A life story doesn’t get interesting until it gets ugly. And it always does. Every serving of peaches and cream comes with a side order of pain.
That’s not an opinion. It’s an observation.
I still do a weekly newspaper column but spend most of my working time listening to other people tell me their stories. My job is to turn their thoughts into a memoir, biography or book.
All interviews are recorded. I listen to the recordings over and over to make sure I can match a client’s voice, then get to work. I never add my own facts or opinions. I deliver the story exactly as it was told to me.
This is where things get interesting. It’s not unusual — in fact, it’s almost guaranteed — that people will look at the first draft of their story and hit the brakes.
Countless times I’ve heard someone say, “Can we soften this a bit?” or, “I think I want to leave that part out.”
They want to put themselves in a better light. That’s natural. The good news is, they can.
I rewrite until the customer is satisfied. They go away happy. That’s because they were able to do a second draft before their story went public.
Second drafts can make a big difference. Usually, for the better.
“Gone With the Wind” was poised to go to the printer before Margaret Mitchell’s editor finally convinced her to change her heroine’s name from Pansy to Scarlett O’Hara.
The world’s most famous literary detective might not have been as popular if Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had stuck with Sherringford Holmes instead of Sherlock.
Second drafts are as common in life as they are in writing — with one huge difference. People can’t hide the first draft of their lives.
I’d give anything to live parts of my early life over. If my first draft were a highway it would be more potholes than pavement.
The wounds I caused can’t be erased or hidden. They are forever. But I don’t have to dress them up and put them on display.
All I can do is make the next chapter of my life better. You can, too. And now might be a great time to start living the second draft of your life.
The pandemic of 2020 has changed us all — and not always for the better. People are thinking and acting now in ways they never have before. Sadly, some are making a bad situation even worse.
But the pandemic has taught some of us valuable lessons. I’m at the top of the list. COVID-19 has given me plenty of time to study past mistakes. If I’m smart, I won’t trip over the same root or be bitten by the same snapping turtle twice.
If I can learn from past mistakes you can, too. You can make the second draft of your life a little better, a little more hopeful, a little more helpful. It’s really not that hard.
People are more likely to remember what you did today than what you did decades ago, so start by putting the past in a lockbox and losing the key.
Then make sure the actions you take from here on out produce results you’d be proud to include in your personal history.
The second draft of your story can start today. With a lot of work — and a little luck — yours can still have a happy ending.
Alex McRae is a writer and ghostwriter and author of “There Ain’t No Gentle Cycle on the Washing Machine of Love.” He can be reached at: email@example.com .