Writing True Stories Reveals the Secrets to Choosing a Good Life

Filed in Writing for Change by on October 23, 2014 • views: 1045

A Writing for Change Featured Post

I met Ali on Twitter and have been inspired by her grace and intelligence. When I heard about her book, I grew even more intrigued. Ali interviewed 10 people about living a balanced life, and then put together a beautiful book joining all ten of the resulting stories. In the process, she recommitted to her own priorities of advocacy, writing, and finding time for the things she enjoys.

Hiker 2Just a few short years ago my husband and I were overworked, stressed,
and feeling trapped by the life we had built.

We had purchased a nightmare house that required more time and money than we ever thought possible. We were living too far from our jobs and friends, which isolated us from the people we loved. I was working three jobs just to try and pay for everything. As a result, we rarely saw friends, my writing suffered, and we felt completely overwhelmed.

On my husband’s 37th birthday, we realized we couldn’t live that way anymore and decided to change our lives pretty drastically. We sold the house and our car, got rid of over sixty percent of our possessions, and reduced how much we worked. We also packed up our two cats and moved across the country.

Once we had shed all of those things that had been holding us back, we started spending our free time doing the things we loved, rather than working so hard to pay for a life that no one was enjoying. It was during that transition, that restructuring of our lives, that I started Choosing a Good Life. I wanted to interview those wonderful rare people who are balanced and centered so that I could see what they do differently that the rest of us can learn from. I found ten incredible specimens of humanity, all of whom inspired me to change for the better.

Balancing Writing with Advocacy

I can’t actually remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer. As a child I found the act immensely satisfying and enjoyed sharing what I wrote with others. I love language and I love telling stories. For me, it was really the only option.

However, I didn’t choose writing over all other passions. I also care deeply about changing the world for the better and find fulfillment working in the nonprofit sector. My writing and communications skills nourish me personally with my own writing, and aide me at my job with HEART. I am so thankful that I can walk two paths: writer and activist. I just need to make sure I give equal time to both pursuits so that neither suffers.

Trusted to Tell True Stories

I think with any project I work on my emotional state changes depending on how the writing is going. Sometimes the words come so easily, and other times, I have to fight to get anything down. And even then, a day’s work might just need to be discarded later.

Happily, even the pages that end up being deleted help me figure out what I’m trying to say and bring me closer to the final product. I had a lot of stops and starts while writing this book. I usually write fiction and get to invent my characters and my worlds. This was nonfiction and I was being trusted to tell true stories. Stories like the journey of a Holocaust survivor, a woman who lost her husband and child, and a man who was waiting for his second liver transplant. That is an enormous responsibility.

The entire time I was writing I was aware of those relationships, and so, at times I spent days just finding my way in to that person’s life. It could be frustrating, but after many years of writing, I trust that the right words will eventually come as long as I keep working.

I was on a particularly tight deadline for this book which did, at times, bring on some additional stress. I needed to find the ten people I ended up interviewing, locate appropriate scientific studies, and, of course, sit down and write, all while working full time. Time management was vital.

My husband also took over jobs that we normally would have done together to give me the space to work. He believed in me and helped by reading early versions of the book. He even accompanied me to eight out of ten of the interviews, giving me someone to talk to about what I had just experienced and learned.

There is no such thing (I believe) as an easy book. Every book has roadblocks. The important thing (really, the only thing) is to keep writing.

Writing the Book Changed Me

The act of interviewing all of those incredible people, learning their secrets to living a balanced life and writing them down, helped me in incalculable ways. As I was already in the midst restructuring my life, I was open and in a perfect position to learn from their wisdom and put it into action.

I know that writing the book changed me, making me a more peaceful and happy person. I am more flexible, feel less anxiety and am more open to new experiences. I feel like it helped me see my flaws more clearly, and, better yet, gave me the tools to make adjustments. I hope it can do the same for others.

Releasing the Book Into the World

The book just came out so I don’t know yet how others will react to it. I know the people I interviewed were happy with the result. It’s a scary thing releasing a book into the world. I just hope that others find it as helpful as I did.

What Readers May Learn: Life is About Choices

I hope people understand that life really is about choices. It’s one thing to know something in your life isn’t working. It’s another to get up and do something about it.

Right now, I could still be working three jobs and living in that house that I hated. I could be exhausted and struggling just to get up every morning. It’s not always easy to change our life, and it can be scary. But nothing is scarier than staying in a situation that makes us miserable.

These ten people are perfect examples of choosing the kind of life you want to live. They were able to break down their methods for dealing with issues like stress, fear, illness, chronic pain, trauma, loss, divorce, and war. There is a lot to learn from them, and I’m so grateful that they shared their wisdom with me.

* * *

Ali CropAli Berman is the author of Choosing a Good Life: Lessons from People Who Have Found Their Place in the World.

Her writing has appeared in Unsaid Literary Journal, Elimae, Used Furniture Review and Puerto del Sol, among others. She works as a humane educator for HEART, teaching children about issues affecting people, animals and the environment. She resides in Portland, Oregon with her husband and two cats.

Fore more information about her and her work, please see her website, or connect with her on Twitter.


ChoosingAGoodLife_cover 1Choosing a Good Life: In Choosing a Good Life, Ali Berman explores what it means to be at peace with ourselves, our choices, and the world around us.

She takes us into the worlds of ten people who, despite their vastly different talents, challenges, and interests, have achieved a deep sense of balance in and satisfaction with their lives, and explores how we can all achieve the same thing.

Available at Amazon.

 

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Comments (2)

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  1. Sarah Benson says:

    I can relate to this desire to simplify life and focus on the most meaningful things. We are in the process of purging right now. Sounds like a wonderful book Ali!

  2. Chere Hagopian says:

    This sounds like a marvelous book! It’s one thing to tell people they should be more balanced and make better choices, but it’s tremendously helpful to give your readers real life examples of people who have made those better choices. Abstract ideas help some, but knowing that someone else has accomplished what you aspire to- and knowing how they did it- is priceless.