Let me get on my soapbox…
Stories are how you connect to your reader. They’re how she knows, in her soul, in her bones, in her heart, that YOU, the author, Get Her. Understand her journey, her pain, her hopes for the future.
If you’re not using stories in you’re writing, you just can’t create that connection.
Let me illustrate:
Any author will tell you that there are moments where the writing gets tough and they want to give up. But they persevere because they can see the end goal: being seen as a credible expert; helping their reader to have a life-changing, life-affirming change; fulfilling a dream of writing a book.
It is in those moments of darkness, the author must dig deep into their wells of productivity, hard-work, and resilience to keep writing. Someday, they’ll look back with satisfaction for a book well-written.
I WROTE that and it was boring. As soon as I wrote it, I wasn’t 100% sure what I said…
It didn’t sound like me. Those two paragraphs aren’t warm, inviting, caring. They don’t show, at all, my heart – and how I care about YOUR heart and the heart of the reader.
And I can almost guarantee that by now, in this moment of reading this article, you don’t exactly remember what I said, in all that pretentious glory.
(Right? You just scanned up to re-read those two paragraphs, didn’t you?!)
Now, try on the following story, first written back in June 2015
(Dude! That was two years BEFORE kids!)
Two weeks ago Ben and I went on a 5-day backpacking trip. You know the drill: load everything into a 35 pound backpack, walk for miles into the back-country, camp, repeat the next day.
I realize that for some (a lot?) of you, that sounds like a mini version of hell. For me, it’s peace, tranquility, freedom. There’s that moment when my body says, “Ahhhh” to the weight of the pack. (By now, that’s usually the second I put it on!) And that second moment where my legs feel like they’re unattached, swinging loose from my hips, like walking is the natural state of being.
Not following me? Think of that moment where you’re doing something you love and suddenly every fiber in your being says, “Yes! I LOVE this! Yes!”
Now about this trip…
It was unlike anything we’d ever done before. It wasn’t a backpacking trip, but a canyoneering trip. I hate giving a rote definition but here’s a great explanation:
Canyoning (known as canyoneering in the U.S.) is traveling in canyons using a variety of techniques that may include other outdoor activities such as walking, scrambling, climbing, jumping, abseiling (rappelling), and swimming.
And this trip had everything except rope-work.
But here’s what I realized, several times, actually.
I was DONE. I’d had it, I wanted out, this wasn’t fun.
That time when we were just getting to Wet Beaver Creek, through Waldroup Canyon. It was brutally hot; the rocks were huge, sharp, and hot; I was tired, the puddles to wet my hat weren’t close enough together and DAMNIT! there was yet ANOTHER scramble , this one down a side gulch using a dead Ponderosa pine tree as an over-head scramble hold.
But here’s the thing… I was halfway to Wet Beaver Creek. And the only thing I could do was go on.
I didn’t have the luxury of being done. I couldn’t climb back out. I couldn’t stay there. If I wanted to refill my water bottle, I’d have to get to the creek. The three liters I’d brought with me were gone.
I couldn’t stay halfway.
I was done again on the second day. We’d rested for lunch by the side of the creek. Ben was fishing, I was lying in the shade looking contentedly at the water. But when I stood up…
Yuck! I’ll spare you the gory details and sum it up like this: I’d gotten hot. Slowly, so I didn’t realize I was hot. But I felt terrible, awful, sick, and miserable.
But I couldn’t stay in that spot. There was no way out from there – and no way for a rescuer to come get us. I wasn’t dying, I was just miserable. I wanted to give up but realized there was nowhere to give up TO.
I couldn’t stay there, not even halfway into the journey, I had to go on.
I was done when I stepped out of the creek onto a loose rock and found myself on my back like a turtle, wind knocked out of me, hat and GoPro flying, half-in, half-out of the creek.
I was done when faced with the 15th mandatory swim of the trip when I was cold, hungry, sore, and my pack had gained about 5 pounds of water weight.
I was done when I realized my knife had opened and sliced my pack, hammock, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad. In fact, I sat down and cried.
What do all of these have in common?
I couldn’t stay there. All of these moments along the journey when I wanted to give up, be done, not do this any longer didn’t get me one thing…
They didn’t get me out of the canyon.
I had to do it myself. I had to dig deep, reach for resources I didn’t know I had, change my attitude, count my blessings, and keep moving forward.
And here’s the biggest thing: I didn’t do any of this alone. I had my mentor, my guide, my partner, to work with me every step of the way. Ben couldn’t carry me (or my pack!) but he could share the load. He could take some weight from my pack, show me the best trail through the creek, be my guide and pathfinder encourage me, share in my successes, and pick me up when I fell.
I’d been there before. I’d done this before. It was all eerily similar…
Because it’s exactly the same as writing a book. Trust me, after writing 16 of them, I know! There are moments (sometimes a lot of them) where I want to throw in the towel and be done. They’re all those halfway moments, where you have to dig deep, find guidance, get help, and keep going.
You can’t stay halfway. You can’t stay stuck.
But you don’t have to do it alone. When you’re stuck in the canyon of your book, I’m here to help you. Reach out, let me be your Story Pathfinder.
P.S. Yes, I’d do it all again – this trip or another. Because I realized that the moments of being done were just that, moments. The rest of it was joyful, exhilarating, amazing, seeing things that few people see. The transformation was worth every bruise, scrape, bug bite, and damaged gear.
Funny thing, the books are like that too.
Do you SEE the difference? Yes, the story is significantly longer. But it was crafted for you to FEEL. And when you can evoke an emotion in your reader (that isn’t annoyance at being condescending or frustration over big, fancy words, or slight disease that you think they’re dumb…) you can have you reader have that magic experience:
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