3 Things that surprised me about writing my first book, “At Home Anywhere”
My very first book, At Home Anywhere was released on November 5, 2019. At the beginning of 2019, I had no idea that I’d be spending the year writing and releasing a book of my own! Ever since I was a teenager, I have always had the dream of being an author and I had no idea how that dream would come to pass. But, in April of this year, an idea struck — I couldn’t seem to find a book I liked that discussed how to support yourself emotionally when you move abroad (or away from family and friends in general)
So, how did the idea go from just that — an idea — to words, paragraphs, and designed cover art? Well it took lots of time, lots of praying to get my ideas straight, the endless time and suggestions from my honest husband, and lots of support from my publisher and editors with The Dreamwork Collective, for whom I am very thankful.
I know some people who have written books in a month, and others where it takes years. I ended up somewhere in the middle. And so far, it has been the process of writing and getting feedback that has been the most transformative.
THERE WERE 3 THINGS IN PARTICULAR THAT SURPRISED ME ABOUT WRITING MY FIRST BOOK:
1: IT WAS HARD. BUT NOT AS HARD AS I EXPECTED.
I had heard so many stories of sleepless nights and writers block. Descriptions of poets and playwrights who could only be creative after a stiff drink. There is a fumbling idea that to be creative you must also be a bit tormented, in a way. That the work has a life of its own. Even the ever-popular quote that releasing a book is like “putting your baby out into the world” circled around as I shared with others what I was working on.
Were there days I struggled and looked at the pages or computer screen, wondering why nothing at all made sense? Yes. Those days were hard. Were there moments I thought that perhaps everyone would hate what I wrote and call me stupid? Absolutely.
But, when you have a good support team — people who will give you honest feedback and a good editor (or two!) things really can go quite smoothly. It really was about being willing to make a mess a deconstruct my ideas and getting them all out on paper, a ‘brain dump’ I suppose. I just had to trust that during the editing process things would still fall into place.
IT WAS OKAY TO SHUT THE COMPUTER AND DO SOMETHING ELSE WHEN THE IDEAS WEREN’T FLOWING.
Thinking of my book as my partner, something to work with and listen to, and offer to others to help them feel less alone, instead of thinking of it as an extension of me, (like a baby, vulnerable and dependent on me for survival), actually helped the writing flow more easily. And I could take the edits and feedback without making it too personal, like I had done something wrong.
2: QUOTING OTHER PEOPLE IS A CHALLENGE — ESPECIALLY WOMEN.
Don’t let social media posts fool you — you cannot just choose a quote off the internet and add it to your book. The rules vary by country, but typically all quotes and other people’s work are protected by copyright. As they should be! So, in order to include them in a book — you either have to get the authors permission directly, get their permission through their publisher and pay for the right to use them, or figure out if the author of the quote is still alive in case there’s a chance you have surpassed fair use regulations. (That’s when you get to use someone’s quote without any permission or approval).
I didn’t know this or properly understand while I was writing my first drafts, so I ended up removing all of the quotes I had in my book except for three. Because two of the authors I quoted are my friends, and they told me it was okay to use paragraphs I sent to them for approval, and because the other quote was from Rumi, who died in the year 1273.
If you’re planning to quote anyone, or paraphrase journals, studies, etc — be sure to give yourself enough time to research, and possibly ask and then be granted the permission for use.
OH, and if you want to quote women? Give yourself LOTS of time! So many published authors who died over 70 years ago (the time where many authors work often becomes fair use) — are men. Or they are women who had to use male names in order to get published. Sigh.
3: GETTING TO THE POINT MATTERS MORE THAN SOUNDING SMART
As someone who reads a lot of personal development books and has studied spiritual texts, I am used to some fancy wording. Poetry style, large words, and sentences you have to read more than once to understand. I think some of that influenced my writing at first.
When I submitted my first draft for At Home Anywhere, the immediate feedback was that I was too wordy. Was I trying to sound smart? I had to ask myself whether the feedback was accurate, or if this really just was my style. How did I want to come across? I was surprised — because my previous career was editing other people’s work! But it’s easier to spot the issues when the words are someone else’s.
When I took a day or two away from the draft, and came back to it pretending it was someone else’s work that I was going in to edit, I immediately saw that the editors feedback was correct. The extra words weren’t adding anything but confusion!
I’m still working on this (so thankful for editors!) but this lesson alone was worth the book writing process, because it will help me for the rest of my career.
Overall, writing my first book was a beautiful process. It challenged me to keep going when I wanted to give up on it, and myself. To humble myself to the process that other people know better than I do and trust them with my words. And to remember that writing a book is an accomplishment, but it doesn’t complete you. Just like having a baby.