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Writing a Book for the First Time

Tell it to my heart. Tell me I’m the only one. Is this really love or just a…


Yup, I was full-voicin’ me some Taylor Dayne when my 1977 Nova slammed into a telephone pole and spun out into the beautifully manicured lawn of some wealthy Connecticut family.

Now in today’s message, I’m going to tell you exactly how to write a book for the first time. But first, we have to talk about my first car accident.

If you have never written a book before, by definition, you don’t know how to write a book. From the outside looking in, it can seem pretty complicated, but the truth is, it’s quite simple. To explain I need to take you back to the fall of 1990 – the start of my senior year of high school.

I’d had my driver’s license for 3.5 months. That Nova I was driving had been my grandmother’s. She left it to me when she passed in 1986 and I’d waited 5 long years to get to drive it. Now in the blink of an eye, I’d totaled it and destroyed someone’s lawn in the process.

I sat in my car shaking and on the verge of throwing up, Taylor Dayne still wailing away without a care in the world:

“Body to body
Soul to soul
Always feel your near”

Pre-cell phone era meant there was only one thing to do next: Turn off the car and gather the courage to knock on the foreboding door ahead of me. The name on the mailbox read “Boyea.”

I knocked.

My car hovering in the background right in the middle of their lawn.

“Mrs. Boyea?” I said when a woman came to the door.

“Yes,” she replied not noticing the car yet.

I burst into uncontrollable sobs. Snot ran down my face. That stupid song was caught in my head like an ear worm.

“I’m so sorry about your lawn. I’ll pay for it,” I tried to spit out between convulsive gasps. She clearly had no idea what I was talking about.

I knew that lawn was going to be expensive to fix. I was so embarrassed.

She invited me inside. We sat at her kitchen table and she poured me a glass of milk and slid a box of tissues across.

“It’s okay, sweetheart. Just tell me what happened. We’ll figure it out.”

“I don’t know what happened. I was just driving and then I hit the telephone pole and then my car just flipped in a circle and I’m so so sorry about your lawn.”

She looked out the window and then grabbed the mustard yellow phone from the kitchen wall, dragging the long curly cord to me at the table. She put the receiver in my hand and asked “What’s your phone number?”

“269-2327,” I replied and within seconds the dial tone had turned to a ring.

“Mom?” I said evenly, gathering my fortitude. “I’m so sorry.” The tears came again making my words impossible to understand.

Mrs. Boyea took the receiver.

“Your daughter is safe, but she has had an accident. We are over on Miller St. I’m afraid it looks like it will need a tow.”

She didn’t even mention the lawn.

She placed 3 Girl Scout cookies on a napkin for me next to the half-drunk glass of milk. As we waited for my mom to arrive, Mrs. Boyea helped me rehearse my speech.

Now, I’m pretty sure there isn’t a class on how to talk to a 17-year-old girl who just crashed her Nonni’s car onto your lawn, but Mrs. Boyea knew what to say. She wasn’t too touchy. We just met. And she didn’t tell me not to worry about the lawn, because I would be paying for that with my money from my job at Kinney Shoes. But she said this:

“We all make mistakes when we are learning how to drive. Your parents will be relieved you are okay. Cars can be replaced, kids can’t.”

It was a love letter straight to my hurt little soul. And while I was still crying when my parents pulled up in my dad’s work truck set to tow the car, I had stopped shaking and was at least understandable.

And that, was the precise moment I learned how to write a book.

“Welcome to the Asshole Club!” my dad said with a cheesy grin and he patted me on the head. When it comes to big disasters, my dad is a master of making me laugh. (Just don’t ask me what happened when I’d leave a bag of potato chips open, he was not nearly as good with the small stuff!)

What does joining the Asshole Club have to do with writing a book for the first time? Well, everything really. Because the KEY to writing a book for the first time, is finding your voice.

Mrs. Boyea and my dad had 2 very different approaches. Mrs. Boyea was calm and reassuring and methodical and thoughtful. My dad was funny and light hearted and got to work towing my car. They were both being authentically who they are. And that is what your reader requires from you.

To write a book that makes a difference, you must connect to your reader in your voice. This is step 2 in the Difference Process™ – You can’t learn it from a book or a coach. You can’t hire it out to a ghostwriter. YOU have to be YOU. (And why try being anyone else since everyone else is taken anyway!)

And you don’t JUST have to be YOU but you have to be YOU in relation to ONE SINGLE IDEAL READER.

If you asked Mrs. Boyea to describe how to handle a car accident on her front lawn it might sound formal or legal, but in the moment, she just loved me and did what came naturally. Same with my dad. It was a crisis, he knew I was upset, and he lightened the mood. There isn’t a right way or a wrong way of course, but what worked about both of their responses was that it came from a servant’s heart.

Ego says: Let’s figure this out and do it the right way.

The Servant’s Heart says: I am here to serve. I can’t do this wrong.

When people come to me to write a book, they are often worried they are doing it wrong and they slip into this voice some English teacher taught them to use in order to get a good grade on their papers in school. This is NOT the way to write a book. I take away their pen and paper.

A good book comes from the heart. It’s a love letter. One human being speaking straight to the heart of another human being. Like I’m doing right now to you.

Your first car. Your senior year of high school. Your first book.

I’m imagining you were sitting right here with me, sharing a cup of tea and swapping “first car accident stories.” And while we are at it, I’m telling you how that moment with Taylor Dayne on Labor Day weekend way back in 1990 was one of the touchstones in my life that lead me to help 518 people get their books written in 9 weeks or less.

Because the truth is… you don’t need another class. You don’t need a certification. You don’t need to figure it out. You need to be like Mrs. Boyea and open your door to someone in pain and help them with what you know.

If Mrs. Boyea stood on her front lawn, preaching self-love, self-care, and anxiety management to any driver that came around the corner, she really would not have made a difference. Most people would never notice her and those who did would probably think she was a little off. But that’s not what she did, she waited for someone in pain to come to her and then she served from the bottom of her heart. She didn’t worry about her landscaping challenges that needed to be solved before snow started to fall and the ground started to freeze. She didn’t worry about how the tow truck would get the car off the lawn. She didn’t worry about the way I ruined her day or the fact she might have to make a run to the store for milk for her coffee. She showed up. 100%. And that’s what it takes to write your book.

It won’t be convenient. There will be calls, and bills, and emergencies, and a million reasons not to show up and serve – just like Mrs. Boyea had that day. But when there is a sweet, hurt, human soul at your kitchen table, you get the milk and cookies out and love them for as long as they are there, because THAT is how we heal the planet. Not by standing on our front stoop shouting at the cars going by.

A lot of people are waiting to work with me until they have another certification, or their website done, or more confidence or clarity; but the truth is, people with a servant’s heart are ready to serve NOW. There is a scared, shakey, 17-year-old Nova driver at the door and they aren’t going to wait one second to invite her into their home.

Now I don’t know if that’s you. Maybe you are reading this and thinking, “where’s the damn writing advice I was promised.” And if so, please head on over to Amazon and by my book The Difference, or better yet, Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, which is the best book in the history of the world on writing. But if you are someone who is sick to death of screaming from your doorstep, wondering why no one is listening to your message, you might want to read this post again, or better yet, tell us about you and your beautiful servant’s heart over on our application page so we can invite you in for some virtual milk and cookies while we chat.

Oh, and my Nonni’s car? My dad put it back together, while my mom put my confidence back together. My Nonni and her Madonna prayer card in the visor, I’m pretty sure they were my guardian angles that day so I could bring this story back to you, heart-in-hand.


27 thoughts on “Writing a Book for the First Time”

    1. Natasha Sinclair

      I really love your story it was from the heart, now I know I can do this because it’s from the heart .You have me confirmation right there.thank you so much.

  1. Beautiful piece. I wish my mother had been as kind when I hit someone else on my way to a youth group meeting (which I naively thought might’ve been a date). There was hell to pay when mom found out. (Dad was pretty useless since he sadly deferred to her on most of the child-raising).

    I paid for the damage from a job I had helping at a law firm. I paid for the emotional damage from my mother for a good long time, until she got mad at someone else about something else and forgot she was ticked at me. So it went.

    The accident definitely scared me about driving for a while. I no longer drive as fast as I used to. I guess getting closer to forty will do that to you. That and falling in love and not wanting to ruin myself or my passengers!

    That’s not the good driving story though…

    When I was 16 we lived in Fairfax, VA and I got my learners permit (from an evangelical driving instructor who said he’d pray for me, which this rabbi’s kid found slightly off-putting at the time. I told him if he didn’t pass me I’d claim anti-senitism. I passed. 🙂 Anyway, my grandparents came to visit for Passover, as they did every year. When it came time for them to leave, my dad (a rabbi) was at work, and my mother wasn’t feeling well enough to drive (she had 5 cancers and 2 liver transplants over the years, so needless to say she had some significant health challenges). She tells me that I’m going to drive my grandparents to the airport. On the beltway. In a big Chevy Astro minivan. Oh dear. When mom told you to do something, you did it, so okay…

    Did I mention I hadn’t driven much (if at all) on highways yet? Did I mention I have a lazy eye and was still learning how to figure out where my lane stopped and the next one started? Oh yeah, this was a great plan, what could possibly go wrong?

    We get in the car, my grandfather sitting in the front passenger seat, my mother and grandmother sitting in the row behind us. And while my mother had occasional moments of calm over the years, this wasn’t one of them. She and my grandmother were flipping out, screaming that I was too close to the bus to our left, or the truck to our right (which, to be fair, I probably was). I’m perched against the window, trying desperately to make sure I’m staying in my lane, yelling at them not to yell at me cause I didn’t want to drive this f’ing car anyway (which didn’t exactly help them calm down).

    And then the magic happened. My grandfather did one of the wisest things I’ve ever seen anyone do. He stuck one hand out in front of him, and if I veered too far to the left, he moved his hand a little to the right. When I went too far to the right, he moved his hand a little to the left. He never said a word, and with his guidance I was able to drive safely, everyone calmed down, and we made it safely to the airport. (How I got home without him I honestly don’t remember).

    My grandfather taught me a lot about kindness and wisdom that day, and gave me a memory I will always treasure. Thankfully I wasn’t inducted into your dads asshole club that day. Sounds like it would’ve been a fun club to join…

  2. Unsurprisingly, this is amazing and timely. I just gave myself a card spread that basically said “You need to get that brilliant idea out into the world and quit thinking you’re not ready.” The unpleasant voice in my head turned it up a few notches and screamed louder that I am not qualified for this next offer I’m about to roll out into the world – imperfectly.

    And then your email came in, I started reading, and the next thing I knew I was crying. OMG. I’ve been crying more than I want to admit lately in between terrifying sessions of forging forward with the scary things and making plans for more scary way-out-of-my-comfort-zone things.

    So as usual, thank you. Your words unlock surprising things in people in all the right moments to get us off our fearful asses and doing things that are going to make shifts for people. *all the love*

  3. Thanks for sharing this is very validating to me. When I wrote my first couple of versions to my first speech the speech coach stated that she liked my voice in my writing and then proceeeded to help me with making it more coherent, lol. My wife as well who is a editor by heart with a masters in English says that she likes my voice in my stories but then whittles the stories back down to earth with her grammerly discipline. I would share my first accident story but I have zero (knocking on wood while typing). I can tell the times my best friend and I would “borrow” my mothers car late at night after she fell asleep and learned how to drive stick in that Volkswagen fox while doing 30 mph in 2nd gear on the highway, lol but that is a subject for another time. 🙂

  4. I found your analogy to a car accident interesting as I had a huge shift occur after my accident.
    I also loved that you said writing your book is about using your voice. Exactly ❤️

  5. How timely…My sixteen year old daughter was in an accident 3 days ago.
    Something happened to the rear tire and she went off the road and the car flipped and landed on the roof.
    Thankfully she was not injured other than seatbelt bruises and a cut on the tip of her baby finger.
    Fortunately our former neighbor drove by and stayed with her and called me and waited with her til I arrived.
    She was an angel to us that day.

  6. Bernetta Rivers

    Wow what a great testimony indeed and I am so grateful that you shared this story so much and now I am excited but can’t wait to finish my book. I started a bit but now I have the drive to push it to hear and move because someone is in need to hear my story. Many blessings over and above in Jesus name Amen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. Eileen Gabellini

    Thank you for sharing how to speak from the heart in one’s own unique way. I have always wanted to write, and never have. I am over 14 years in recovery. I left home at 15, began community college with a fake ID and a 9th grade education. I have worked drilling rigs natural gas in Wyoming and joined the Navy after that. I did eventually earned my GED and an associates degree. I was married seven times. I like the idea but not the doing. My youngest soster pimped me out to pay her bills after I was incarcerated two years for drugs…go figure. I then became an escort for years and eventually married and divorced a multi millionaire to have a father for my son. I chose to become a mother before it becaame too late. I was blessed with HCV and became sober as a result. I am a reiki master teacher in multi modalities and crystals and work and train in other energy modalities. These spiritual paths have helped me recover and focus on being of service to others and the world. As a disabled veteran with ptsd and tbi, i wound up living in my car for about two years sober. I kept my son housed and in university and rescued a very feral stray while car camping. I did my spiritual practices morning and night and worked on making our lives better a day at a time. I told a Sponsee once That if I lost everything and I was buck ass naked, that as long as I had a connection with the God of my understanding and I didn’t drink or drug, that everything would be all right. Funny how I basically had to prove that truth. Eventually my nine year Claim with the VA was resolved and I now have a lovely home . The cat I found in the woods, Muria. is still with me. In another year my son will finish his masters degree. I tell you these things to give you an idea of who I am. My first sponsor told me “ Eileen, you have the best stories”. I have lived many lives in my 61 years and have overcome most everything. I have some stories to tell, just not sure which ones. I can write a great reiki crystal grid use book, and perhaps more.

  8. Thank you for your story and your encouragement. Writing has been on my “when I retire” list of things I want to do. I will be using the exercise to just sit down and write soon. I’m not saying one of these days. But my heart is healing from some serious grief among immense change. This last year has been one that tipped between clinical depression and “man life just sucks right now”. The sun is finally shining more in my life. Now to just sit down a do get my old courage back. As one of my favorite songs says “I’ve been through the valley and …I know how to survive. ” I been there, now I’m learning how to thrive not just survive.

  9. I loved this story, I could totally relate to Mrs. Boyea as I was that person who answered a knock at 6:45 a.m. after hearing a crash that sounded awfully close. Yep, upon opening the door I could see my Jeep Cherokee a good six feet into the front lawn of the neighbors. But the most important thing I could think to say and do was to make sure this young 17 year old driver was okay, and brought her in to help her get composed and call her parents. The Servant’s heart, I like that the car was totaled but the young driver was not. And that is something to be grateful for. Thanks for sharing your story and bringing this memory back to me. I enjoy your stories very much.

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