A Rough Copy: Four Things I’ve Learned While Writing My First Book
Forget your doubts, remember your passion, and write with confidence
Some of you may have noticed that I haven't been prolifically writing on here the way I once did. I miss it, but I have another project I’m working on and I’m almost done.
I’m writing my first book! It has been a crazy, intimidating, and pain-staking process but I just finished my first draft. Now, I’m working on “beefing” up my word count.
I only started professionally writing in December of last year but truthfully, this is the only job I’ve had in my 35 years on this earth, that I have ever loved.
People around me are telling me they’ve never seen me so driven: They are impressed.
Not to toot my own horn, I’m impressed with myself.
In 8 months, I have written over one hundred articles for Medium, acquired my first ghostwriting job with a repeat client, and written a rough copy of a self-help book.
I wish I had this kind of confidence in myself earlier in my life. Maybe if I had listened to my high school journalism and English teachers and went to university for journalism, I would be further ahead in my career.
Or maybe it would’ve killed my love of writing, who knows?
My book is a self-help memoir hybrid and I started writing it three weeks ago. I do not have a title picked out yet, but I have 25,000 words written. It’s about postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder. Although 3–5% of women suffer from this debilitating illness, there are no books available that are strictly about PPOCD.
I have medical consultants on board with my project and the support organization “Postpartum Support International” has asked to stock my book in their online bookstore even though it’s not even finished yet.
That was a huge confidence booster, I wrote like a maniac after that conversation!
Pick a Topic You Are Passionate About
Passion is a key element in success. If you are passionate about something, it will carry you through the hardest days: The days when you want to nap instead of write, play instead of write, or the days that you just don’t want to do anything at all.
Writing a book is a huge commitment, and it’s super easy to get sidetracked. If you aren’t interested in the subject you’re writing about: I guarantee you that you will find distractions that aren’t there during the process. Distractions that will take you away from your goal.
Unless, a promise of a solid paycheck is there, such as a ghostwriting job that pays you hundreds after the book is completed, you should be very mindful about picking your topic. With ghostwriting, the promise of money will usually keep you motivated but if you’re writing this book for yourself, make sure you pick a topic that motivates you to write.
The topic I chose is very close to my heart. When I was at the worst point in my postpartum mental health crisis, I went looking for a book on Postpartum OCD. There were none. I had to rely on my own experience and help from my therapist for motivation. This book is my “baby” and it has the potential to help a lot of women.
That motivates me and on the days that I’m so tired from looking after my toddler as I write, I google Postpartum OCD and look at the stark results. I remind myself that somewhere in the world, a woman is doing the same and feeling completely hopeless. Someday, a woman will go looking for a book to read about her illness, and my book will be there.
This keeps my eye on the prize.
Asking for Help Is Essential, Sometimes
Until lately, the idea of asking for help scared me. My therapist has become somewhat of a consultant for my book. For the first half of my appointment, she helps me come up with ways to enrich the treatment and advice portions of my novel. The other half of the appointment is dedicated to maintaining my mental health.
She told me I need to ask for help with my book. She knows I’m passive and I need to work on asking others for assistance when I need it. She gave me some homework: Contact the leading expert in postpartum mental illness in Atlantic Canada and ask her to contribute to my book.
My therapist told me that she told the doctor I was writing this book and she was excited and impressed. I emailed her and asked her for a quote or if I could interview her. I haven't heard back from her yet, but that’s ok. I am just happy that I tried!
I wanted real quotes, from real women about their experiences. I reached out to numerous women I know, most of them were either friends or clinicians who worked with me who also struggled with postpartum mental health issues. They have given me their quotes and it’s going to make this book very relatable to the reader!
Asking for help is not easy, but sometimes it’s essential. For me, I needed to ask for help with this project. Since I’m not a certified therapist and I’m writing a self-help book, it's important that I have medical consultants on board who can promote the validity of my words.
I’m the one writing this book, but without the words from the strong women who contributed and help from my consultants, this book would not be as “real” as it is.
To achieve my goal, I had to put my pride aside and ask for help.
Learn to say “No”
I am such a people pleaser, it’s ridiculous actually. I am working on this but it’s a rough road. I have been saying ‘no’ a lot more lately and feeling less guilty about it.
Recently, my husband went to visit his family, who are lovely people but they live in another province. I love going there and I miss his family, but I had to take a break from working and looking after my daughter and just be alone. I needed to recharge so I said no to the trip and my husband was the one who encouraged me to stay home and have some “Amy time”.
I needed the break, so I stayed home. I felt a lot of guilt but I had to do it. I cannot get burnout while writing this book because it will set me back.
I have declined some projects as well. I was asked to admin a chronic illness Facebook group but I said no. I could tell my friend was irritated at me for turning her offer down, but I do not have the time to commit to something so time-consuming.
My book and my family come first.
The “old Amy” would've said “Sure!” and ended up in a very bad situation, but I said no and I’m glad I did.
When you have a goal, remember that you cannot focus on that goal if you’re accepting every invite you get to participate in a project or social gathering.
Remember your goal and make no apologies for staying focused on your purpose.
Don’t Forget the Business Side of Writing a Book
A huge part of writing a book of this nature is research. I live in Canada and I wanted to include the women in other countries and their experiences with treatment. I needed to know how long women in other nations wait for treatment for PPOCD, so I made some calls.
I contacted an organization called “Postpartum Support International”, they are the leading support group for women with postpartum mental health issues.
I spoke to their media administrator, and she gracefully answered all of my questions. When I was getting ready to end the conversation, she asked me, “What is your book about, anyway?” and I told her.
She said, “We don’t have any books about that topic in our online bookstore and we would be honored to stock it when it’s finished!” I was shocked! I never thought of asking her about them stocking my book in their online store.
I wasn’t thinking like a businesswoman, I was thinking like a writer: Research and get the hell out. If she hadn’t asked me, I wouldn't have this awesome opportunity.
I’m learning that the business side of writing a book is just as important as the book itself. This includes marketing and asking people for opportunities.
I miss you guys. I miss writing and reading on the platform but I have to get this book finished so when another woman wants to read about her diagnosis of PPOCD, my book is there. She will read the quotes from successful women who are living happy and healthy lives after walking through hellfire.
This has been a backbreaking process full of triumph and stress but I have never felt more driven in my life.
Writing a book is intimidating and most of us put it off for a long time. If you want to write a book: JUST DO IT. Grab a coffee, sit down, and write: The rest will come.
I had to push myself to do this but I’m so glad I decided to take the plunge.
You can do it too: Forget your doubts, remember your passion, and just write.
Amy Sarah is a freelance writer who hails from a small city in Canada. She enjoys interacting with fellow writers, dreaming of ideas for her next article, and researching a myriad of topics.