3 Things I Learned From Writing a Book: Love, Sweat & Fear

For the last 14 years, I have had writing a book on my to do list. Now that it is done (learn more here) and out in the world, I thought I should share what I learned from the process.

Writing a Book is a Labor of Love, Sweat and Fear. 

1) It Starts with Love

For some, what keeps them going is a love of writing. For others it is a deep expertise – a love affair of sorts – with their subject matter. For others it is a  love of their (potential) readers.

What kept me at my desk was thinking about the many people that I could share my ideas with that I would never otherwise meet.

Ask yourself, do I love writing, my subject and/or my (potential) readers enough to keep writing? 

 2) The Next Ingredient is Sweat

There are a LOT of hours of dedicated time and attention required to draft the proposal, write the (often more than a dozen) drafts and then see your way through the many steps to publication.

I remember a moment last January when I was celebrating the completion of the first draft of my manuscript. I was bragging to a friend, the author of 5 books, that I had completed my book ahead of schedule. She replied, “That’s great Denise, but you do know you have at least 7 more drafts before you have the final book, right?” I told her later that I never hated anyone as much as I did her in that moment. But of course, she was right. To complete a full-length book takes what my mentor, book coach Sam Horn calls “BUM GLUE”. The first draft is not a book. Put your butt in your chair and glue it there. Keep writing and editing and writing and editing and you will eventually get a book.

Ask yourself, am I willing to apply “bum glue” and stick to my chair through multiple drafts?

3) Then You Must (Regularly) Overcome Fear

Who knew writing a book meant not just slaying bad grammar, bad ideas and bad writing, but also overcoming fear – fear of failure, fear of success, an overweaning perfectionism, fear of putting your ideas out in the world, fear of making a mistake. We all have our own brand of fear.

The day I got the book contract from Wiley was the day my fear kicked in. Despite a short deadline to turn around my manuscript, I sat frozen in my house for several weeks watching West Wing reruns and not writing a word. Analyzing it afterwards, I believe it was the overly high bar that I set for myself. I wanted to write a perfect book, or at least an astonishingly amazing book that was better than anyone had ever written. Knowing that I couldn’t do that, I stopped altogether. Another friend told me her fear kicked in when she turned in her manuscript – she was overcome by the fear of putting her ideas out in the world and being judged.

Ask yourself, will I persevere through the fears that are inevitable?

This blog is the first in a series of four. Here are the other three posts,  3 Things I Learned from Having My Book Published, 3 Things I Learned About Launching a Book (coming soon) and 3 Things I Learned After Launching a Book (coming soon).

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