One of the things I frequently say to people who have considered telling their story for many years, is that they will have a sense of the ‘right’ time. Usually, there is a feeling that they have waited too long to get their words heard, perhaps that others have stopped them from having a voice, or that they simply can’t settle until it’s all down on paper.
However, there is also a trend with some people to do the complete opposite and this is something I am seeing much more often. In fact, chatting to a literary agent this week, it was something she brought up as one of the main problems when people contact her about their stories. The obvious question this raises is, when should you write your story?
The truth is, for some people, it’s just too soon.
This can be for a number of reasons, but the main one is that the journey is still continuing and, rather than reach some sort of closure, there remains uncertainty and flux at the heart of their experience. It’s perfectly understandable that when a major event occurs in someone’s life, they want to process it in a way which gives it some coherence – often that coherence comes from readers giving acknowledgement not just of what has happened, but how it has been dealt with and the impact it has had. But, for those same readers (and publishers), there has to be a sense of the last chapter. If that last chapter hasn’t been written, if the trauma is still ongoing, if the healing has still to begin, then there is a huge disconnect between the closure needed for readers and the recognition needed by the author.
I have had people contact me the day after major medical diagnoses – they are in a hurry, not because their diagnosis is terminal, but because they want to ensure that every step of their journey is recorded, that nothing is missed. As I always emphasise, I am not a counsellor, I am not a psychiatrist, and the burden of writing a book whilst in the midst of such a huge life change would be exactly that – a burden.
As a ghostwriter, I should, of course, be encouraging everyone to write a book, but I think we have lost sight of other options to some extent. Diaries can still be incredibly cathartic, and extremely powerful – books based on those some time after the event have been successful, and they also provide a rich mine of information for future generations should they wish to tell their stories, or yours. If a more immediate audience is required, blogs can help too, as they still allow you to cover topics and emotions at your own pace, perhaps even testing the waters to see if this is really what you want to do, or to measure the reactions of others.
We live in a world of immediacy – every day filled with Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Tumblr, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter and many, many more. There is no shortage of platforms but books still live in a special place. I think that is why people are so drawn to telling their story in that format. With the instant availability and dissemination of every aspect of everyone’s life, the very act of selecting and presenting in a certain number of words which will be set forever, is almost a novelty.
By all means, tell your tale, that’s what ghostwriters are here for – but do make sure it’s the right time for it be heard.