I often get asked how to write a book. Recently I received this question from reader, Jennie: “I have felt for several years there is a “book” inside of me but I just can’t seem to put it into words.”
So I thought I’d share my insight here to not only hopefully help Jennie, but to help others who face this question too.
I want to first start by saying that I feel there is no right or wrong way. The key, I feel, is to find out what your best practice is for accomplishing a goal such as writing a book.
But let me back up for a moment and share some writing advice I’d heard a few years ago. It resonated with me, so perhaps it will you, too.
It really is quite simple – just begin. Put your pen or pencil to the paper or your fingers to the keyboard and begin. Everything we do, no matter what it is or whatever art form, you have to just begin, right? Brush to canvas, hands to clay, one foot in front of the other.
Some other advice I heard at one time is this: Start with 15-minutes each day. Just write. Don’t edit. Send that critic who will no doubt show up, out for coffee. And while the critic is heading out, send the perfectionist along with her, too. If you start with 15-minutes each day that roughly equals one page per day. If you did this for 365 days you’d have more than enough for a book at the end of the year. Now, this isn’t something you can publish as is. But this is then where you begin to edit, revise, and hone in on how you want it to take shape. Of course, if you want to accelerate the process you will have to write for more than 15 minutes a day.
That analysis simplified it for me. I realized how often we tend to look at an end result and how huge it can feel, instead of taking that first small step and just beginning.
I’ve found that there is also something to getting into the motion of beginning to write, and then the words will come. While I am definitely one who feels I must be inspired to write, I’ve also come to understand that if I sit my butt down in the chair, even if I have to stare at the blank screen for a while, that eventually I will begin and words will follow one after the other.
I tend toward the side of perfectionist, so this has taken practice for me to know it will not be perfect the first time I sit down to write. Nor will it be perfect the second, third, or fourth time. Nothing will ever be perfect. But if I put my best effort forward, and I continue at that without judgement of myself (which believe me, isn’t always easy!) I find that I’m quite happy that I made the effort. I started. And starting creates this forward movement.
Just the other day I was also talking with an author who just released her first book. We had a great discussion! She said at the beginning of her writing career she tried to write like how one or another writer writes. Or got hooked into the “10 best ways” to write or the oodles of articles on writing that are out there. I shook my head enthusiastically as she talked as I could so relate!
Like this author, I no longer do that. I follow my own inner impulses and try to stay as tuned into them as possible. Outside distractions are always going to vie for our attention, so you have to know what makes you tick… or not tick, for that matter. And this, my fellow friends wanting to persue writing, is a practice – an ebb and flow – and give and take – a seek and find.
All these insights I’ve shared above have come clearer into view as I finished my manuscript recently for Wisdom Found in the Pause – Joie’s Gift. I had fits and starts. I beat myself up internally for not being where I thought I should be with it at certain times. I wanted to throw the towel in a handful of times. But I kept at it not truly knowing if it would turn into something or not. It took me three years to write it. I didn’t write everyday. But I thought about it an awful lot, though there were times I didn’t want to think about it at all.
And I realize sitting here today that this was my process for this particular book I’ve just finished writing. It wasn’t meant to surface fully until now. There were things I still had to learn and experience that became part of the manuscript that make it feel complete to me now.
So just begin. Be curious about where it will take you. Be gentle with yourself. And most of all….enjoy the ride!
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