When people ask me how I became a writer, I usually pause to decide where I want to start or which piece of the journey I want to share. As with any of us, we generally didn’t wind up where we are, doing what we’re doing, by way of a straight path. Like any good mystery novel—I write those too—there were plenty of twists and turns along the way.
However, before I explain all that, there are two things about me that you should know: one, I never took an English class in college—I love CLEP tests—and therefore I couldn’t diagram a sentence if my life depended on it; and two, I have won dignified literary awards anyway.
Now, I’ve loved books since I was old enough to hold one so there really isn’t a line in the sand I can point to and say “this is when it happened.” If I have to pick a point where that inner knowing grabbed me by the throat—figuratively and literally—and said it was time to get busy, it was when my dad died suddenly in 1991. I did not handle it well, and the turmoil unleashed a lot of things that had been bottled up for many years. And when it came bursting out, it was in a really odd way—I started hearing songs in my head.
Yes, songs. Out of the blue, lyrics and melodies would just pop into my head, so I started writing them down. After a while, I had a pretty good collection—a couple of local groups even played a few in public venues, which was really fun. But since I was neither a singer nor a musician, I didn’t really know what to do with them—or myself. A trip to Nashville was definitely not in my future!
However, I was really enjoying writing again and wanted to do more of it. I found a local writers group where a couple of people were writing poetry and short stories, so I thought I’d fit in. But, most were writing novels and it seemed really fun. So, I figured since I’d read a zillion books, I surely should be able to write one. So I did.
Yes, I just decided and did it. My first book was a 400-page western historical novel. I had so much fun writing that! Here is the opening line: Still holding the warm gun, Maddie lifted her skirt and ran for the buggy.
Now, seriously, it’s a pretty good hook. That book actually won several contests right out of the gate, but never made it to print. My first published novel was Hot Enough to Kill, a humorous mystery that was featured in Redbook and numerous other magazines and newspapers. My second, Dead Man Falls, won the 2001 WILLA Literary Award for Best Original Paperback. The third, Turkey Ranch Road Rage, was released last year, and I’m working on Killer Moves in all my spare time.
So, you ask, how did it happen that I went from writing funny mysteries to self help books? Well, if you’d read my fictional tales you wouldn’t need to ask that question!
Actually, after the first book came out, life happened. The second book was already set to be published, but life was throwing me more curve balls than I could deal with. In short, death, divorce and delusion took on starring roles in my life, and like many people, I started searching for ways to ease my own pain.
I spent a lot of years feeling like I was just treading water—forget about swimming toward the shore, I was just trying not to drown. I knew I needed to do something to get my life moving again, but I couldn’t see what or how. I love the movie The Secret, but when I was in that stuck place, the only thing I was capable of manifesting was more pain. I needed a pre-requisite class—I needed the secret before The Secret!
Over the course of about ten years, I started some version of a self-help book at least six different ways, but it just never came together. I knew what I wanted to do—to help people who were in the same boat I was, people who feel stuck and yet were afraid to be un-stuck. I wanted to give people in pain, as I had been, a simple and direct roadmap out of it.
That’s really what The Hardline Self Help Handbook is about. It’s a do-it-yourself short course based on what I learned on my own convoluted journey and the work I now do with my coaching clients and in my workshops. It’s a step by step guide to help people figure out what they really want in their lives, why they don’t already have it—and how they can.
The title of the book makes it pretty clear that this is a tough-love, get-to-work approach. And with times as they are today, it’s exactly what a lot of us need and—and are more than ready for. Which is exactly why the subtitles asks: What Are You Willing to Do to Get What You Really Want?
It’s a great question. Find your answer and live your joy!
Paula Renaye is a professional life coach, motivational and empowerment speaker, and award-winning author in both fiction and nonfiction. She has been a consultant for 18 years, holds a degree in Financial Planning and is a member of the International Association of Coaches. Her passion is helping people face reality and take personal responsibility for their choices in order to reclaim their own power and live the life they really want. Visit her website at www.hardlineselfhelp.com.