How to Write a Life in Twenty (not so) Easy Steps – For my Daughters

 
By: Jana Michelle Greene

You are a writer when you take your first breath in life, perhaps even before that. Preceding the ability to have cognitive thought, you start to etch the words of your life into being. Just by living, you write a story, an imprint on the world.

It is read by every person you come in contact with, and devoured by those you hold most dear. People are funny about books. Those who love them usually love them much.

Some are not readers. But all are writers. As you write the book of your life, remember these things, my daughters:

Don’t allow yourself to be typecast.
Fancy yourself an Overachiever? A Diva? A Loser? Never wear a label, it limits your dimensions. Chances are you will be an Overachiever, an Underachiever, a Type-A Personality and Types B through Z at differing times in your story. Expect Character complexity. You will at times be more complicated those who read your life can comprehend, and certainly more complicated than you yourself can understand. In your lifetime, you will stoop to shameful behaviors in spite of yourself, and overcome unimaginable odds by the same measure. In your travels, never allow yourself to become what other characters ascribe you to be. And you will transform from birth to dying breath.

Add colorful characters.
Use Best Friends sparingly in your story, and delve into their character with lots of detail. They are integral to getting through the sticky scenarios, and absolutely indispensable in chapters of great joy. Acquaintances will make cameos in your life, and give you reasons you show up in theirs.

The Great Love of your Life? The truest loves are part and parcel of your own soul, Main Character substance. Villains and liars? They have a place in the story, too. Even absolute fairy tales prescribe their presence, and you will have them with you, always. Acknowledge them; they are teaching you what not to become. But don’t give the storyline over to them.

And if your story needs a heroine?
Be the heroine.

But try to keep it about everyone else
Make the Acknowledgements at least as long as your longest chapter in the story, and give plenty of credit throughout to those who have lent the richness and depth to your life.

It’s ok to have fragmented sentences and grammatical errors.
Life is incredibly messy. There is no Great Spellchecker in the sky; nobody is counting your mistakes.

Short chapters are ok, too.
Some scenes will end before you know you’ve written the first paragraph. When a chapter has taught its lesson, it’s ok to walk away from a setting.

Every story has a beginning, middle and an end. Make them all count.
Just as your story begins with a date of birth, it has a finite number of pages until the Acknowledgments. Like any page-turner worth its weight of paper, you will never know exactly what’s around the corner. Never knowing the end of the story ahead of time keeps you motivated to write your best ending.

Bright, fancy covers don’t really matter.
The slick sleeves that invite others to read your manuscript always, inevitably fade and fall apart. The old adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover” has a postscript: “Give people more than a cover to judge you by.”

Allow for deeper meaning in the seemingly insignificant things.
A poem about the rain is sometimes really about despondency and angst.
And sometimes, it’s just about rain.

Keep the Table of Contents Flexible
Things change, sometimes a lot. Majors in college, boyfriends, financial situations; they can all evolve. Don’t let the shifting throw off your truth, or the telling of it. Write the Table of Contents of your life mostly in pencil, with only the most important core subjects penned. God, family, integrity and your truest passions – these should be inked.

Lighten up the Plot
Have fun, and enjoy the tale as you go. Much of the story is extraordinarily silly; laugh as much as you can. Laughter lightens any load and exhilarates those who read your story along with you.

Use the right punctuation when necessary.
Use lots of exclamation points! Everywhere you look, there are things to be excited about, and little manifestations of pure joy! Exclaim those things; they are worthy of literary device! And equally important, versing yourself in good punctuation means that you know when you put a period. After bad relationships. Unhealthy behaviors. Mistreatment. Selfishness. Utilize the “three dots” only when necessary…but don’t be afraid of “To Be Continued”…

Make your life a symphony of genres.
There is equity in throwing in a little Comedy when the Drama gets too intense, and a little Romance when the Tragedy is overwhelming. And daily, there will be Mystery.

Don’t be discouraged when the plot seems to drag.
It will seem to veer right as you try to steer the story left. Keep on keeping on. Keep writing.

Dedicate your “book”.
God is your Publisher and your Editor, the Ultimate Author and Finisher. Don’t try to do His job, yours is enough labor. Take His suggestions and read what He writes in the margins. Review His critiques of your work often, taking care to pay attention to the subtle cues as well as the highlighted ones; it will make the next chapter flow much better. He will make sure your “book” gets into the right “hands”, and He gives out no rejection letters. (It’s always good to be close to your Editor!)

Handle Writer’s Block with dignity.
All Great Writers suffer this crisis. Don’t mistake stagnancy with your identity. It is equally true that many of the greats turn to the numbing agents of drugs and alcohol and all manner of poison, all of which takes you back to some other point in the story when you faced the same dilemma. How many times do you want to repeat the same scene in which you suffer? Weakness breeds bad storylines; small bouts with strength (consult with The Editor) help you over that mountain. There are no small victories.

In all great works of literature, there is a Turning Point.
In your story, there will be lots of them, turning points. Never underestimate the power of a fork in the road. This is the moment in time where the decision of one tiny paragraph, sometimes one word. It can be one turn of a page, impacting each page thereafter and ultimately, and the end of the story.

Set out to make your story epic.
Don’t settle for ordinary, “See Spot Run” is easy but empty. Make sure every page is full, even if with mistakes. Love the people whom you love very hard (and with every cell in your being), you will get loved back hard. Mediocre is not an option, yours is a tome that will touch a life, and another and another.

Almost nothing you’ll ever do will affect only you.
No one life is a single-print.

And last, Love yourself just like the Great Classic you are.
Tattered pages, yellowed edges, typos and all.
Whatever goes into the final print, it’s all Character Development.

It’s your story – utterly familiar, irreplaceable.
Only you can write it.

9 thoughts on “How to Write a Life in Twenty (not so) Easy Steps – For my Daughters

  1. I love it, mom! Don’t ever listen to people who criticize your work. You’re an excellent writer as much as you are an excellent mom.

    Like

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