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138 - Writing a Legacy Book


Today’s Topic: Writing a Legacy Book - Outlasting Web & Tech

There is one thing for sure that tech will never outdo - leave a lasting legacy! All things tech come and go… whether that is a quick instagram post, a social media page, or a website. They all get dated or obsolete at some point. And, I tell you this as someone that has an MBA in Technology Management. I’m not afraid of tech but I also know where the limitations are.

Have you ever gotten into a place where you weren’t sure if you were offering enough, not sure if you were sharing your true message, if you were misunderstood, you tried to make amends of something but maybe weren’t sure you hit the mark, or you wonder if you are even even being heard?

Let’s be honest, when you are a content creator you try to offer what people want to hear and you look at stats and what draws people into your world and when you find that thing they are interested in you create more of it. But, are you being authentic? This is kind of the nature of a legacy book… sharing all your authentic feelings, emotions, stories, memories, how you were thinking on a special day, or maybe even noting all your favorite jokes. You are letting everyone you know, and maybe some that you don’t, exactly how you feel, understand something, or believe. A legacy book isn’t always about being liked. It’s about being authentically you!

If you are considering writing a legacy book you are likely in a reflective place in your life where you are re-working memories and trying to figure out how to package a life well lived, life challenges, how you’ve overcome obstacles, triumphs, or heart aches. Perhaps this is even an opportunity where you hold nothing back and let all of life’s agitation go or make amends where something didn’t go quite as planned.

Every life is one to be celebrated and every person has a unique perspective based on their life experiences. I find that many writing memories, experiential stories, or books based on life experiences often just need to be told their story is worth hearing. However, it’s not often a book that gets mass marketed.

I’ll be honest, the reality is that the more famous you are the more likely you are to sell your memoire. So, if you are not famous you’ll want to think about how you wrap things up with look and feel and content. For example, one of the things you probably don’t want to do is to put your face on the cover of your book. This automatically tells a prospective reader that they’ve just picked up a memoire. If it’s just for family and friends then go ahead and put your beautiful face on the cover! If you wish to market and sell your book you’ll want to disguise the book as a book for the reader. There are a few ways that you can do this, but basically you want to reframe how you’re approaching the project. You want to turn the look, feel, and content into a book offering value based on experience. What have you learned and how would you advise someone to do things better than you have?

Your memoir book is going to do much better re-framed as a self-help book if you want to sell it. I’ll take this angle for the rest of the episode since there is a bit more thinking to do to share with a larger audience. Given this, you want to start thinking through all the valuable lessons you’ve learned then begin backfilling in the accompanying life stories. You can begin to gather quotes that also align with your stories to provide a bit of outside influence to drive home a point. And, you’ll probably want to think about the layout and begin organizing things chronologically or categorically… in other words, based on lessons learned. You can organize this by things like “What My Parents Taught Me” or “What Not to Do When Raising Kids” or you can walk through it by the decades you lived in.

It’s important to write a book to talk to your reader or audience however. If you’re whole book is about “I did this” or “I did that” you’re going to loose your reader. A book all about you is going to quickly get put to the side. What I did when I wrote my first two books was that I found a way to tell my stories then asked the reader to relate by asking them questions. I had such big ah-ha wow experiences that I was just going to write this book to share them no matter what. You might feel as equally driven. But, I can tell you that I read book after book after book where someone shares something they found to be life-changing where I was bored to death. We were just on two different vibrations or parallels.

The first thing you want to do is envision the person you are talking to and ask yourself how you want to speak to them. As I was writing my first book I was really talking to my younger self. I was talking to the person about to go through what I was writing. Many times this is a great way to frame the way you write something that is more experiential.

In my case, I was embarking upon many spiritual journeys that were awakening my level of consciousness and challenging my foundational beliefs. For someone more awake, my journey might have seemed juvenile. For someone about to step into my shoes they might have been in awe of the experiences. When we get clear on who our audience is it can make the whole experience more meaningful. When we aren’t relating to the reader they are going to loose interest. You also have to give the reader a bit of a preview of what they are about to read or experience so they aren’t left disappointed.

When you are framing the manuscript you want to think about the kind of experience you want to give the reader. Do you want to showcase yourself as a hero? If so, you’re going to come across very egocentric if you can’t help them understand why they’d care. I had a client write a book a few months back where he explained everyones shortfalls and his victories. He saved the day during the whole book. I was bored after the first page! I tried to explain to him that he might want to change it, but for him a legacy book meant he’s not leaving this planet without telling everyone how great he was. He even tried to go to a few publishing houses but they wanted to re-frame everything. Now, of course, if you’re self publishing you get to do what you want. If you just want the legacy you leave to be one where you are victorious then that’s great, but you may find that your only readers are the ones that side with or love you… close friends and family. And, that’s fine because you get to do what you want here. But, if you build up a case about why people should like you… or you first gain their trust they might be better able to relate.

Many people right now are struggling with health issues or transitioning. We are at a unique place in human history. Many have left the planet and many will continue to do so over the next few years. My intention with this episode is not to be gloom and doom, but to actually be of service to anyone that is warping up a life well lived or transitioning into retirement.

I can tell you that I have personally found myself peering into the end of life more times than I have ever really talked about on this podcast. At some point I’ll share some of my more challenging journeys and what I’ve overcome, but what I can tell you is that by writing I was given a purpose. I also felt at peace because I was leaving nothing behind. Emptying the mind onto the pages is very healing and therapeutic. But, I think I have mentioned it on previous podcasts that it was writing that pulled me out and gave me a reason to be… a reason to stay. We don’t always have control over how long we get on this planet, but the older you get the more you see life fleeting and the more meaningful it becomes to leave some kind of legacy behind. Needless to say, let me give you a few nuggets and principles of legacy writing.

You first want to decide if you are writing to leave something behind for family and friends or for the general public. What you leave behind for the general public is what would be framed more as a self-help book with personal stories intermingled. We’ve talked a bit about this, but what if you aren’t concerned with a large audience and you want to capture your life or information you’ve gained while living it and package it all for those you are leaving behind? I don’t know about you, but sometimes my mom will say things to me about family and it didn’t mean much to me at the time, but if I ever wanted to ask more she is still here to talk to. But, one day she will transition and all her family history will go with her. I mean, I have to be honest… I don’t have kids so I don’t really have anyone staying after I leave to leave family legacies with. I’m not likely to write a legacy book myself, but you never know. I might learn something as I age that’s meaningful to share with the next generation. Any book written leaves a mark however.

Ok, so if you’ve decided you are writing for just your loved ones, then you might consider any of these ways to leave your message for them. You can leave legacy letters to a family member, friend, or colleague; share your values, stories, wisdom, or blessings with future generations; or perhaps leave something for the community or tribe you are a part of. You might have musings, rants, thoughts, or banter on just about anything you feel is important for others to remember or know.

I’ve heard a few things about how writers think through their words over the years and I think one of the common thoughts is “I’m not done living yet” and they wonder if they were to leave a legacy if they are even aware of what it is. Many talk about memories — some fleeting and others unforgettable. I’ve also talked to some people that have kept a kind of journal where they’ve noted ideas and other favorite things like quotes,  poems, observations, thoughts, songs that inspired them or made them cry, or other musings.

A legacy book more or less preserves the things that make you who you are. You might have certain smells (like an apple pie) that reminds you of your mother, descriptive moments of your childhood, successes in business, or the first time you saw your children or held their hand. And, the best part is… you don’t even have to be gone to re-live all these memories!

I’ve heard some writers of legacy books say it was as it they left breadcrumbs that will lead to the map of their soul and others note this as streams of consciousness. I was reading something online about a man that didn’t want to burden his family so he wrote his own obituary and it consisted of nuggets of advice he had collected his whole life and wanted to share.

A great place to start is getting yourself a nice journal that will stand the test of time and get yourself in the habit of writing in it daily. You might even divide it into sections or age groups so that you have some kind of order to it and you can write the memory as it comes to you. Oftentimes the hardest thing to do is start from the beginning. So, just jot down the memories as they come to you. Get descriptive even about what triggered the memory… you might be sitting watching your grandchildren playing in the yard and you describe where you are at when the memory occurs. Imagine your family later realizing that you were watching them and it brought you to joyous memories of your past. Describe the smells, sounds, sights, and everything that you noticed.

Talk about the perspective you’ve had at the time when you thought something was a mountain and it became a molehill and the important lessons you learned when you lost or gained something throughout your life. Maybe put some perspective to life challenges to ease those behind you. Capture your imagination and even draw pictures. In fact, you can include pictures in your legacy book, but just know that you will likely either increase layout costs or printing costs by doing so. But, make sure you note details on the images for captions to be applied later in the book.

Everyone has a story to tell and your story is important. You never know how your story might impact someone. I ran into a book “Writing your Legacy” by Richard Campbell and Cheryl Svensson and it looks promising as a guide to assist you in forming your content. Perhaps it’s worth a look. It claims to show you how to write your memoir, discover your voice, dig up memories, and address common fears. Richard wrote the following:

“Writing your life story can be one of the most complex forms of storytelling. It could involve emerging themes, narrative flow, and re-creating dialog from memory, or it can be surprisingly easy and fun.”

Here are some questions to get you started as you begin thinking through the kind of content you’d want to include in your legacy book:

  1. Did something happen to you as a child that changed the course of your life?
  2. Do you have any life regrets?
  3. What was it like growing up in your household?
  4. What does wealth mean to you?
  5. Have you enjoyed your trade or profession or did you ever wish you had done something different?
  6. How has your physical health affected you in your life? Emotional health?
  7. What spiritual experiences have molded or changed you throughout your life?
  8. What have been your most proud life achievements?
  9. Did you have life goals you achieved or didn’t? Why?
  10. What values have guided your life and how have those changed?

The best time to write a legacy book may vary for each person. I would say for some it’s age and looking at life completion and for others it’s sickness. I will tell you that I kinda hid some of my legacy in all of my books. I have struggled with my health a few times where I wasn’t sure if I’d get another breath. I sat down at my computer and wanted to leave everything I knew about dog health and wellness in my Healing Your Dog Naturally book because there was no way I was leaving without someone knowing how much I loved my dogs and all the challenges we had with their health over their lives. For most dog owners this might seem like overkill, but my breed (Chinese Shar Pei) their care was always complicated and I had notes all over the house for many years… what to do for fevers, bad toenails, ear mites, skin conditions, stress, etc. They are a unique breed and to most dog owners they might not appreciate the complexity unless they owned one. 30 years of experience needed to go into a book so I sat and wrote when I was very very sick. I am pretty sure it’s what saved my life back then. But, now my head is free and clear and all that information is well-documented in my book and my mind is at peace.

I personally find that writing is very healing and it allows you to live in your brain rent-free. The peace that is gained by knowing all those memories, lessons, and experience is all neatly compiled allows me to sleep at night. Interestingly I’m not sure if anyone that might end up caring for them has ever even read my book, but perhaps they never needed to. It was for my own peace of mind. A legacy book can come in many forms so don’t think it always has to look like a memoire.

Can I tell you what in incredibly peaceful afternoon I’ve been having as I’ve been sitting here listing to the winter winds howling around me…light snow flurries in the air…dogs snoring… and my healing music softly playing. Go get yourself comfortable and start making some notes in a journal and when you’re ready to compile your manuscript I can guide you on all the stages of the process.

We are in a unique time in human history and every day is a gift. Tomorrows are  not guaranteed. If you’re not ready to leave your legacy quite yet, then I hope you are getting out there enjoying the gift of life and building out the experiences for the final chapter when you are ready! Remember that you are meaningful, your life is purposeful, and you are worthy of leaving your legacy!

As always… wishing you peace, love, and light!

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