I wrote Make Your Mess Your Memoir because I used to only read memoirs, and while I loved them, I never felt like I took away solid information I could apply to my life. When I got really serious about building a successful business a few years ago, I switched to only reading business books. And while I’ve been able to glean a lot that I’ve been able to use and apply, I find those books often a bit dry.
Story is what hooks me and ultimately helps me retain what I learn. And so I thought: what if I could tell my story and then show other people how they can do the same? So I coined the term “biz-oir” which is 10 chapters of memoir, followed by five chapters of business (in this case, the business part being how to make a messy life into a memoir that can help you build a business).
The Mess Is Where the Message Is
People are telling me stories and asking if I think they’d make a good book. My answer is that I really don’t think the specifics matter that much. I always tell people that my life isn’t that interesting, but I’ve still made it into eight books, one a New York Times bestseller, and hundreds of articles.
Everything is execution. I think most ideas are worthless because how good they end up being depends on the skill of the writer. Eat Pray Love is a book about a woman going on a trip and yet it sold millions of copies. There are surely many books about people going on trips that have sold almost no copies. Still, the mess is where the message is—which is why, in this book, I go into the story of my addiction and 20 years of sobriety. I think the more you share about the mess, the more people are going to relate to you.
Traditional Publishing Versus Self Publishing
I also wrote this book so that I could tell people that, based on my nearly three decades in the publishing business, the only reason to do traditional publishing today is to have the prestige associated with it. But after having six books traditionally published, I don’t think I’d ever do it again. Traditional publishing, unless you’re someone like Elizabeth Gilbert, really is a countdown to heartbreak. You give up control over the editing, the cover design, even the title name and you kill yourself working on the book, sometimes for years. Then, with few exceptions, when your book comes out, your publisher doesn’t do anything to help you. Traditional publishers aren’t trying to do harm; they just don’t seem to prepare their authors for the fact that only a few books each season are going to hit and most writers will go broke trying to live on their book advances.
With self-publishing, you get to make all the decisions, keep all the proceeds and most importantly use the book to build your career—whether that’s through putting newsletter sign-up opportunities in your book, leading readers into a funnel or using the book as a tool to sign clients or build a coaching business. Of course, a self-published book isn’t going to be very good quality if you’re not working with people who come from the world of traditional publishing. That’s why my company, which offers all the benefits of traditional publishing but allows clients full control and proceeds, is so busy!
Advice for Your Own Memoir
My final bits of advice if you’re considering making your own mess into a memoir:
- Follow a structure. (I offer one here.)
- Commit to writing every day and remain consistent.
- Find accountability partners, even if it’s just a friend you’re checking in with the whole time you’re writing.
- Rewrite again.
- Hire an editor.
- Finally, read! The best writers are the ones who love language and are extremely familiar with it.