to the Starbucks drive-thru for a latte on the way to her office. I captured her musings about childhood, her relationship with her mother, moving to the U.S., her divorces, and starting her rocket ship of a business that continues to grow.
The problem was the "without effort" part.
In case you haven't heard, writing a book is hard. And I'm not talking about writing. I'm talking about the lasagna. Metaphors could run amuck on this point, but I'm sticking with Cheryl's clever analogy.
Our story has layers of meaning, emotion, and impact. The more powerful it is, the harder it is to reach and excavate each layer. So the lasagna in your story is the multiple layers of complexity and nuance. Kim shared the comfortable, pretty parts of her story - the delightful golden brown cheese topping (see photo). In fairness to Kim, she had only met me a few weeks prior, so trusting me with the deeper, darker stuff would take more than a couple of video calls.
Your job as an author is digging, going to one layer, then the next, and so on. This digging is hard because of the emotions and long tail impact involved, but also because of our perspective.
Imagine that you drive the same route every day. Your mind becomes accustomed to the surroundings to the point you no longer notice the details. Then one lazy Sunday afternoon you take a walk along that same route and magically, things look different. "Wow, that bush got big, I love the color of those day lilies, when did the neighbors paint their house?" You are moving slower and seeing details from a different perspective, which change everything.
Seeing your story is the same thing. Your mind has become accustomed to one perspective. With the passing of time, your recollection becomes less clear and sometimes all you remember are the good parts. Or the bad parts.
One of my ghostwriter heroes, Michelle Burford, has written memoirs for many big name celebrities. During an interview with the New York Times, she said, "I will ask you questions that will make you want to punch me." Now that made me laugh out loud. Truth.
Writing your story requires that you go deep through the layers to unearth the most vulnerable parts. It's a laborious process, and often not a very pretty one. Can you avoid this part of the process? Sure. But then your book becomes just another boring story about the golden brown cheese topping. We never get to the meat of the matter; the ugly, painful, amazing humanness that we all share.