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Write Something That Will Change Your Life

It seems like a tall order, to write something that will change your life. And it is. But I think it’s still worth striving for.

By changing your life, I don’t necessarily mean that you have to write something that will earn you lots of money so you can buy an island or even enough money that you can quit your day job. Although, if becoming rich (or rich enough) is important to you, then that’s fine too.

And that’s the point, to write something that is important to you, something that comes from your heart, something that means a lot to you. As I said, money might be important to you, but it might be worth digging deeper to ask why money would be important.

If you want to use the money to buy a house for each of your kids, then it’s not the money that’s so important but your family’s long-term security. If it is an island you want, then maybe that’s because of your love for nature, quiet and rest.

It’s not always so easy to know what’s truly important to you, but there are—of course—some useful exercises to help determine your deeply held values.

1. Ambitions

We develop many of our most important values at an early age, and one way to find out what matters to you most is to go back and try to remember what your ambitions were as a child.

Think back to when you were young. What did you imagine your future would be like? Did you want a happy life with a family? Did you have a hero, someone you wanted to be like when you grew up? If so, what qualities did that person have that you admired?

Use these questions to write a few lines about your ambitions as a child. From your answers, you should already get a sense of what is most important to you. It could be that family, career, justice, or friendship is what matters most. Other values could be anything from adventure and assertiveness to sexuality and spirituality.

2. The interview

Even if you only write in those few spare moments you have in the week, it’s still useful to think of your work as an author as a career. What, for example, do you want to achieve with your writing? And what special skills do you have to make that happen?

Imagine you’re preparing for a job interview to be an author, your kind of author. Think about some of the following questions and even make short notes if you want.

3. The speech

It’s your 90th birthday, and you’re a successful author. The people close to you have organized a party. Imagine then that one of them, the person most important to you—either in your personal life or your writing career—gives a speech. What would they say about your life? What did you stand for? How did you make a difference?

You could write the whole speech or just answer those few questions.

These exercises will give you an indication of what’s most important in your life. Look for recurring themes from all these answers and identify the most important values to you. Examples of typical values not already mentioned are: fairness, responsibility, kindness, safety, romance, conformity, gratitude, and humor.

You can use these values to give your writing direction, to write about the things that matter to you, to make the kind of change—in your life and others—that you would like to see. These are the principles that guide you through your life and which can inspire your writing.

The recent increase in popularity of feelgood books in the so-called up-lit genre—Gail Honeyman’s Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine and Jamie Thurston’s Kindness, the Little Things that Matter—make use of qualities like kindness and gratitude.

So, if, for example, family is an important value for you, you could explore that in your writing, perhaps by having a main character who ignores her family only to finally have to turn to the unconditional support of her family. If fairness is an important value, you could test your hero’s commitment to always being fair, and show that it was the right way to go despite being confronted with many difficulties and dilemmas along the way.

How would you like your writing to change your life? Or, how has it changed your life already?

About Jim Dempsey [1]

Jim Dempsey specializes in detailed analysis and editing of novel manuscripts through his company, Novel Gazing [2]. He has worked as an editor for more than 20 years. He has a master’s degree in creative writing and is a professional member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders. Jim is fascinated by the similarities between fiction and psychotherapy, since both investigate the human condition, the things that make us uniquely human. He explores this at The Fiction Therapist [3] website. If you have a specific concern with your novel, send an email to jim [at] thefictiontherapist.com, or visit the website to ask for a free sample edit.