Fearless Memoir

How to overcome fear, unworthiness, and self-doubt and finally write a memoir. By Brad Wetzler, award-winning author, editor, and book writing coach.

Take these 11 Steps and You Too Can Be a Published Author

  1. Journal about your book and expertise. 
    In other words, write like crazy about your book idea and your expertise. Ask yourself, what gifts of knowledge and wisdom do I have to share with the world? 
  2. Locate your tribe. 
    Research your audience. Who are your readers? Where are they? What do they need? How can you help them with the problems they face? Can you help them increase their income or live a more fulfilling life? 
  3. Launch a blog. Publish once per week.
    Create a website with a blog--and then write weekly blog posts directed at the future readers of your book. In your blog posts, aim to solve your readers' pain points. Lead with an anecdote that shows how you or one of your customers faced and overcame a problem. Pivot to explain how your readers can overcome similar problems in their own lives. End with a call to action, i.e. to read more on your website, schedule a free consult with you, or buy a product or service.
  4. ...
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Short Memoir: Looking Back on Jon Krakauer's "Into Thin Air," Part II

How I Coached Jon Krakauer to Write the Story that Only He Could Tell

Last week, I posted Part I of the story of my involvement with "Into Thin Air." That post told the behind-the-scenes story of the days during and immediately after the storm that killed climbers during the 1996 season. Today, I'm posting a short blog essay about the process of coaching Jon Krakauer to tell the story about what happened on Everest. To this day, Krakauer is a dogged journalist and talented writer. Editing him was a highlight of my seven years working as an editor at Outside. I know Jon wishes he'd never gone to Everest. I understand why. However, I'm grateful to Jon and Outside magazine for giving me the opportunity to have this experience.

Here's my latest blog essay:

I can still hear the buzzing and burping of the fax machine as it started to spit out Jon Krakauer’s first draft of “Into Thin Air.”

It was early June 1996, a few weeks after the infamous storm on Mount Everest...

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Short Memoir: Looking Back on Jon Krakauer's "Into Thin Air"

Sending Jon Krakauer to Everest was my idea. After the news broke, I spent the better part of a day wondering if I’d put him in a frozen grave.

IT WAS THE WORST STORY IDEA idea an editor could come up with, let alone assign to a real human being. That’s how I felt on Saturday, May 11, 1996, the day I heard Jon Krakauer had disappeared while reporting for Outside on the growing phenomenon of commercially guided trips up Mount Everest a story I’d conceived and helped make happen by dealing with an endless stream of logistical headaches. None of that mattered when I heard Krakauer was missing in a deadly high-altitude blizzard. Had I sent him to his death?

Just 24 hours earlier, of course, I’d considered myself a genius. On the morning of May 10, Mark Bryant, Outside‘s editor, made an announcement at the daily editorial meeting in our Santa Fe office. “I have news from Jon Krakauer’s wife,” he quietly told some two dozen...

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Why Writers Need More Self-Compassion and How to Cultivate It

As a book writing coach, I’m always on the lookout for new ways to help my clients. Sometimes ideas come to me while watching Netflix. 

I recently watched Bruce Springsteen on Broadway on Netflix. Springsteen’s playing is rousing. His storytelling, more so. But the show’s true gift is watching Springsteen unmask himself. He bashes myths about himself that he spent a lifetime creating. He even speaks about his struggles around mental illness. A fascinating moment happens ninety minutes into the two-hours-plus show when Springsteen talks about the magic that happens between members of a rock band. I suspect he’s talking more broadly about the magic that happens when we enter a relationship with another human or when we create art. Here’s a quote: When you join a band, “there is a communion of souls, and a quest, the quest has begun, and adventure is undertaken, and you ride shotgun. The principles of math get stood on their...

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Short Memoir: How Travel, Journaling, and Yoga Bring Us Home to True Love

Working in memoir requires a writer to stand in the fire of truth. This means holding ourselves accountable to seeing what’s true about our lives. Part of my process as a book writing coach is to point clients to ways they can write with a more open heart. Writing well about our life requires us to open our hearts. When one’s heart is open, we bring full awareness and presence to all situations and people. We are capable of writing patiently and honestly about the heartbreak and the ecstasy, as well as the ordinary. We can face the whole catastrophe of being alive, as Zorba might say. And we can do so from a place of wonder and generosity instead of from blame and shame.

Here’s an amazing thing about the human heart: you don’t need a field guide to learn how to open it. Yes, meditation, yoga, and other spiritual practice can help us slow down and develop distance, open space, between what happens to us and how we respond to...

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How Travel Changes Us

In 2011, I spent three months on walkabout in Israel and Palestine. At the time I was struggling with life. I wanted to see if I could believe in a higher power again as I did in my youth. I walked miles and miles in Jesus’ footsteps. Soaking in the Jordan River, I realized that I couldn’t believe again. But I discovered something huge: that no messiah can heal us or fix us. Not pills. Not religious dogma.Not travel. I came home changed. I recommitted to a daily yoga practice that I’d abandoned. On the yoga mat during the next years, I found what I couldn’t find on the road. Myself. Looking back on that pilgrimage, I see that sometimes we have to go external in order to go internal. I mean, it was necessary for me to go on that trip. I didn’t find what I was hoping to find. But I found something different, surprising, and, ultimately, that trip inspired me to do the hard work I needed to do to find myself again after years of self-abandonment....

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How a Daily Writing Practice Can Lead Us Back to Our True Self

Writing is more like yoga than you might think.

Both disciplines require learning specific rules and vocabularies. Yoga has its 8 Limbs, one of which is asana, or the physical poses that most Westerners consider to be yoga. Each asana asks the yogi to hold the body in a specific and precise way. By focusing on the mechanics of the pose and sitting in the uncomfortableness, we see ourselves in a mirror. We learn things about ourselves.

Writing–crafting sentences out of symbols composed of curved and straight lines–is similar. When we write, we see ourselves in a mirror and learn things about ourselves. Things that we couldn’t see before we did the writing.

Both disciplines can lead to waking up from the trance that afflicts us all when we get consumed by the demands of work, home, and society. When we do yoga or write, we experience ourselves in deeper and more subtle way. This isn’t spiritual mumbo jumbo. We actually become more human.

Both...

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Short Memoir: How to Stop Being a Spiritual Seeker and Become a Spiritual Finder

Transformation is hard. It takes work to break old habits and create new ones. We must stay diligent at "doing the work." Yoga, meditation, self-inquiry, and therapy are methods that, when practiced regularly, can lead us back to our true selves. But I've learned that there are pitfalls to focusing too much on "the work." Sometimes I catch myself being too diligent at doing the work. I forget about the other path to transformation: self-acceptance. When we focus too much on "the work," we can easily become self-aggressive and escapist. As important as the work is, we must accept, maybe love, the person we already are.  We are all we have, right. And wanting to be different is a trap that keeps us separate from our true selves. 

For example, I am a lifelong seeker. I seek knowledge, wisdom, connection, even God. I read books about spirituality and self-growth. I travel to experience new places and new people. But I suspect seeking is...

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Short Memoir: How Bhakti Yoga Brings Us Back to Our Hearts

Spiritual practices are an important way I stay connected to my deepest self. Yoga and meditation are my go-to practices. When I practice consistently, I do better at staying grounded in the present moment. And when I stay grounded in the NOW, I am slower to react to difficult situations and people, and I'm better able to respond to life's myriad challenges with patience and compassion to others and myself.  Spiritual practices are one way that I show up for myself with self-love.

Like yoga and journaling, I think of chanting as a loving knife, a knife that is able to cut through habit and resistance to the soft, beating heart within all our chests.

On a recent summer night, my friend and I drove to a retirement home to attend a kirtan led by Benjy and Heather Wertheimer. Kirtan means “to chant together,” and kirtans are a common practice in Bhakti yoga, the yoga of love and devotion. No matter what you believe, chanting with other humans feels good in the...

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Yoga and My Quest for True Self

A consistent yoga practice can be powerful. It’s like standing in front of a mirror and staring at your reflection. This can be frightening for anybody, but for a middle-aged man it is especially so.

First, you see things that surprise or shock you. Is my belly really that lumpy? Is my hair that gray? With time, these judgments soften some. But then it can be easy to swing too far in the opposite direction. “On second thought, I don’t look too bad for 52. My stomach may not be a six-pack, but look at those arms! They’re coming along! All those chaturangas I’ve been doing have yielded some nice deltoids. I don’t look half-bad. I can add some sit-ups, but otherwise, Brad, you’re looking good!”

But if you stand at the mirror longer still, your feel-good thoughts fade, too. If you’re lucky, you land, finally, in self-acceptance. You accept the good with the bad and the handsome with the ugly. But more likely, you will overshoot...

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