I am neuroatypical, introverted, INTP, and an Enneagram 5. That means I am a very private person. For years, I had the idea of writing a book. With all I experienced during the last five years, I knew that others would profit from my experience and counsel.
But my biggest questions remained: “How do I write about myself without looking like a narcissist, without making the reader feel like a voyeur, yet share the necessary details of my life so that everything else can be understood later? And more importantly, how do I release it to the public as strangers will then know stuff about me I deem private and personal?”
Here is the back story of how I finally did it!
Kairos moments are moments of breakthrough, moments when an idea is just ripe; moments things fall into place.
My book project had a few of them.
My son had a terrible car accident in Canada in 2006. He was in a coma for a few months and in rehab for some more before coming home. His recovery took years.
As part of the procedures, we had to meet lawyers and doctors yearly in Canada. During that time, I developed the idea of a book about all our episodes of bringing our son through the stages of the first childhood years a second time.
It was to serve three purposes:
- that we may not forget,
- that my son might be told what he did not know,
- and that others could profit.
In that, I recognized that I had SDAM.
Severely Deficient Autobiographical Memory (SDAM) refers to a lifelong inability to vividly recollect or re-experience personal past events from a first-person perspective.
I know very little of my childhood. Most of it, I have been told by my mom. That is normal about episodes of the first years, but for me, it’s even valid for all my life.
While having the idea of writing a book, I remembered something I had forgotten. I was a prolific writer in school. When I had to write something, I usually got a grade outside the scale (think 7 on a scale of 6 or A ) for it such that others stood a chance to pass.
I wanted to avoid forgetting the episodes with my son!
I was told that many psychotherapists encourage their patients to write a book about their life and what they learned from therapy.
I was not told that by a therapist but by an editor and publisher. He added that, while those books are of great value to the authors, they typically are just terrible in style and boring for those not connected to the author.
Writing this book was autopsychotherapeutic.
But I never progressed past 20’000 words of memorable experiences.
The Second Attempt
In 2012, the process around the accident came to a formal close. A time of recovery started for my wife and me, and the book project was put on hold.
Seven years later, another complicated process began, this time involving myself. Severe health issues sent me into a positive disintegration that led to losing our church affiliation, job, and most relationships.
During that time, I discovered a host of tools that helped me develop, from personality assessments like CliftonStrengths and the Enneagram to Spiral Dynamics and the Theory of Positive Disintegration.
They were instrumental in dealing with my faith’s deconstruction and reconstruction.
After being thrown out of my church, I knew I had to write a book that combined my story with entry-level introductions to the toolset that had brought me through.
All of this led to the idea of my book “The Unfiltered Thoughts of a Pastor in Exile: a toolbox to deconstruct your faith without losing it.”
My Process of Writing
I wanted to prevent three things:
- not following through with the project
- being superficial and merely theoretical
- being spineless and not publish
I came up with this customized plan.
My blog entries are usually about 1000 words long, so I knew I could write pieces of that size without any problems.
I opened an account on Substack, a platform for journalists on the web with a sophisticated paywall, allowing free articles intermixed with paid ones. The paid ones still were emailed to my free subscribers in the form of a teaser with a subscribe button.
I roughly planned a structure of what I wanted to write about. Each chapter focused on one tool and contained eight posts of about 1000 words. The first one is autobiographical, the following six focus on the theory, and the last one answers one of two questions, making the idea applicable in similar situations for my readers.
The two questions are:
- Why did I leave the church? It allowed analyzing the church that would provide insight into what made a person uncomfortable with their situation.
- How could a church look like using this tool? This allowed my reader to define their multilevel ideal.
Finally, I gave myself a publishing schedule. Every second day I would publish a new article. The day between was for deep searching of the mind and the soul for fitting autobiographical episodes.
I granted two subscriptions to people I wanted feedback from, and one person subscribed by paying for access. Three more readers followed me for the free stuff.
Within 116 days, I wrote 59 articles. Mission accomplished.
I also joined the Writing Master Class by Jan Provoost. The feedbacks were a great source of courage.
And then, I lost steam.
Publishing as an Introvert
I am a very private person. I had learned about myself, though, that once something was public, I had no problem retelling it publicly.
But this was a different caliber altogether. This time, strangers would know intimate things about me.
I struggled a lot with myself. I knew that I could not handle the usual process of going through a publisher as I remembered the words of this editor: autopsychotherapeutical, but usually badly written and boring.
I knew I would have given up had I gotten a few rejections.
Of course, my readers’ positive feedback on Substack and the writing class weighed in.
I copied all texts to Scrivener for editing, wrote a few more, and created an e-book automatically.
I was ready to give it to my wife for the first time. She is an avid reader but typically reads before bed; my book is not written for that. She found it hard to read and complicated but loved to learn so many new things about me.
Spouses of introverts with SDAM have difficulty getting to know their significant others.
One day, I remembered that Scrivener also allows generating Kindle e-books, and I looked into self-publishing with Amazon.
I found it was stupidly easy and done in under an hour. The process includes:
- uploading your text in ePub or PDF format
- designing a cover using their tool
- entering the metadata for the book
- setting a price
Once the e-book was up, I could add a softcover and hardcover with little extra effort.
And now, the most challenging 72 hours started. It takes that long for Amazon to prove any copyright issues and distribute the book to all stores worldwide.
I added an author central page and did some enthusiastic posts on Facebook (where I have no friends), Twitter (with 30 followers), Instagram (here I sport 89 followers), and LinkedIn (a network of 14).
I did not post in the Facebook groups because it felt self-aggrandizing and out of scope for all but the writer’s class.
And then, I waited for the first sale. By today, I have sold 21 copies. According to the stats, that is roughly 8% of the average number of sales in the lifetime of a book, but I am aiming for more.
I have collected two customer reviews, both five stars, in German. I almost know all readers personally. I feel comfortable with this slow process as it gives me time to adjust, and disappointed simultaneously.
What do I love about self-publishing on Amazon? Apart from the stupendously easy initial publishing, I can upload new versions at any time that are the basis of both the e-book and the printed versions within 72 hours due to print on demand. And I do not have to pre-finance the first edition.
After I got the first sale and the first customer review, I set out to translate the book into English.
I translated the book using DeepL, a phenomenal translation software, and I am saying that as somebody who studied computational linguistics.
I then edited the book by adjusting the style to my own.
Subsequently, I used Grammarly and LanguageTool to detect issues with grammar and style and the Hemingway editor to detect overly complicated sentences and overloads of adverbs.
It took me a month before I was ready to upload my first version of the English e-book and softcover.
My first two readers, good friends, gave me feedback on my English, and I did a corrected version. It still shows its origin with an author who does not have English as his mother tongue but is much better.
I have set up a website from which you can read an excerpt, buy PDF and ePub versions directly, or launch your Amazon store to buy Kindle and print versions. It is called pastorinexile.com.