Readers want to get to peer into the soul of the writer. Yet as writers, we are often tempted to vomit out the contents of lives on our readers without giving any thought to the lessons we have learned.
During my term of office in the SRC, I learned a thing or two about the contents of students’ stomachs. When alcohol goes in, inhibitions drop and the contents that come out make it impossible to discern which demographic the student comes from. It was just a vile smelling mush we were quick to clean up after a student party. But what does that have to do with writing?
Readers want to get to peer into the soul of the writer. Yet as writers, we are often tempted to vomit out the contents of lives on our readers without giving any thought to the lessons we have learned. This makes our words much like the indiscernible mush I cringed at cleaning up in my younger years. Too many writers leave out the parts that make the readers connect with and learn from them.
To really get to know someone, you must break bread with them, find out what they think, cry and laugh with them. It is why a Native American proverb says, Never judge another man until you have walked a mile in his moccasins. Your book is an invitation for your readers to walk that journey with you.
No one leaves a true legacy by merely adding up your achievements and laying them down for all to see. In the reverse, people also do not learn from your brilliance by only bearing witness to your pain. Rather, we want the hero’s journey. The journey which inspires us to believe we can unleash our own genius in life. One of the best film examples I have seen of this was in the movie, “The Pursuit of Happiness,” starring Will Smith. It is based on a segment in the life of American entrepreneur Chris Gardner and his time while he was homeless.
The Hero’s journey is one where the main character goes on an adventure, is victorious in a decisive crisis, and comes home changed or transformed. But readers don’t want this transformation to come easy. They want an underdog that they can root for, someone that they desperately want to see win. Writing a story that will inspire your readers to overcome their own challenges means exposing your vulnerabilities. You must show segments of your life that you wish you had never gone through. The parts you pray your children will be spared from. A true hero’s journey is one where failure is a foe that the character must battle more than once. It is only through failure that our hero’s best attributes are tested and refined.
In “The Pursuit of Happiness”, we catch a glimpse of this struggle when the hero is evicted from his home and moves from shelter to shelter with his young son, even spending weeks sleeping in stations and other public places. This character had a dream, one which required studying and hard work despite recurring painful challenges. I wept with Chris Gardner as he fought to keep an outsider coming into the bathroom cubicle at the train station with his two-year-old boy. Today, this multi-million dollar broker is a philanthropist who, amongst other things, finances affordable housing for low-income families.
Although there are a number of severe trials our hero in this story faced as a child and younger man, the movie does not vomit all of that on the viewer. The director could have thrown a range of stories at us, but in the film’s brilliance, it focuses on a segment of his life that shows that a worthy dream is worth pursuing with all that you have. So when you choose to write something that will inspire your readers, choose a segment. Follow through on the hero’s journey and leave a legacy to be remembered.
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Hello, I am Kim Vermaak
I spent most of my adult life helping other companies build their dream and their brands.
After I turned 40, I wondered if there was more to life than taking care of children and slaving away to earn a living.
I wanted to create a legacy for my children and the next generation. I found that through my books I could celebrate who I am as well as teach others to earn a living through their writing.
Being an author is not a hobby. It is a business, and it is my passion to teach authors how to thrive in that business. I look forward to seeing your book business grow.
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