5 Things I Learned While Writing a Memoir That You Can Apply to Your Daily Life

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Wise Ink author Jake Widmann's memoir, Up, is coming out this Fall, and we cannot wait to share this incredible memoir with all of you! We asked him to tell us five things he learned while writing his memoir that people could apply to their daily lives, and the result is this lovely post offering inspiration to any of you who are struggling with writing your story. For more information about Jake Widmann and his book, visit Sologood.co.

COMMITMENT IS KING

I wish that I would have kept track of all of the things I have started over the years. Notice how I conveniently left out words like, completed, finished, finalized, and concluded. I was the Idea-master, the King of beginning, the Sultan of starting, the Emperor of initiation . . . you get the point. However, I was also the epitome of the consequences of S.O.S. – Shiny Object Syndrome.

Whether it was internet businesses on eBay, or craigslist, the front yard lemonade stand, wood projects in my dad and step-dads shop, a painting I became bored with, a blog I wanted to start, or perhaps, a book I wanted to write I started everything, and finished nothing.

UP began as a conversation with my wife while lying in bed late one night. I have a deep need to leave a positive impact and influence, and to feel like my life is significant in the eyes of others. This is part of the reason I stopped and started so many other things—my eyes were also looking for other opportunities in which I could create something that would have a larger impact. The problem with that is that impact isn’t found in starting, it’s found in committing and building something people want or need.

From that conversation came the idea of writing a book, tossed out by my wife. I gave excuse after excuse why I didn’t, couldn’t, and shouldn’t write a book. To give credit to my superiority as a starter, I did begin writing that next morning. I woke up at five a.m., made some coffee and scribbled down seven pages into my newly designated, “book” notebook. I woke up and did the same thing the next morning, and the morning after that, and the morning after that, and the morning after that until I had a rough draft consisting of 276 pages of absolute trash, honestly—more on that in the next section.

Seriously, it was awful, but nothing else mattered because I had the pure joy of having committed to something for so many days consistently without stopping to whine and say, “Wahhhh, no one is noticing my hard work yet. No one is being impacted by me sitting here writing this book.” Every morning I put the darn pen to the paper and scribbled away until my hand was about to fall off, and the pages were covered in a smear of ink from my left-handedness. Then, I the cramping from my hand and wrote a few more pages until had to close the notebook and head to work, or bed.

How this can benefit you: Find something that mildly excites you, something that you’ve been putting off for a while or once started but put down, something that will require hard work and time, and/or something that you think could be scaled and be turned into a sustainable model for a business, non-profit, organization, club, or otherwise and start working on it in your free time. Explore your brain a little bit and find where the part is that is attracted to new and exciting ideas, you know, the part that is responsible for every other half-finished, barely started, just begun, and almost done project. Then smash that region of your brain to pieces and get to work.

EVERYTHING IS TRASH . . . IN THE BEGINNING

Do you remember a few paragraphs back when I said that after finishing writing my initial draft I had “276 pages of absolute trash.”? That’s exactly what it was. No one, not even me, would have wanted to read it. It was a boring chronological ordering of my life from the first memory I could recall until that present moment when I finished writing it. It was told as a matter of fact basis, like the local radio guy who reads the price animal feed and livestock are currently fetching in the market. It was awful, but I was okay with it, because as I mentioned, the pride and joy that I overflowed with for just having written 276 pages of trash was enough for me—in that moment.

Wherein lies the beauty is in your commitment to take that original thing and turn it into something that expresses the fullness of your capabilities as they currently are. I say, “as they currently are,” because if you’re living life the way that I and many others do—by always progressing, then this thing that you’re creating would never be finished, because you’d always be growing, thus, expanding the capabilities for this thing to improve infinitely, and sorry to break it to you, life isn’t infinite.

Start by accepting the fact that what you’re creating will undoubtedly suck more than you want it to. The fact that you can detect and sense this subpar quality is clear proof that you have the potential within you to make it better. You can envision it being better than it currently is, but you don’t have the skills to take it there yet. Ira Glass has a quote that sums this up PERFECTLY. It’s too long to share here, so I’ll let you click the link if you want to read it, which I highly recommend.

How this can benefit you: The thing that often holds people back from starting is that they don’t yet have the skills they need to do what they want. Well, if you refuse to start the thing that is going to slowly afford you the skills you need to actually be good, than you’ll never become good at it. Talk about a catch twenty-two. Start the thing with the skills, knowledge and abilities you have. You’ll learn everything you need along the way, if only you’ll be patient enough to get there.

SURROUND YOURSELF WITH AN ARMY OF SUPPORTERS

This advice isn’t just for someone writing a book, building a brand, starting a coffee shop, or really . . . creating anything. This is advice for everyone.

“You get supporters, and you get supporters, everyone gets supporters!” No? Okay.

I don’t know when friendship devolved into being a person who only ever makes you feel good, instead of occasionally helping you face your hard truths, but those are not the kind of friends I want. If I’m being a jerk, I want my friends to tell me. If I am traveling down a path different from the one they know I want to be on, I want them to stop me. If I am dealing with some serious adversity, I want them to be there for me in whatever way they can be. I don’t need friends in my circle who are going to blindly follow what I say and do. I don’t need people in my circle who will gladly take me out to the bars when I SO OBVIOUSLY have a severe problem and am in a lot of pain.

This is not to say that anyone who does these “feel good” things are bad people. Rather, I am pointing out the fact that we, society as a whole, need to demand more from our friendships, but first, we need to demand more of ourselves—both as people and as a friends.

Jim Rohn says, “You’re the average of the people you spend the most time with.” If you’re happy right where you are and you are not looking to grow anymore in life this is not for you. However, if you know there is more out there for your life, and you generally know what that unique more you’re looking for is, then you need to begin finding and surrounding yourself with the people who’re going to help you obtain it. Enough with these subpar, fair weather friends. The more that you want from your life is undoubtedly worth the sacrifices you’ll have to make to get there.

How this can benefit you: Join social media groups that you’re interested in. There is essentially something out there for any possible interest a human could ever come up with. The people in those groups are inherently into the same thing you are, and as such, will make befriending them all the more easier. Get over your introvertedness and make some new friends—ones who will help you, guide you and give you all of the support you need to get where you want to be.

YOUR STORY CAN CHANGE THE WORLD

Why we don’t stress enough the importance of sharing our individual stories is up to me. Fortunately, I think, dare I say it, the millennials have done a good job on this matter with their perceived oversharing of information online. Storytelling is an as old of an art as literally anything. Cave paintings, storytelling. The bible, storytelling. Ancient cultures thrived on storytelling to pass down important information about weather, dangerous animals, enemies, and unexplained phenomena.

Think about the shows and social media personalities you follow today. Every single one of them is in some way telling a story. One of my favorite shows, America’s Got Talent, is one of the best outlets to see the true power of not only storytelling, but that of a person’s (or group of people) own story. You want goosebumps, tears, emotions of joy, happiness, sadness, empathy and countless more, watch one episode of America’s Got Talent and you’ll experience what I do every Tuesday at 7PM CST/8PM EST.

Yet, somehow when we encounter difficult times, have a hardship, or just need someone to talk to we think that our problems and challenges are so unique that no one will be able to help us. I’d like to add, whether or not they can help us doesn’t so much matter. What does matter is their ability to listen, to empathize, and possibly, to be able to say to you one of the most powerful phrases known to humans, “You are not alone.” There is infinite power in knowing that you’re not alone. And at a time when suicides are a hot topic in current events, I think we could all use the added encouragement that accompanies the feeling of no longer feeling alone.

I get that it’s not easy. I believe you when you tell me that you’ve had a difficult life. I understand the challenges of opening up and being vulnerable. However, I also understand the profound freedom that comes with sharing your story with a person, with a group of people, on social media for the entirety of the world to potentially see. None of this is easy, or I would assert, meant to feel good initially. Growth doesn’t happen in the comforts of your own made up world in your head. Growth happens when you do something new, when you challenge yourself, and when you allow others to look at you as you truly are, instead of as this pristine, unflawed, being, of which none of us are.

How can this benefit you: Start by opening up to one person whom you know to be someone you can trust. If you’ve already done that, or you want the added challenge, take to social media and share an element of your story in a way that highlights something you’ve learned from a challenge in your past. Continue sharing personal stories like these and you’ll be surprised how many people relate to the very things that you thought made you unique. Enjoy how good it feels to release these burdens, and better yet, to help others in the process.

LIFE IS LONG BUT IT GOES FAST

While writing those 276 pages I recounted roughly sixteen or seventeen years of my life. It’s a weird dichotomy to think about; that of each individual year, and the experiences that contained within them, and that of the timespan I covered in my writing, and the entirety of the lessons I’ve learned, the hardship I’ve endured, the memories I have, the growth I’ve experienced, and more. On one hand, there are these memories I was writing down from my childhood and they seemed as fresh as the one’s I had formed the day prior. On the other hand, some of those memories I would’ve thought were lost forever, but when you continue peeling back layer after layer of your life, the individual experiences that make it up are more often more formative than they appear, meaning, they affect us a lot more than we often think.

It’s in all of those individual memories that we’re able to revisit periods of time in which we were such a different version of our current selves. Important to realize is that every event which happened between the memories we’re recounting and present moment is what made us who we currently are. Every event, good and bad, makes up a small fraction of us as we exist currently. It’s in the times when we allow ourselves to just be and reflect that time slows down to a crawl, and we’re able to determine the path we’ve walked to get to where we are, and further, the path we’ll likely need to walk to get to where we want to be.

The journey of getting to where you want to be can be a painfully long and slow one, but even more painful and slower is to get to the end of your life and have to live with the unbearable regret of not having done the things you knew you should’ve done all along. When you do get to that period of your life, I hope that you’ll have eighty, ninety, a hundred years or more of life to revisit, and ultimately, that you’ll proudly be able to proclaim in the longest held, loudest Frank Sinatra-like voice to have ever said it, “I DID IT MY WAY!”

How can this benefit you: I don’t think this one needs a lot of explanation. Live your life in the way that only you were meant to. Embrace your individuality. Be proud of your uniqueness. Go do what makes you happy in the face of those who are too afraid, or not good enough, and let them know the truth.

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