08 Jan 33. Write Your Flaws Too
Painting yourself as a perfect person in your book is never the way to go. (Unless you actually are perfect, so you know . . . )
No one wants to read about the expert who never faced an obstacle.
You don’t have to tell all your business, but you can share your ups and downs, your mistakes and flaws, your failures and how you bounced back.
In this episode, discover two questions to ask yourself to decide whether or not to include something that might make you look “bad” in your book.
Mentioned in This Episode
Nurse Jackie, an excellent TV drama currently streaming on Netflix
Hey there and welcome to Nothing but the Words, I’m your author coach, Candice L Davis.
Last year, one of my coaching clients was really on the fence this week about whether or not she should share something from her past.
She’s writing a book on leadership principles. She runs a successful business.
She manages a team of employees.
She has a side business along with her main occupation.
She’s a wife and mother.
But she didn’t wasn’t sure she wanted anyone to know she doesn’t have a college degree.
In fact, she’s a high school dropout.
From my perspective, her success looks even more impressive because of the obstacles she’s overcome to create it.
However, she could certainly write her book without sharing that information.
In her coaching session, my goal wasn’t to convince her one way or another. My goal was to help her get clarity about *why* she was reluctant to share that part of her story.
Part of it was pride. She still felt some amount of embarrassment about not finishing high school.
Part of it was fear. She didn’t feel like she was successful enough yet to say I didn’t finish high school but I still made it – even though her business earns multiple 6 figures every year.
Then, we talked about what her reasons would be for sharing that detail about her life.
She was sure it would help someone. Someone else who dropped out of high school would read her story and think maybe becoming a business owner and having a great family would be possible for her too.
Or someone else might read it and think, well if a high school dropout can do it, with my degrees I have no excuse.
She believed that element of her story could really inspire people.
When it came down to it, she didn’t like her reasons for leaving it out of the book. She didn’t like make her decision out of pride or fear.
She loved her reason for sharing that part of her life, so she decided to put it in her book.
And the response has mostly been shock from people who know what she’s achieved and can’t believe she did it all with very limited formal education.
Most people are impressed.
If anyone is judging her harshly, they’re keeping it to themselves.
If you’re writing your memoir or a book in which you make an appearance as the expert, like a self-help, professional development, or personal development book, don’t be afraid to show your failures.
Don’t be afraid to show your flaws.
Don’t be afraid to show your mistakes, your bad choices, and your shortcomings.
If it’s relevant and it can serve your readers, consider including it.
That doesn’t mean you have to air all your dirty laundry and talk about every mistake you’ve ever made.
You get to use discretion.
But when you write yourself as perfect, you become unrelatable to you readers. Very few people want to hear about building wealth from the guy born with a silver spoon in his mouth who never faced a financial challenge.
No one wants to read a memoir about a woman who has lived a flawless life.
Great novelists know that perfect characters are boring, so they give every character a flaw or two—even the heroes.
My husband and I are watching a couple of incredibly engaging TV shows on Netflix on the moment. SPOILER ALERT: If you plan to watch it, skip forward a couple of minutes.
Nurse Jackie follows a pill-addicted nurse who works in an emergency room. She cuts every possible corner in her job, but it’s almost always to help people, like when she lies about recently deceased patients being organ donors.
She sleeps with the hospital pharmacist to get drugs and keeps her husband and kids secret from him and almost everyone else at the hospital.
She cheats on her husband who’s an incredibly good guy, a great dad and a patient husband.
But she’s excellent at her job and goes above and beyond for her patients.
It’s hard to hate her.
Now obviously, most authors don’t want to be so close to the line with likability.
But I share that example to say you can push it pretty far with most people. If you have a balance of your good, we’re likely to hear you out.
Many of my clients have successfully done this.
One of my coaching client says in her book that she has broken every commandment God gave us, and she’s telling the truth—but people still love and admire her and turn to her for advice.
My clients have shared all kinds of character flaws, mistakes, and questionable choices, including an addiction to crack, cheating on their spouses, getting kicked out of a church for so-called immoral behavior, staying in abusive relationships much longer than they should have, multiple marriages and divorces, filing bankruptcy, and drinking on the job.
Sometimes, the flaws are small things, like looking perfect on Instagram but keeping a seriously messy desk or missing an important deadline at work.
The seriousness of the flaw isn’t necessarily the point. The point is to show that you’re human.
Everything hasn’t come easily to you.
You get your readers because you’ve had your own ups and downs or you have your own bad habits you haven’t been able to break.
Yes, there are some books in which none of this will be relevant. One of my clients wrote a book filled with other people’s stories, so she didn’t really show up as a character in the book.
But if you’re writing a memoir or if you’re writing a book to position yourself as the expert and you tell your story, tell your story with balance.
Give us a look at your struggles. Do it with humor or with straight-faced seriousness, but give us a well-rounded portrait.
Your readers want to know what’s fantastic about you, but they also want to know that you’re real.
That’s all for this week.
Thanks for listening to Nothing but the Words. If you enjoyed this episode, I invite you to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, YouTube, or wherever you listen to podcasts, so you’ll never miss an episode.
I’m your author coach, Candice L Davis, and I’ll see you next time.