Hard Tales to Tell

 

I’ve been caught off guard by what a difficult process writing this book has been.

In case you missed it, I announced a few weeks ago that I would be writing a new book, and instead of being something purely instructional, it would be more of a short memoir, telling stories from the last two years of travel and relevant tidbits from beforehand.

Now, writing this book hasn’t been difficult in the way that the Icelandic language is difficult (try to pronounce a double-L and tell me I’m exaggerating). I’m actually cruising right along, finishing up chapters and weaving connective bits to tie them all together. I should be finished with the primary writing stage by the end of this week. Then comes the editing and rewording and expounding and yadda yadda yadda.

No, the hard part has actually been exposing more of myself and my story, to myself and in writing. Putting into words things that you don’t ever talk to anyone about can be tricky, and showing a bit more emotion when your writing style is generally more analytical is a hard line to walk.

There’s also the issue of length.

When you write a blog, you have the luxury of writing in a very concise format. My writing style in particular has been whittled down to the necessary information, and I’ve taken a sort of pride in being able to tell a story quickly, so as not to waste anyone’s time.

With this book, however, I have more space in which to explore details and meaning, and that leaves me a lot more room to explore hidden subtext and that I may not feel as comfortable sharing.

For example, there’s a story that I wrote yesterday about my approach to social situations, and how I’m locked in a constant battle against my introversion (or is it social anxiety?) each and every time I go somewhere and meet with people.

There’s also a tale that I’ve never told that involves a job offer that came my way right before I left LA for Argentina, in which the only potential mentor-figure that I’ve ever had gave me the opportunity of a lifetime. I passed on it and since then I’ve been avoiding him, half-concerned that he’s offended I didn’t take it, and even more worried that he simply won’t remember me.

The key to both of these topics is that they’re territory that is not very well-explored in my life. These are tales that don’t yet have a morality lesson or the sparkly-sheen of well-told polish. I don’t know how they fit into MY overall story, and how exposing them will effect how I look at myself, and how others look at me.

But that’s the point.

Through this book, I want to open new doors, not erect new barriers. I want to retell a few well-known stories of my life and how I do what I do, with increased detail given and an original twist that didn’t come out with the first telling.

I’ve pulled out journal entries from my first week in a new country, emails between myself and short-time lovers, and poured over old photographs, pulling up old memories and scenarios that somehow I never wrote down.

It’s an understatement to say that it’s been a bit of an emotional roller coaster, but it’s only by analyzing and reanalyzing impactful moments in our lives that we’re able to squeeze all the important stuff out of them.

I think at the end of this project I’ll be a better person for having done it.

I might even sell a few books.

PS: I’m going to start sending out previews and other tidbits to the book’s mailing list this week, so if you want to get in on that stuff, sign up below.

30 comments

  1. I’d encourage you to add the stories about ‘failure’, set backs, things that didn’t resolve or you’re not sure hold a lesson.

    I learn just as much if not more from these situations as from all the successes. And I have found it very motivating to find out that people I seek to emulate have gone through the same kinds of things that I’m experiencing.

    It’s not a continual journey of glory and awesomeness, whatever you are pursuing. There’s the mundane time in the trenches that make up the other 90% of the experience.

    • Good call, and if you’re looking for stories about when things went horribly wrong, you won’t be disappointed!

      I’m a big believer that it’s necessary to fail – repeatedly – if you’re really going to learn who you are as a person, and if you’re going to succeed wildly in the future.

      You’re dead-on in saying that 90% of the experience is fairly mundane, too. One of the biggest challenges has been figuring out an interesting way to portray the mundane. I think I’ve come up with a few interesting ways, but I guess we’ll see how it goes :)

    • Good call, and if you’re looking for stories about when things went horribly wrong, you won’t be disappointed!

      I’m a big believer that it’s necessary to fail – repeatedly – if you’re really going to learn who you are as a person, and if you’re going to succeed wildly in the future.

      You’re dead-on in saying that 90% of the experience is fairly mundane, too. One of the biggest challenges has been figuring out an interesting way to portray the mundane. I think I’ve come up with a few interesting ways, but I guess we’ll see how it goes :)

  2. I want to write a book like that. And I don’t think your stories need to be 100% polished. As long as you’re honest about your feelings, fears, doubts, successes and failures and stick to your own voice, many people will be interested in getting to know you a little better through reading about you.

    • You should write it!

      Part of the fun has been seeing my style evolve to fit the format. My voice has definitely become more focused and streamlined since I started writing this blog regularly, and in writing this book, it’s become a bit more like how I speak when telling stories in-person.

      Ah, the joys of putting yourself out there. So much anticipation! I can’t wait for this thing to hit the e-shelves, but I’m also incredibly nervous in a way I haven’t been with any of my other books.

    • You should write it!

      Part of the fun has been seeing my style evolve to fit the format. My voice has definitely become more focused and streamlined since I started writing this blog regularly, and in writing this book, it’s become a bit more like how I speak when telling stories in-person.

      Ah, the joys of putting yourself out there. So much anticipation! I can’t wait for this thing to hit the e-shelves, but I’m also incredibly nervous in a way I haven’t been with any of my other books.

      • Those nerves are usually a good sign when putting something out there. It means that it matters to you and/or is close to the heart.

        And I will write that book someday. I will.

  3. It’s interesting, I face similar things with my novel, which is 10 times harder to write than essays on our site (N.B. it’s about 100 times more rewarding when it’s going well though). I find that the novel—much like your memoir—is very much about myself (i.e., my relationships, emotions, and the complicated process of dealing with those emotions). The advantage I have is that I can make shit up though (viz. it’s fiction). W/R/T to length, I’ve found that adsorptive detail, when done correctly, can be extremely interesting to the reader (see, e.g., many of David Foster Wallace’s essays in “Consider The Lobster” and “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again,” in which he makes the most banal situations interesting). When done wrong, however, absorptive detail is your enemy and it makes writing feel dead and boring. Good luck with the memoir. Let me know if you need any help proofing.

    Josh

    • I’d love to try to write a novel at some point, but fiction is tough for me. Pseudo-fictionalized reality comes a little easier (I use a lot of quotes that are pretty much what was said, but not exactly word-for-word), but the concept of a novel…I wouldn’t even know where to start. I’m thinking that means I’ll have to do it at some point.

      I may take you up on that proofing offer! Likewise, if you need anyone to take a look at your novel pre-public-release, I’m your guy. Can’t wait to see what you do with it!

      • Sounds good on both counts. You know how to get ahold of me (call the crib, same number, same hood, it’s all good).

        As for writing a novel, why not try a short story or two first? When I’m done with AS A DECADE FADES, maybe we can write one together later this year. Would be fun.

  4. You have an awesome treasure trove of stories to pull from, successes and failures. The wonderful reasons I know many people read memoirs is the see how others have dealt with life, maybe even a similar situation that the reader is going through. Or to read about a life the reader has never known.
    You have a gift of sharing yourself in short concise expressions and I’m always wondering what I’ll be reading from your blog next.
    Always wonder… “what if…” but never reget. And did you ever think about throwing yourself in the fire and speaking with the person who gave you the offer? It could and probably will spark a new blog entry of closure, acceptance, and the success of a challenge.
    Wouldn’t it be interesting to see a one line location and descript of everyone who reads your blog. Just thinking about it is pretty amazing.
    Forge on! Being scared/cautious/judgemental/… those add to the fun of life.
    Cheers!
    From Jeff in New York City

  5. You are taking a huge and very important step here Colin. You are going to grow a lot just by doing writing that book. You are taking one of the bravest steps that a person can take: to open up to the world.

    Perhaps the following words will help you a bit:

    I have no armour; I make my Benevolence my Armour.
    I have no castle; I make my Immovable Mind my Castle.

  6. I am so excited about this book. My own selfish wants aside, I am sure this will be an incredibly purifying experience for you.

    I am currently going hard at shedding (what I feel) has been a skin that has held me back and constrained for many years. There have been several hurdles that have naturally been more difficult than others. There has been only one that brought me to tears (not ashamed to admit it) – the one where I looked back and thought really hard about where I have been, what I have been through, and where I am headed.

    I spent some time meditating on this, then I burned the lot. I came out of the process feeling stronger and more focused than I had in a long time. I truly wish that you find this process equally rewarding.

    FWIW – irrespective of what I get from the book, you have inspired more than most already.

    Thank you.

  7. Hi, Colin. Fellow introvert here. I just wanted to say congratulations for fighting the good fight to face what scares you head-on. Baring our insecurities is terrifying – but the effort of keeping them inside (hoping they don’t sneak out) can be even worse. I bet you’ve grown a lot and won a lot of fans by bringing a few skeletons out of the closet here. Everyone enjoys reading something from someone they feel like they know. Here’s to many more great posts and an awesome book!

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  9. Man, I know exactly how you feel.

    Whenever I go over something in my head, on a second by second basis (like a less dramatic version of 24) for a blog post or something it sucks the damn life out of me! It’s awesome though, especially if you imagine it happening through your own eyes, you actually feel like you’re back there.

    I just wrote a post about my short visit to Bergen in Norway last year. To do so I had to retrace my steps in my head from the moment I stepped off the train… everything’s crystal clear in my mind, I feel like I’ve just been back… except for the lack of beautiful Scandinavian women ;)

    Actually here’s a question, I’ve been to both Sweden and Norway and found that their women are as beautiful as everybody says (Oslo beats Stockholm in my opinion)… how does Iceland fair?

    Keep on it, don’t feel obliged to finish it this week. If you enjoy looking back, then keep it going!

    Cheers,

    Benjamin

  10. wow, I can’t wait! I think the autobio process is much like espousing / or exorcising the hard to deal with stuff.. and often ends up therapeutical. I think that’s what any creative endeavor should be, but especially writing ones life story (of sorts). Can’t wait to read it! If you need help with editing let me know. :)

  11. wow, I can’t wait! I think the autobio process is much like espousing / or exorcising the hard to deal with stuff.. and often ends up therapeutical. I think that’s what any creative endeavor should be, but especially writing ones life story (of sorts). Can’t wait to read it! If you need help with editing let me know. :)

  12. I can’t wait to read this story. It takes a great deal of courage to be vulnerable in such a way. Self – discovery is such an incredible journey…

  13. Our site is just getting started…but it is all about the journey…the walkabout through life. We will gladly promote your story to our growing audience… :-)

    Liane

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  16. It is amazing what you learn about yourself by writing about yourself.

    Glad to hear the growth that is occurring by writing this impromptu memoirs. I am happy for you. Keep at it Colin

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