Why It’s So F*cking Hard to Write a Book
This piece isn’t for everybody. Just for wannabe authors who find themselves stuck at the hard parts of writing a book: starting or finishing.
Writing a book isn’t hard for everybody. In 1937 Zora Neale Hurston wrote one of my all-time favorite novels, the brilliant Their Eyes Were Watching God, in just 7 weeks. Some rare folks live to write. I don’t know any of these people personally; but I imagine they exist because there’s ALWAYS an exception to every thing.
This isn’t about speed though. Whether it takes you 7 weeks or 7 years — like it took me to write my first book, Love Addicted — isn’t what this essay is about. It just breaks my heart to meet a person who insist that they’d like to write and publish a book, but for reasons they can’t seem to articulate they won’t (or can’t) will themselves to sit down and write the book they are meant to write.
For years I did nothing but dream and drool about about writing a book. Then one day in the stairwell of my good government job my coworker turned friend Beverly, clearly fed up with my incessant wishing and whining snapped, “WRITE. THE. BOOK. DEBORA! It ain’t gonna write itself!”
That weekend I sat down and started Love Addicted. Seven years later a 18-wheeler pulled to my apartment with 1,060 copies.
Here’s why it’s so f*cking hard to write a book
It’s hard work. This is the story your monkey mind tells you. Not that writing a book is effortless; but your “I don’t feel like it” mind will have you believe the rewards of fulfilling this dream isn’t worth the work you’ll need to put in to see your name on the cover of a book. The story we tell we live. Tell yourself a more motivating story, and be inspired by your own beliefs. I wrote my books like I matriculated through undergrad and law school, I focused on the semester — or sentence— in front of me. Don’t worry your pretty little soul about how to afford an editor, how you’ll get published, or whether your family and friends will support you. Write the book! I promise you, the Universe will conspire in your favor to get it successfully published.
You want to avoid the pain. You wouldn’t believe how many would-be authors quit writing when they get to the painful parts, unless, of course, you’re one of them. Tell-all nonfiction books, memoirs, and autobiograpies don’t reach the eyes of potential readers because their authors stop writing when things get emotionally tough. Writing Coach Jeff Goins tells writers, “Don’t hide your scars. Show them.”
I’d been journalling for twelve years when I undertook Love Addicted, a book about how my charming minister father’s abuse and abandonment left me feeling damaged, unlovable, and lost — thus laying the foundation for my love and relationship addiction. If you can’t write about your wounds, chances are quite good that you’re still living them. If you were to pour your pain into your writing, you could heal stuff that has you stuck. Then your written words could heal the world.
The wound is the place where the Light enters you. –Rumi
You worry they will judge you. No need to worry, I assure you, you will be judged. When people learn you’ve written a book they will judge you as committed, courageous, and capable. I know, this isn’t what your gremlins worry about; they insist that people will hate your book, won’t buy it, will trash you on social media. Who are YOU to write a book?, your gremlins demand to know. This need not happen though. You can greatly reduce the chance of getting bad reviews by writing, rewriting, self-editing, enlisting beta-readers and hiring a capable content editor slash book midwife who’ll tell you the truth — ever so gingerly — even when it hurts you both to do so.
You’re waiting to feel motivated, confident, ready. Good luck with this one. Sometimes a blog will erupt onto the page, fully formed. When that happens I didn’t need motivation. I only needed to put my fingers on my MAC keyboard and let it rip. I teach a course titled The Spiritual Path to Writing a Book, so I believe writing isn’t so much about pulling words out of one’s head as it is about letting them bubble up from your soul. And still, very often you’ve got to sit thee butt down at the computer to prime the pump. This piece that you’re currently reading is a case in point. I sat. Then the words came.
You don’t know what you’re doing. “I don’t know where to start,” is a common complaint that I hear from would-be authors. Remember, the story you tell you live. Just start. You can shuffle things around once you have some sentences and paragraphs on paper. Author Steven Pressfield, in The War of Art, dedicates chapter after chapter to that which stands between us and success: RESISTANCE. He writes, “Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.” Resistance is what some might call procrastination. Both are multi-syllable words for FEAR. Pressfield wants you to know this, and I agree, Resistance will never leave you. It will greet you daily. Expect it. Accept it. Befriend it. Act in the face of it.
You get in your own way. The #1 reason people give for not completing their book is “I don’t have time.” The lies we tell ourselves to make others think well of us. Tsk Tsk! Let me get right in your face. If you claim you want to write a book but your excuse for not doing so is lack of time, then I just have a few questions for you. Do you know how Annalise Keating gets away with murder? How many times a day do you log onto FB and check your emails? Do you think Moonlight deserved the Oscar for Best Picture of the Year? Or should it have been La La Land, for real? Every author has a life. That life abounds with many of the same distractions that you and I manage. Lack of time is not your problem. It’s lack of commitment and priority. Your desire and resolve to write a book must be BIGGER than your propensity to slumber.
Perfectionism. As a recovering perfectionist, if I’ve learned anything about writing books it is this: Done is BETTER than perfect. All three of my books, even after endless rounds of self-editing and that of hired editors, still contain a typo here and there. Shucks, bestsellers contain typos. So what? Guess what folks, perfectionism is but Resistance sneaking in the side door. Excellence, yes. Perfection, not possible. Give it up. Get ‘er done!
Nobody said it could be without effort. Writing a book is work. As evidenced by the more than 60,000 books that are released yearly, clearly it can be done. And yes, it can be done by you.
If you've dreamed of writing a book ... but not sure how to get started, find the time, and get published, my new book…www.deboramricks.com
I wrote Write That Book! How to Start or Finish the Book You’re Meant to Write with the stuck and struggling writer in mind. It’s a book I wish I’d had when I first set out to write a book. Get it here or on Amazon.com.
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