Writing As Therapy
Brian Tregunna and Ashley Gordon have written A Life Now Worth Living. We talk to them about the book, writing as therapy, and their publishing journey.
Can you tell us what the book’s about and who it might benefit?
A Life Now Worth Living tells the thought-provoking story of Ash’s personal journey from being an injured military veteran with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) to a NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) Master Practitioner helping other people to improve their lives. He also explains a number of important life-skills that the reader is encouraged to use as self-help tools.
A Life Now Worth Living is a very open and sincere account of how Ash and others have applied their learning in very practical, moving, and sometimes inspirational ways to transform their lives.
The book is divided into two parts; the first part, ‘My Search For Meaning’, focusses mainly on Ash’s experiences in the army and the problems he faced after returning from two tours of Iraq whilst still a teenager. It charts his emotional journey both within the army and after returning to civilian life, as well as the beginning of his recovery and redemption.
The second part ‘Tools to Improve Your Life, describes a number of important life-skills that Ash has learned about and subsequently used to improve his life as well as that of other people he has assisted through his work with Active Plus, Team Rubicon, and his own coaching business.
Those life-skills are set out in three distinct sections: Let Go, Take Action, and Move On.
You don’t need to be a military veteran to enjoy reading A Life Now Worth Living or to benefit from it. The book is for everyone and would benefit anyone who is experiencing difficulties in addressing one or more challenges in their lives; including anxiety, stress, anger, sadness, guilt, assertiveness, and personal relationships, plus much more.
How did the collaboration between the two of you come about? Plus, how did you share the work of writing, producing, and marketing the book?
Brian was Ash’s line manager and mentor when he joined Active Plus as an instructor, initially as a volunteer before taking up a full-time lead role, delivering a wide range of courses to people in need within local communities.
Ash initially shared some of the experiences in a blog, but when friends started asking for more details he consulted with Brian, who had some creative writing experience, and they subsequently agreed to not only write about Ash’s personal story but to also explain about a number of important life-skills that people from all walks of life can use and develop to help themselves.
Calling upon their experiences as qualified coaches, Brian asked Ash a series of open coaching-style questions that he recorded and then transcribed to build the content of the book. They decided very early in the writing process that it would be better and less confusing for people if readers only heard one voice, that of Ash; even though Brian had contributed some of the principles and examples from his own experiences.
Ash and Brian got together on several occasions to review, revise, and add details before several friends with various relevant skill-sets provided some constructive feedback on an early version of the book that helped to further improve the detail and presentation. In the meantime, Brian and Ash also reached an agreement with three people they had both previously helped, to include their stories as examples to illustrate how life-changing experiences can be achieved by applying the principles explained in the book.
When the book was ready, Brian took the lead in obtaining quotes from various companies who could help with its publication and then liaised with their chosen one, TJ INK, but all decisions were taken collectively. Similarly, Ash took the lead on organising the cover design, marketing, and setting up a limited company for future trading in full consultation with Brian.
Looking to the future, Ash and Brian are planning to host a series of personal development workshops and training events; taking the potentially life changing principles in A Life Now Worth Living to as wide an audience as possible.
“This book is for you, the reader, but it is also cathartic for
me in that it has been an opportunity to heal, overcome some personal barriers and recognise how far I have come. I feel privileged to share my learning and to provide an insight into how I will take my life forward in the future.”
Ash, in the book you’ve been very honest about your personal life including suffering PTSD after your time serving in Iraq. Was it a difficult process to write it all down and to make it public?
It was very tough at times because I hadn’t shared some of these things with many people before. However, I kept in mind the outcome for doing so, which is to help other people who may benefit from hearing my story.
I used to bottle most things up and give guarded answers when people asked me questions about my past. Now people often say that they find me very open and honest. I do so because of a decision I made a few years into my career in personal development. Soon after I had begun to open up and share my story with people, and realising that it was helping me and them to live a better life, I decided to let down my guard and open up.
What are some of the key take-aways people can get from the book?
The key take-aways are likely to come from the second half of the book, ‘Tools to Improve Your Life’, which explains about how to: Let Go, Take Action, and Move On.
All of the important life-skills included in those sections are explained with meaningful real life examples and easy to understand metaphors.
Ash and Brian are expecting people to take different things from the book, depending upon their own circumstances, life experiences and challenges. Some readers may, for example, identify with a need to reinforce boundaries, whilst others will be more concerned about learning how to take responsibility and become more self-aware. Also, some people may recognise that a close friend or family member could benefit from reading the book and refer them to it or, better still, buy it for them as a present.
What makes A Life Now Worth Living different from other books in this genre?
A Life Now Worth Living is neither a stereo-typical soldier’s story nor a straightforward self-help book. It is, in effect, a hybrid of both genres; providing a very open and sincere account of how Ash and others have applied their learning in very practical, moving, and sometimes inspirational way to transform their lives.
Whilst Ash has provided an insight into his military experiences during two tours of Iraq, he focusses mainly on the psychological impact he experienced rather than simply talking about the armed combat. Ash provides a very candid explanation about his experiences in the army and after returning to civilian life, charting his inexorable decline into a very negative mind-set and then his struggles to turn his life around; until he was eventually in a position to not only help himself, but also help others improve their lives too.
Similarly, many self-help books, good though they are, tend to be written from a scientific and academic perspective; whereas A Life Now Worth Living is very down to earth and easy to read, having been written using Ash’s own words and phrases. The real-life examples and simple metaphors create a strong sense of reality that should help readers to relate to their own every day challenges.
Why did you decide to self-publish the book and how have you found the experience?
We were keen to publish as soon as possible in order to not only see A Life Now Worth Living in print but also be able to start delivering a number of personal development workshops that we are planning to host over the coming months. We felt that self-publishing would be the simplest and quickest way to achieve that ambition, so we took it as our preferred route.
Initially, assessing quotes from several different companies was quite confusing as we found it difficult to compare them on a like-for-like basis, but once we decided to work with TJ INK our experiences have been very positive. We’ve been very open and honest about our lack of publishing experience and uncertainty about some of the processes, but TJ INK, and Hannah Vaughan in particular, have been very helpful and patient – metaphorically holding our hand every step along the way.
We were also very fortunate to find a very helpful professional to design the book cover in Billie Hastie. She took on board our overall intention and came up with a design that really encapsulates what A Life Now Worth Living is all about in a single image. Furthermore, she’s gone the extra mile to liaise with TJ INK and to ensure we met our publishing deadlines.
One of the biggest issues with mental health is the lack of openness and communication. What piece of advice would you give to someone who might be suffering and doesn’t know what to do?
Reach out and speak to someone. You don’t have to suffer in silence. I speak with many people who bottle things up and I always say the same thing… thinking about opening up, and anticipating how someone may judge you, will always be worse than actually doing it.
People are very aware when it comes to mental health nowadays, most people would be flattered that you have chosen them to speak to. Pick someone you trust, a good listener, and/or someone who you know has been through similar experiences to yourself. If you don’t think you know anyone suitable and/or you are suicidal, call the Samaritans 116 123 from any phone – a non-judgmental crises support service to support you through anything you’re going through, ask your doctor for support, contact the mental health crises team. Just do something positive and don’t take a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
A Life Now Worth Living is available in print and eBook here.
If you’re thinking of writing and publishing your own book, let us know and we’ll see how we can help. Contact us here.