What is the Story of Your Life?


This post was inspired by the awesome Julie Roads

I’d already crossed everything about this blog off my Monday to-do list. Marriage Improvement Monday: Done. Check. Over. Time to move on to the other stuff—the stuff that I actually get paid to write.

But first a hot cup of Procrastination Tea was in order. And, heck, I can’t write much while sipping tea, so I figured I might as well read a few blogs until my tea was done.

That’s when I read Julie Roads’ post, “Telling Stories” in which she talks about how she wrote the story of her life before that story actually happened. By writing it out, she made the story come true.

(Her post, by the way, was inspired by Chris Brogan’s post about story telling.)

Julie inspired me. After I read her post, I had a thought. It was this, “I have goals. I have a book coming out. I want certain things to happen. What if I wrote the story of what I want to happen before it actually happens? What if I published that story on my blog—before it ever took place in real life?”

You want to know what I thought about that? It was this, “Sounds absolutely terrifying.”

Well, you want to know what my imaginary boyfriend Seth Godin said to that? It was this, “If it’s terrifying, then it must be worth doing.”

So I’m going to do it. My book Project: Happily Ever After tells the story of how 12 marital improvement books saved my marriage. It will debut in January. Before the book debuts, a much different story will be unfold.

The Story of the Making of a Story

This story’s main character was once a 5th grader who aspired to be a science fiction novelist, but who was told by her teacher that she couldn’t write. She was once a newspaper reporter who wanted to write for the New York Times, but instead chickened out and went into book publishing instead. She’s now considered one of the country’s top ghostwriters of books, but now she’s got words of her own to put between two covers.

She’s helped more than 15 authors face that scariest of days. It’s called this: Book Release Day.

Now she’s facing her own scariest of days.

She’s worried. She’s finally written a book in her own voice and with her own byline. Is her voice boring? Is her story boring? Is her writing boring? Will the book flop? Will she walk away from this experience feeling like a failure?

Those, folks, are just some of her fears. Oh, let me tell you, this girl has got fears.

She has fears about the horrific indignity that could ensue if her hair looks greasy when she appears on TV to talk about her book. She has fears about her hands shaking and her face turning beat red when she gives speeches about the book’s story. She has fears about her friends buying the book, but then avoiding her for days, months and even years because they fell asleep on page 1 and are too embarrassed to see her and tell her that.

Thankfully for our fearful, neurotic main character, this fairy tale includes a sidekick. His name is Tim Brownson, and he is the knight in shining armor behind the story about the story. (Confused about that? I think I might be, too. Bear with me).

Tim is a life coach. He recently ran a promotion for 6 months of free life coaching. I told Tim all about my neurotic fears of failure. He felt so sorry for me that I won the contest. During the next 6 months, he’s going to transform me into the most confident author who ever published a book. And he’s going to single handedly make sure that:

  • I become immune to those stupid people who are going to write reviews on amazon about how my book is “stupid” or “boring” and “not worth the paper it’s printed on.”
  • I become so fearless that I will ask super duper famous people to read and blurb my book, and I will think it’s their sad loss when they say, “I’m much to busy to read a book, especially your book.”
  • I either learn how to style my hair or just stop worrying about it already.
  • I overcome my quivering lip and pounding heart so I can calmly walk on set of The Daily Show, tell Jon Stewart that he is the hottest man alive (next to Tim Brownson, of course, and next to my husband), and even crack a few jokes that do not include the words “fart” “blowjob” or “poopy.”
  • I get over my fear of rejection and write an essay about how this blog saved my marriage, and send that essay to the New York Times for publication in “Modern Love.”

Tim, you see, is going to be the clichéd wind beneath my wings. He is going to make sure I do not chicken out. If I check myself into an insane asylum, he’s going to march on over there and he’s going to check me right back out again.

He’s going to make me face each and every fear I have about publishing this book.

And I am going to publish the story of how he manages to pull that off right here, on this blog.

The first chapter opens next week. Monday marks my first session with Tim. During that session Tim is going to help me face my fears about an upcoming journalism conference, one in which I will be speaking about the future of publishing and trying to force myself to network. I believe he said he would be mailing me some Xanax.

On Tuesday, I will write the story of what Tim tells me I should do at the conference. This story will be a story about the future, and about how the conference is actually going to go before it actually happens. Then, I’ll check in here a week later and let you know how the real story turned out.

You with me? You up for writing the story of your life before it unfolds? Do you think there is any merit to doing this? Wish me well, and leave a comment.

34 comments… add one

  • Erin OBryan April 12, 2010, 12:03 pm

    I’m Tim’s Super Secret Cyber Stalker, he’s the best. I’m so happy for you winning the contest! I’m for sure going to follow your story, good luck!!
    .-= Erin OBryan´s last blog ..SOS I Am Found-Shiny Object Syndrome =-.

  • Tracy April 12, 2010, 12:12 pm

    You are going to have an awesome time with Tim!

    I love writing the story of my life, I don’t even expect it to come true, I just find it reassuring that no matter what happens something will happen.

    Please to make time in the story of your life when I finally get around to getting somebody to produce my reality series “Life Judge”. Think the View without any annoying people meets American Idol meets Intervention sans scary needle scenes.
    .-= Tracy´s last blog ..The Reinvention of Edison Thomas: A book review =-.

  • Tim Brownson April 12, 2010, 12:23 pm

    No pressure then?
    .-= Tim Brownson´s last blog ..Education Sucks =-.

  • Jen April 12, 2010, 12:25 pm

    I love this idea! I wrote a kind of Story of my Life for a class assignment once. We had to write where we wanted to be in five years, 10 years, 20 years, etc. (Come to think of it, it’s probably been five years so I should find that piece of paper and see if I’m on track. :)) But I think it helps to write goals like these down. It’s like that throw your intentions into the universe theory. Good luck and have fun with the process (that’s what they always say, right?).
    .-= Jen´s last blog ..“The Next 100″ Survey and a Chance to Win Chocolate =-.

  • Alisa April 12, 2010, 12:28 pm

    Hey Tim–at least I didn’t say that you were going to help me:
    1) Figure out how to have multiple orgasms
    2) Go to #1 on the best seller list
    3) Unstink my dog
    4) Get Jon Stewart to fall in love with me

    Especially because I’m not all that sure that #3 is actually possible.

    Comparatively speaking, the other goals seem minor now, eh?

  • Alexandra April 12, 2010, 2:02 pm

    Jon Stewart??? I would be aiming (and drooling over in anticipation) Stephen Colbert …

  • Lauren April 12, 2010, 3:14 pm

    I think there’s a lot to your idea about telling stories about who we will be. There’s a quote from Sister Morningstar that says something about how we will hear a fact once, but we’re willing to listen to a story over and over again. By telling ourselves stories about what we’ll become and where we’re going, I think we give ourselves the confidence and enthusiasm to make it happen. I guess that’s the definition of positive self-talk?

  • Frugal Kiwi April 12, 2010, 3:34 pm

    We can talk ourselves down and we can talk ourselves up. Better to talk up. I sometimes have goal themed passwords- so I have to repeat them over and over!
    .-= Frugal Kiwi´s last blog ..Svelte Felt Sphinx Minx =-.

  • Alisa April 12, 2010, 4:06 pm

    Frugal Kiwi: I LOVE the idea of a goal based passwords!

  • Andi April 12, 2010, 4:20 pm

    I had a business coach two years ago that made us write a letter to our future self. It really helped me formulate some of the very things that this Story of Me is doing seems to be doing as well. I think it is a a fabulous concept. I look forward to what Tim does for you, but let’s hope he doesn’t completely cure you of being neurotic, that’s part of your personality!

  • Julie Roads April 12, 2010, 4:42 pm

    The story of my life today is torture and hell – in the form of the stomach flu. I would say that I didn’t write that, but in fact, I did – more or less. I wrote and said several times that I just needed some downtime. Et Voila – with a little puking and a ton of discomfort on the side.

    I’m so excited about this project…xox
    .-= Julie Roads´s last blog ..Telling Stories… =-.

  • Karen April 12, 2010, 8:09 pm

    Alisa, I’m with you, you had me at Procrastination Tea. I cannot think of a better way to start my day – tomorrow of course – no excuses! with my own cup, and will no doubt start encouraging my clients to do the same, thanks to you.

    I wrote the story of my (career) life about a year ago…it’s clear now that apparently I have quite the talent for fiction writing! :-) Your post reminded me, though, to revisit it, not for the parts that haven’t come true – yet – but for the parts that have, as a reminder that there’s more where that came from .

    It also reminds me of something I like to do when I feel stuck…pass the buck. (When I feel like I’m not making any headway, I’ll ask myself how I would direct someone else to do it if I were hiring them to do it for me.) The only difference now is that I think I’ll sit back and have another nice cup of Procrastination Tea while I watch!

    I’m curious, are you going to post on your blog the story of your future conference before it happens?

    Wishing you, and anyone else who is going to join you – well! You’ve inspired me to get back to my story, a page a day. 1st thing after my tea.

  • Kathy April 12, 2010, 9:23 pm

    There is tons of merit to writing your story before it unfolds. That’s basically how I found my husband. Made of list of what I wanted in a man/mate. Months later, he appeared.

    I don’t understand why you are fearful of your book flopping? You write wonderfully here on your blog. If you do the same in your book, then you have nothing to fear, in my opinion. But then again, you don’t see me publishing a book, do you. Too fearful.

    Hell, I don’t even have goals. Part of my personality. I just live and see how it all turns out. I’ve been thru some very rough experiences, but I’m still hear to talk about them or not, as the case is. So, people with goals impress me.

  • Kathy April 12, 2010, 9:27 pm

    Alisa, I can tell you how to have multiple orgasms. Do your kiegel (? sp) exercises. It’s that simple. Once your muscles down there are fit, multiple orgasms are possible. At least in my experience.

    Sprinkle you dog with some baking soda. Rub into fur. Bathe the next day. Also, send dog to groomer and have his scent glands expressed. My dog gets her scent glands expressed at each bath.

    Can’t help you on #1 best seller list or Jon Stewart. Sorry!

  • Kate April 12, 2010, 9:56 pm

    I wrote the story of my life, I guess, when I finally sat down to write what I wanted in a husband. I started with things like, Must Have A Job; Must Want to Get Married And Have Kids. The items at the low end of the list were my “icing on the cake” features where it would be nice to have them but weren’t essential, like being a good dancer. A month later I met my husband, and he had every single characteristic on the list, even the icing on the cake ones. In retrospect, I should have included on the list, Is Not A Slob, but I guess you can’t have everything.

  • Lynn April 12, 2010, 11:41 pm

    You’ve been preparing for this as long as I’ve known you which, admittedly isn’t very long, but as I’ve said from Day 1, insecurities or not, you’re going to make it. The Best Seller List, Jon Stewart, the New York Times, all will be yours. Whether you plan it or whether it happens without your plan, it’s all going to work. Believe me. How do I know? No idea. Just do, that’s all.


  • Alisa Bowman April 13, 2010, 5:53 am

    Lynn–Have I told you lately how much I love you?

    Kathy–you would not believe the kegel project I’m attempting right now. More eventually about that on the blog.

    Karen–yes, next week, after my session with coach Tim, I am going to write a story about how the American Society of Journalists and Authors conference is going to go for me–before it actually happens. Then afterward I’ll check back in with an update.

    All–I feel so loved and supported. I can’t express how wonderful that feels except to say: Gosh, it feels wonderful!
    .-= Alisa Bowman´s last blog ..Should you role play? =-.

  • Teresa April 13, 2010, 7:38 am

    The first time I came here to leave a comment, I left because I was intimidated by all the interesting things everyone else had to say. I’m looking forward to living vicariously through your journey. Good Luck and Congratulations on being talented enough to have this journey.

  • Joanne April 13, 2010, 8:48 am

    Dear Alisa:

    I know you can do it. I’ve only been reading your blog (my first blogging ever) for a couple months and am totally hooked.

    A year ago, in between my son’s wedding and my daughters wedding I had a dream that I was 110 years old and lived in a cottage on the rocky coast of Maine, I’m from jersey but have Maine fantasies. I was looking forward to the fresh pot of Hazelnut coffee and the stack of books I had by the easy chair in from of a big bay window and was thinking back on all my life had been. I outlived two husbands and three children but was surrounded by loving grandchildren and great grandchildren who thought nanna’s house was the best place to be.

    When I woke up I got my 50 year old 225 pound ass out of bed and decided that I wanted that happy ending. A year later I have lost 50 pounds so far and am doing a 5K in June. I have never in my life had will power but just putting into thoughts what my life can be helped me stay the course so far.

    Tim will be an awesome cheerleader and we all need one. Every time I dropped a jean’s size, I started at 22 and am now down to a 12, I texted my girlfriends and they cheered for me. My daughters thought I looked wonderful and when my son came home from Iraq he didn’t even recognize me, he kept introducing me to his buddies as, “this is my mom, remember the pictures from my wedding I showed you?”

    Whenever the carbs are calling to loudly I just think about that dream and come on to my husband instead.

  • Alisa April 13, 2010, 9:32 am

    Joanne–your story is so inspiring! Thanks for sharing it. I might read it over again when I’m drowning in self-induced suckitude.

    Teresa–even coming and saying that you read and are still reading means so much to me. It’s so hard to keep putting the words out there and never really knowing if they are affected anyone. I always have this fear that people open their blog feed and think, “Oh Jeepers, that is yawn producing” and then close and delete. Please don’t feel pressure to leave a witty comment. I’m just happy that you are here.

  • sophia April 13, 2010, 10:21 am

    Here is my story:

    I suffered from depression, anxiety, and OCD for way too long. I was constantly striving to be a fantastic lover, amazing career women, caring and hot wife, have a perfect lean body,etc. These “projects” just tired me out. They were exhausting. I realized that my constant need to perfect myself was a result of my mental illness.

    With years of therapy, yoga, cutting out certain foods, exercise and meditation, I am finally at the place in my life where I am really mentally able to achieve “inner peace.” I accept who I am; I do not need to earn my husband’s love by blowing his mind in bed anymore.

    Ironically, as I let go of my self-improvement projects and my drive to change our marriage, our marriage became so much stronger, our sex life hotter, and our connection deeper. We have never been happier. I have never been happier. I keep getting older, but each year I am in better and better shape (mentally, physically, emotionally) than I have ever been in before.

  • aguyreader April 13, 2010, 10:41 am

    your stories and writing boring???

  • Joanne April 13, 2010, 10:43 am

    Dear Alisa;

    I know that you don’t needs pats on the back since we are all obviously engaged in these discussions but I have to tell you that I am paying $300.00 every other week for a marriage counselor who is finally saying all the things you and these wonderful people have been saying all along. I’m sorry I didn’t find your site sooner.

    Sophia: Your courage is inspiring. Pulling YOURSELF up from the depths is probably the hardest thing any one of us can do. We are all trained to have empathy, caring and nurturing for others but sometimes the best love is self-love. Kudos.

    PS: God bless my husband who thought I was beautiful at 225 lbs. or 170 lbs. (He didn’t want any of you to think I did it just for him)

  • Karen April 13, 2010, 11:37 am

    Ahhh…kegels, had I only known sooner, but at least I know now. You reminded me Kathy, of how prominently they figure in my life story, since now I won’t be sleepwalking through it…

    My friend – who went to physical therapy for Kegels and it was covered by insurance I had never heard of doing that, apparently it’s pretty common in Europe – sold me on doing them religiously, something my ob had never been able to do despite my numerous complaints about leakage. (I’d do them for about 3 traffic lights on my way home from the ob’s office, and then usually not again until I saw her again.)

    What my friend – who had been getting up 3-4 times a night for what seemed like forever (and we know even just a few nights in a row take their toll) – told me was that she’s been sleeping through the night again. Hearing that, I IMMEDIATELY started Kegels – I found a site that described the exercises that they had her doing at physical therapy pretty much the way she described them to me. What a HUGE difference, especially if not only are you getting up to go to the bathroom, but are also having trouble getting back to sleep, too, like I was, once you’re up.)

    And yes, I can also let go and laugh – and sneeze – without letting go. But the sleep! For me, that’s the highlight. In my case, even more than the benefits to my sex life. (Probably because I’m like the stereotypical man, one great orgasm (wait, isn’t “great” “orgasm” redundant?) and all I want is to go to sleep.)

    My husband, though, the poor man. He had to substitute for the strength-testing dildo-like machine they use in physical therapy, and make sure that every week my muscles were indeed getting stronger. Of course he told me that he “was prepared to make any sacrifice.”

    Joanne, I loved your true story!

    Of course, it’s great, too, that I don’t leak anymore when I sneeze

    With the exception of what sounds like a dildo-like apparatus designed to measure the increasing strength of your muscles

    When I told my OB about my leakage (gotta love a site where that’s all you need to say) she of course reminded me about kegels. She had told me to start doing them after I had my daughter OVER NINE YEARS AGO, and I had done them, over the coursemaybe 40 or so times while I was waiting for a traffic light to turn.

  • Tim Brownson April 13, 2010, 11:44 am

    Holy shit what have I let myself in for?

    If multiple orgasms, dildos and leakage get chatted about in the open wtf will we be talking about on the phone?

    If anybody mentions donkeys, nuns or warm jello I’m outta here.
    .-= Tim Brownson´s last blog ..Education Sucks =-.

  • Alisa April 13, 2010, 11:48 am

    Coach Tim: Be scared. Be very, very scared.

  • Karen April 13, 2010, 11:58 am

    Joanne, that your husband wants to be sure that anyone who might be listening is clear about how he feels about you? W.O.W. Thanks for sharing that part of your story, too!

  • Edgy Mama April 13, 2010, 12:50 pm


    Ignore all Amazon reviews, for sure.

    And, your story is PERFECT for Modern Love. Why didn’t I think of that?
    .-= Edgy Mama´s last blog ..Another day, another beer festival =-.

  • Joanne April 13, 2010, 12:51 pm

    Want a laugh, at our last therapy session, the pyschologist asked how often we have sex. My husband piped up proudly, “3 times a week”. The therapist looked at me like I had two heads because my complaint in the marriage was a lack of intimacy, which of course includes sex.

    I had to straighten my husbands declaration out with ” Honey, that’s three times on a Saturday morning, it shouldn’t count for the whole week. Get your Prescription refilled.”

    What do you guys think? We are empty nesting, in good health, and he is even 6 years younger, I don’t think I’m asking for too much.

  • Tim Brownson April 13, 2010, 1:17 pm

    @ Joanne – I was convinced you were going to do the Woody Allen and Diane Keaton scene when they are split screen talking to a therapist.

    When the therapist asks “How often do you have sex” Allen answers “Hardly ever barely 2 or 3 times per week” and Keaton answers “All the time, 2 or 3 times per week”

    Or something like that anyway.
    .-= Tim Brownson´s last blog ..Education Sucks =-.

  • Joanne April 13, 2010, 1:48 pm

    Well, my husband and I have taken our role reversal,(discussed in other blog subjects) to extent that our libidos are even backward. Isn’t it usually the guy who says he doesn’t get enough and the gal who after 15 years of marriage typically says she is just over it? After 15 years my husband can still take my breathe away with a look or a smile. He says he feels the same way about me, he just expresses it differently. You would know what I meant if you ever read the Five Love Languages, My love language is physical, his is acts of kindness and nurturing.
    Anyway I suppose the important point is that I have no doubt that he loves me and I am sure he has no doubt of how much I love him.

  • Frugal Kiwi April 13, 2010, 11:44 pm

    @Tim- I’m now obsessed with the idea of nuns riding donkeys into vats of warm jello. Thanks EVER so much.
    .-= Frugal Kiwi´s last blog ..Svelte Felt Sphinx Minx =-.

  • OneHotTamale25 June 24, 2010, 8:29 pm

    I’ve done the letter to self, mail your goals, draw your future stuff, but I don’t consider myself to be a good enough writer to actually record the story of my life. That said, I am a strong believer in one’s ability to fashion/manifest a desirable future. If I can perceive what I want in my head and move toward it, I am certain others can record it and move toward it.

  • OneHotTamale25 June 24, 2010, 8:31 pm

    Oh, and by the way, your book is gonna be a NY Times bestseller. :D


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