About a month ago, I accomplished a lifelong goal of mine. I completed my first novel. As I trudged my way through the writing process, I couldn’t help but think about the ways that writing a book is a lot like life. We make a plan—an outline, if you will—of what we want to happen. We think we have all the answers figured out, but sometimes the story just needs to tell itself. Sometimes the characters have minds of their own and you wind up on an adventure you didn’t sign up for, only to find it ends up being the best part of the entire story.
Much like writing a book, life requires a certain amount of faith and patience. Granted patience is a virtue I do not possess, writing this book has been a great lesson for me. There are some things we can’t force. There were two weeks in the middle of my writing process where some personal stuff was weighing on me. I was distracted and frustrated because regardless of what I had going on, I wanted—correction, needed—to finish this manuscript. Instead, what happened was I would open up my laptop only to stare at a blank page for hours.
That’s where the patience and the faith came in. I had to be patient enough to let go and take a step back. I had to have faith that even though I couldn’t get the words out right then, I would still be able to get them out. I took a pause and let myself deal with what I needed to deal with, and almost like magic, one afternoon it was as though the floodgates opened and the words poured onto the page. In a matter of four days, I somehow managed to make up for the time I had lost.
Writing a book will challenge every belief you ever had about yourself, and not necessarily in a good way. If I had a dollar for every time I threw my hands up, snapping my laptop shut and asking the dear Lord above who gave me permission to use words, I would never have a financial need to publish a book. Because I would be filthy stinking rich. Self-doubt plagued me and I worried that maybe my stories weren’t worth telling. What was so important about my story?
The truth is the world needs our stories in whatever way we choose to tell them. Stories are how we bond with people. Oftentimes, they are where we find inspiration or where we learn about the world around us. They are where we can connect with people we may never otherwise get to know, all because we find out that our stories aren’t all that different. The outcomes may be different, there may be a completely different cast of characters, but at the end of the day, we are all just trying to get to the next page, the next chapter.
When we finally get to the end of the book, we get to write those elusive two words: the end. It may signify the end of the story, but then we have the option of opening up a brand-new page and starting over. We can toss the whole book out that we were working on and do something completely different. Or we can pick up right where we left off. Despite the word “ending” being so final, just as in life, endings can also be beginnings.
It’s okay to start your story over, whether you’re just getting started or you’re writing the last page. You are in charge of how your story fills the pages of your life. Sometimes the most beautiful beginnings come from the end of something else. So, don’t be afraid to call an audible and change the story halfway through or turn that ending into a whole new beginning.
Perhaps one of my favorite things about writing a book is that fact that after it’s completed, there is a tangible piece of you that will live in the universe for as long as your book exists. Like mental graffiti, the words on the page say that you were here. They say that you lived. But even if you don’t choose to write a book, your stories will live on in those you tell them to.
Our stories are one of the only things we can share, but also keep close to our hearts. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying ‘you can’t take it with you.’ When we leave this earth, we don’t take the money we’ve earned or our possessions with us. What we do take with us are our stories. The stories we were told, the stories we wished we’d gotten to read, and the stories we wrote.