Being a Veteran, regardless of your branch, makes it difficult to trust people sometimes. So much time is spent trusting those you serve with, your life can literally depend on it. It can be hard to know who you can trust for advice.
I served in the Army from 2006 to 2009 and received an honorable discharge from an injury I sustained while driving trucks in Iraq; yes, I was an 88M, Motor T, truck driver. I am also a female Veteran, a mom and a self-published writer.
I personally know how there are those nights that you have a thousand things running through your head, and it feels that they are about to explode out of your skull. All those nights lying awake, or the times you wake up from dreams and can’t go back to sleep… make use of it. This brings us to the first tip.
All those thoughts driving you crazy, or all the possibilities of how things could have happened if something had been done differently, just start writing. Nothing needs to make sense right now, just get all that nonsense out of your head and onto paper. Surprisingly, it will actually help quiet your mind and make it a little easier to sleep.
A little. Just scribble, rage, cry, wonder, laugh- let it all flow out and through your pen. All the what ifs and all of the I should tell someone about that time, or whatever it is just get it out. Only write on one side of the paper though. This is important for the next steps.
Like I said, ramble about everything going through your head. After a few days, grab some highlighters, as many colors as you can find. Start highlighting words, phrases or sentences that go together. Group your thoughts into categories. If it is bad negative nonsense you don’t ever want to think of again, use a sharpie. A thick black one. Make it go away. That stuff that has potential though, group it. Keep up the nightly writing and occasional reviewing and highlighting. You’ll get to see what colors are being more prominent. That is stuff your brain is naturally focusing on.
Remember when I said only write on one side of the paper? This is the reason. Get some scissors and cut out two or three colors worth that you have the most of. Take each color and look at it all together. Move stuff around like a jigsaw puzzle. If you find yourself saying, hey this is really good and could go somewhere you have your topic.
Look at the chaos you have created and grab a clean notebook. If you see certain things pop up over and over again like a barracks inspection, it’s probably important. So, write it down. If you feel like you need to use these ideas to create a timeline or outline, then make an outline or timeline.
At this point your writing has decided on a topic by itself. Now you need to develop it and give it a story and voice. Before you write, you need to figure out what your audience will be. Are other Veteran’s going to read your writing? Civilians? A mix? I don’t think I need to explain that there are some things you can’t say to a civilian or that you need to reword things.
As Jill Ferguson of SpeedyPaper writing company points out, “Whatever your target audience is going to be, then you need to write as if you were having face to face conversation with them. Military will understand FUBAR, high and tight, behoove, and other jargon that civilians won’t understand. You want to write something memorable that will be talked about.”
Enough complacency. Start writing. No more excuses, just get it done. Sit down with a coffee or a beer and follow your outline or just start writing. Write until that’s done. If you get stuck, walk away and go to the shooting range or another hobby and clear your head. Then try again. When you are finally done, celebrate prematurely.
Ok, so now you need to reread your document. Make sure it makes sense. Check for grammar and spelling and anything else. Rewrite parts if you need to. If you are going to delete parts, copy and paste them into a document and label it FUBAR. There is nothing worse than getting rid of something and a few days later sitting there depressed wishing you hadn’t gotten rid of it. Save your own ass.
Don’t really delete anything till your writing is done. If you are writing a book, novella or something of the sort you can always hire an editor for help. Before you do that, make a post in any social media Veteran groups you are in asking if anyone is an editor or published writer and that you have something finished but need a mentor for the next steps. Asking another Veteran for help is a great way to save money, know you will be told like it is, and can relate to you.
If you are writing a blog post or something, go ahead and put it out there. See what becomes of it. Contact publishers. Amazon has a great self-publishing platform called KDP. I actually have self-published three books on Amazon. There is no shame in starting somewhere.
If you were not as successful as you wanted to be, it's okay. Did you shoot expert the first time you ever went to the range? Could you get all your awards and pins on your dress uniform perfect on the first try? You are lying if you said yes. It takes practice. Revisions. It can be done. Just remember don’t give up. You have been through a lot of things as a soldier, probably even war. You can get through this too.