“The world is thirsty for true and honest life experiences like mine,” an interview with authors Sara Connell & T.J. Menhennitt

The world is desperate for more inspiring and positive writings. There can never be enough because we are surrounded by 24/7 news (which is primarily negative) and social media feeds off of violence, hate and fear. I believe the world is thirsty for true and honest life experiences like mine, ones where we share the power of worthiness in all of us.

As part of my interview series on the five things you need to know to become a great author, I had the pleasure of interviewing T.J. Menhennitt.

T.J. Menhennitt is a dad, author, spiritual leader, and inspirational speaker. His messages range from religion to living a positive life. He is passionate about exercise, spending time in nature and making a difference in the lives of others. His new book, Taking the War Out of the Warrior is his own story of living in the trenches of hate and anger, and how it would take a miracle from above to soften this warrior’s heart.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?

It is truly my pleasure. A story? You want just one? How’s this for a story? A young man goes off in the career world as a construction worker, marries, has children and slips into his comfort zone, and he believes that’s his life. The man gets older and goes through a separation with his wife, which blindsides and devastates him. He becomes angry and slips into the trenches of hate and fear, wanting to end his life.

One night, tired and feeling unworthy, he goes on bended knees and prays. Over the next couple years, miracles arise before his eyes and he finds the courage to start stepping out of his comfort zones. As he does that more and more, his heart softens and he lets love back into his life. He even finds a way to let love guide the outcome of his divorce.

He focuses on not only living his life in a positive and inspirational way, but he also wants to share his experiences and help others. He walks away from the construction world, becomes a custodian at an elementary school and finds the time to do just that by writing his book, Taking the War out of the Warrior.

Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?

I’m always amazed at how when you really believe and trust that the right people will come into your life, they magically appear! Which is exactly what happened when my cousin reappeared in my life from just a phone call. Years and miles separated us, but with just that one phone call, she is now not only an inspirational mentor to me, but my editor! We communicate on a daily basis and have so much in common that she is now a dear friend. Don’t give up till the miracle happens!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting?

Oh my goodness, this is worth sharing over and over. When I first started, I never would back any of my writing up on file! I trusted it would always be there the next day till my computer fried and I lost my original manuscript. I fretted for weeks and thought my writing life was over. I tried to duplicate what I thought I originally wrote but it seemed so dry and uninspiring.

Then one day, I woke up, grabbed my cup of coffee and went outside to relax with the nature around me. Finally, it seemed so clear, and I completely changed the direction of the story line. The book that came out of it was completely different than the original, but it makes such a stronger connection with the reader. It’s more authentic and real, and it wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t lost the original, so it was definitely meant to be. Having said that, I do make sure I back up everything now!

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

Taking the War out of the Warrior is my focus right now. We are so excited on the feedback we are getting and how it is affecting others in a positive and inspirational way. Whether its someone relating through a divorce or any stumbling block they are going through, it’s making a difference and that warms my heart.

What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a great writer?

Great question! I fought hard to be disciplined. I would get up early, have everything ready for the day ahead, and then start writing. Discipline is good! But its not everything. You really need to be in the right mindset though. For me getting up early was easy, but I needed to be in nature and put away the smart phone, social media, and emails for at least on hour. Going outside and taking care of our barn animals was just what I needed to clear my head. Giving them attention, feeding and watering them and making sure they were safe brought me into gratitude and peace, which primed my mind to write.

Can you share the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

There are so many powerful stories in my book, Taking the War out of the Warrior, but what was really interesting was the moment I found out that a dear friend of mine was a psychic. That was when I knew my life was going to shift forever. Once I opened up to her abilities, and believed that my angels were messengers, I found that the divorce I was going through wasn’t the real issue. The actual issue was me, and I needed to let go of the past, and better myself.

What is the main empowering lesson you want your readers to take away after finishing your book?

Many times, when we go through fear, a loss, or a hurt that pains us so much, we feel unworthy. As you read my story, you will understand that we can’t control the bad things that may come up in our human experiences, but we can control how we react to them. We can do that, understanding we are worthy of love and happiness, once we realize that this peace is within us.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming a bestselling author? How did you overcome it?

At some point, you going to get overwhelmed. You’re trying to write your manuscript and then all of a sudden, things start popping up, like “oh no, I need photos for a headshot for the book” or “you mean I have to promote the book?” You will need to start thinking about advertising, public relations and where and how it’s all going to happen. That’s what happened to me.

Photos, website, and getting on social media seemed to be needed all in one week! I totally almost lost it. That’s when you need to take deep breaths, relax, and realize that you can only do so much. I focused on what I needed to do today, got it done, and moved onto the next thing. Allowing yourself to get overwhelmed by it all will only hinder the whole project, so just take the steps you can (while shooting for the stars!).

Which literature do you draw inspiration from?

I love the Chicken Soup for the Soul collection. Before I started writing, when I was in the trenches of my life, I needed something to spark me and inspire me to move forward. When I got the first Chicken Soup book, I remember literally not being able to put it down. Little stories of faith, hope and love were exactly what I needed at that time, so much so that it influenced me to write my story and send it out into the world.

How do you think your writing makes an impact in the world?

The world is desperate for more inspiring and positive writings. There can never be enough because we are surrounded by 24/7 news (which is primarily negative) and social media feeds off of violence, hate and fear. I believe the world is thirsty for true and honest life experiences like mine, ones where we share the power of worthiness in all of us.

What advice would you give to someone considering becoming an author like you?

You’ve got a dream? You want to write? Do it! Do it with passion. Fill notebooks and just write. When you have a passion, it’s all but impossible to make it stop. We fear way too much from our past that might say, “you can’t do that!!!” We also worry over the future, and truly at times it seems hard to believe that your writings could be published. You need to live the dream and focus on today. Today you write!

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started”?

First, I wish someone would’ve told me to get the hell out of my comfort zones and write. It was a dream, and basically, I felt that was all it would ever be — a dream. Time went by, and I got so comfortable living what I believed would be the rest of my life, so much so that my dream was forgotten. It took a life-shaken experience to take that first step. That’s all it takes people, one step.

Second, it takes a team. Don’t try to do this all yourself. It truly helps to have support. Whether it’s your best friend, spouse, mom, dad, or sibling. If anyone is telling you that you can’t our shouldn’t be doing this, they need to be off the team. Your team might not be the ones physically helping you write your manuscript, but they are rallying behind you, even if it’s encouraging you to not give up. Your next best friend could be your editor. If you don’t have a good relationship with your editor or he or she isn’t following your passion on your ideas, find another one. I can’t imagine where I would be today without my editor. She pushes me when I need pushes, challenges me when I’m trying to find an easy way out, and gets excited with my excitement. A good team makes the difference.

Third is to not write the manuscript at first in finished book form. You might not have the chapters correctly at first. So just write and edit later. I tried to hard to write in perfect chapter order as I wished the book to look like. That was stressful. But once I started putting my ideas on paper, it was easier to move things around and make beginnings and endings to my chapters. I moved chapters around even on our third edit.

Fourth, once you have your manuscript in chapter form, read it and read it out loud! This was a great tip that was given to me by a fellow author friend. He even said to read to your pet if you have no one else to read it to. When you write over and over again, your mind gets accustomed to everything you have written. So, when I would go edit, my mind was telling me one thing but actually, words were not even there, or needed to be there. You need to read it out loud, and read it slowly. You’ve come so far now, don’t rush it.

And lastly, I wish someone would’ve told me that my first writing, or my first idea, was not going to be my finished project. I tried so hard to base my first book on being a “how to” self-help book. I struggled so hard to make this happen that my writing went on from months to years, and I almost gave up. I’m not saying that it couldn’t have happened, but just knowing that there can be another way to get to your goal is huge. I realized that I needed to share my story first, which was exactly what I was reading when I was living in the trenches. It was stories that inspired me first, the how-to’s came along second. Explore your ideas and don’t beat yourself up if your manuscript shifts a different direction.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

The Dalai Lama is quoted as saying that if every 8-year-old in the world was taught meditation, we would eliminate violence from the world within one generation. I would love to be able to incorporate this in schools. The first thing a grade schooler would experience each day would not be a math problem, a history lesson, or a science project, but to meditate, to learn to relax and focus on gratitude and peace.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

https://www.facebook.com/Waroutofwarrior/

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCY3Ux0WQpsCeIoPv0UTNQbQ

https://tjmenhennitt.com/

Thank you so much for this. This was very inspiring!


About the author: Sara is an author and writing coach with a private practice in Chicago. She has appeared in Oprah, Good Morning America, NPR, The View and Katie Couric. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Tri-Quarterly, Good Housekeeping, Parenting, IO Literary Journal, and Psychobabble. Her first book Bringing In Finn was nominated for ELLE magazine Book of the Year. www.saraconnell.com