If anyone tells you that you should write a book, after the initial flush of embarrassed humility, maybe stop and ask yourself why that person hates you.
I know they think it’s a compliment. You are a mighty fine storyteller, and they want you to reap the riches and rewards that naturally come with being a publisher author. That is a wonderful thing and you absolutely should take the compliment, but before you leap headlong into the “I’m gonna write a book” stage of your life, may I offer a tid bit of advice? I think taking a moment to consider what you are about to engage in is a very good idea and for your mental health, incredibly important.
Writing is cathartic. That is one true thing about it. It gives you the opportunity to get your story off your chest / out of your gut and into the world, and there is something so incredibly powerful in that.
What they don’t tell you is that you should really decide why you are writing this book. (who are they? I don’t know – the people who put this idea in your head) If you are engaging in the exercise of writing because you have a story to tell and that is the end of your motivation, then all the power to you. Write on, my friend.
It gets a whole lot trickier, and dare I say messier, when you intend to write a masterpiece that speaks to millions and will make you an instant celebrity – wherein, of course, you will earn oodles of cash and have the adoration of a plethora of fans.
Approaching a project in this manner is inherently problematic, especially if this is your first book – and you are not an expert in a particular field who has been commissioned by someone to write about something in your field, given a healthy advance to write exactly the book that the publisher wants to publish.
For us average Joes, that is a dream gig. (Though, maybe not…I will have to give that a bit more thought and maybe come back to it in a subsequent post)
The pressure you put on yourself to write an engaging, entertaining story is high enough without adding the imaginary masses to the equation.
Add to that the fictitious dollars signs that are to accompany your debut magnum opus, and you have the recipe for a stress knot the size of Kansas that will sit between your shoulder blade and the base of your neck until the end of either, time or the completion of the project – and then time.
I say that because when you engage in writing something with the intention of getting it published, for the sake of getting the story out and having a book on a shelf – and I am speaking here about folks like me who are just following their childhood dreams – it is still an incredibly stressful and difficult world to navigate. To do it without internal motivation driving you forward would be incredibly difficult.
There are gatekeepers and challenges in this industry you don’t begin to understand until you are in its midst, and even then, new and interesting elements to those challenges arise because of your own unique ways of approaching them.
For example, how you personally handle rejection is going to play a very large role in how you navigate this world and your willingness to stay the course to see your work on a bookstore or library bookshelf will depend entirely upon how quickly you can grow a thick skin.
I thought I would eventually get used to hearing “No, thank you.” Turns out, nope. I have been experiencing an ebb and flow with regard to rejection.
Sometimes it glances by you without too great an impact, but as I recently experienced, sometimes it cuts you right to the quick and you need a moment to gather your thoughts and emotions, in order to refocus on your goal.
For me, that goal is to see my eight-year-old self’s dream of becoming a published author come true. Inherently, that means there is going to be a lot of rejection, but I reconcile that fact with the knowledge that it is the cost of the goal.
Writing is personal and when you are dealing with something so subjective as matching your story to someone else’s personal tastes, there will be a lot of No’s coming your way. Not everyone likes everything and when approaching agents and publishers it is to their taste you are attempting to appeal.
Sometimes that goes well, other times, not so much.
I don’t think I would have continued if the primary source of my motivation was external. Especially considering the truth of the matter is that there are many writers in the world who hold down 9 to 5’s because those six or seven figure advances are so incredibly rare, and people still have bills, rent and childcare to pay for.
My meandering point is this, if someone tells you, “You gotta write a book!” They don’t hate you. They probably really, really like you.
Take the compliment, and maybe let it percolate in your brain a bit before you quit your job and start on your quest to become the next JK Rowling.
I want you to write your book. I want you to write it because you have a story inside you that you want to share with the world (and by the world, I mean the folks you want to share it with – and if that world is made up of just you, or you and your partner, your folks, or every single person on the big blue marble we all live on, that’s up to you).
I just want you to approach it knowing it will be challenging, but that nothing in life worth having comes without challenge.
Write on, but do it for you.