Either you don’t realize it, or somewhere deep down, you know it but simply refuse to admit it: the underlying reason behind all of your excuses for not having begun writing your book yet is that four-letter word called “fear.” Read on to understand how fear has stifled your dreams of becoming an author and what to do to give fear the boot this year!


Fear 3: I’m afraid of how people will react to what I write in my book.


Lots of people want to tell their own stories through memoirs. You might be one of them. However, you did not live your life in a vacuum. There were other people who were a part of your story. Sometimes, they were honorable individuals, heroes that left a significant, positive mark on your life. Other times, they were the villain and you were the victim of their bad behavior.


Should you include these characters in your story? What if you tell your story and the characters in it that behaved badly towards you get mad that you included them? What if your family members stop talking to you because of the details you share about them? What if your friends cut off the relationship because they didn’t appreciate how you depicted them in your book, even though you didn’t use their real names?


Also, what if writing the book re-opens old wounds – yours or others’? What if people you haven’t talked to in years call you on the phone and lash out at you for including them in your book? What if your book stirs up a messy controversy, shakes things up among the people you love, and disrupts the overall harmony of your life?


Do you stand to lose relationships with people you love simply because you dared to tell the whole truth when sharing your story? Not knowing the answers to such questions can leave you shaking in your boots and keep you paralyzed with fear so that you never even begin writing your book!


There’s a quote that I absolutely LOVE by Anne Lamont: “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to share this quote with clients over the past decade.


These clients were really worried that the truths that they shared in their memoirs would shed a negative light on other people in their lives. They were perplexed about whether to tell the whole truth, a half truth, or to not tell the truth at all in order to spare the feelings of those who had been a part of their lives.


The truth is that these clients couldn’t honestly tell their own stories without at least mentioning the things that the other characters featured in the screenplay of their lives had done to them. Their stories would have been incomplete without referring to the impact that these individuals had had on their lives. If they would have left out all of the unfavorable characters and unsavory details of their past, their memoirs would have only been 12 pages! What a difficult position to find oneself in as an author trying to share a personal story!


It’s quite likely that if you desire to write a memoir, you are facing some of the same fears and concerns. I would say the same thing to you that I have said to so many of my other clients in the past: it’s your story to tell. You own it, so you can do with it what you want.


My best professional advice: approach the telling of your story as objectively as you possibly can and with genuine respect for everyone involved. Check your motives and share all accounts without any malice or evil intent. Tell the truth to the best of your recollection. Protect those whom you desire to protect by changing names and identifying details. Include a disclaimer at the opening of the book that all accounts in the memoir are presented to the best of your recollection.


Then, if you’re still really concerned about the impact of your book on others’ lives, offer to allow select characters to read what you have written about them before you publish the book. They might make suggestions about details that you might consider rewriting, modifying or even excluding, if you choose to do so. Who knows? You might even get an apology. By all means, whatever their response, don’t let the fear of how others will react to your telling the world how they impacted your life stop you. Tell your story!


(Interested in reading more? Check out the next post in this blog series!)

Need help bringing that writing project to completion? Geniuscribes can help! We specialize in 23rd hour timelines, resurrecting dead books and research, and renewing your hopes of getting your dream book or dissertation done. Let’s work together and get you done, already! Visit geniuscribes.com to get started.


Shannon Williams, Ph.D., is the Founder and Chief Executive Nerd of Geniuscribes, Nerds with Pens. For more than a decade, she has helped doctoral students complete their dissertations and aspiring writers complete their books. She is a nerdy, fun-loving, dog-obsessed foodie who loves Jesus, unpretentious people, sunshine, and coffee. She is a die-hard Houstonian and Texas Longhorn living in Atlanta, where Chick-Fil-A sells collard greens and macaroni, and the tea is as sweet as the people, much to her delight. You can reach her through her team at support@geniuscribes.com if you like. Or not. Whatever butters your biscuit! Oh yeah… she loves those, too.

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