I’ve been thinking about how to write this post for a while
(Missed Part 1? Here is it.)
I think it’s because to try and narrow down my entire book writing process into one post felt a little impossible, so instead, I thought it might be nice to offer up some of the ‘obstacles’ that were thrown my way throughout the process, and how you can get over them, which may inspire you to keep writing, too.
It’s true that one of the first thoughts that popped into my mind before I started writing my book, You Are Enough, (Hay House, hitting the shelves in April 2016), was something along the lines of, ‘Whaaaat? I have no idea how to write a book. How will I do this?’
But luckily, my second thought was much more grounded and calm. It said, ‘You just think you have no idea how to write a book, simply because you haven’t done it yet. You’ve written so much in your life. The difference now is that you’re putting all this writing in one place.’
As I sat down with my publisher, we laughed about how I could break it down in my mind: ‘Just pretend you’re writing lots of blog posts that flow together.’
Yeah, cool. I got that.
Funnily enough, after my initial moments of questioning my ability, I just stopped listening to that voice who whispered You. Don’t. Know. How. To. Do. This.
Of course I didn’t know how to do it. Yet. But that was only because I hadn’t done it. Yet.
And as soon as I’d done it, I’d know.
Like learning to ride a bicycle, tie your shoelaces or drive a car.
Except of course, the process of writing a book isn’t linear.
Sure, it’s simple (sit down and write) but not always easy (okay, but what do I write? And how do I structure this chapter? Am I making sense? What am I even saying?)
Mostly, I just got on with it though.
I got on with it by doing this: sitting down (almost) everyday, and writing.
And … after 6 weeks, I had my first draft.
I had no expectations about the process.
But I knew one thing.
This was exactly where I was supposed to be.
And I was damn sure going to enjoy it as much as I could.
Of course there were obstacles though, so let’s go through some of the main ones I found a way over.
You might think you don’t have enough time
I love the idea of going off to Byron Bay for six weeks and doing nothing but walk on the beach in the morning, grab a good coffee, write all day, and get a massage to ease my aching shoulders and wrists in the evening, waking up the next morning to do it all over again.
And maybe one day, I’ll do that.
But when I wrote my book, I wrote it in Sydney, in my home. Most days started early, at about 6am with yoga or a walk near the beach, then I settled into my favourite cafe (*waves to Sensory Lab*) and wrote for about an hour, before going home and either writing a little more, or doing some other kind of work. I still saw clients, I launched a live round of my Business Guide for Solo Wellness Entrepreneurs, I still made time to rest, see my family and friends, go out for lunch.
I did stuff, you know, other than just write.
Basically, I made time for the things I wanted to do.
And writing my book was one of those things.
(Okay to be fair, I did fly to Byron for three days to edit in my own time, walking on the beach in the morning, writing and editing all day with a good coffee by my side … but for three days, not six weeks.)
In Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert writes:
Here’s a truth: no one just has enough time. We just have to make time for the things we want.
People you don’t even know might tell how hard it’ll be
This is only a true obstacle if you listen to what they say.
On several instances, people I barely knew told me it would be soooo hard to write my book, so hard, so much time, how difficult, how intense!
Now, to be fair, if these people had written their own books, I may have been more inclined to listen. But they were just telling me their opinion, and I can understand where they were coming from.
When you haven’t done something before, it can often feel very daunting.
Take climbing Mount Everest, for example.
I don’t want to climb Mount Everest, I have no interest in climbing it, yet I can imagine if a friend told me they were going to climb it, I’d reply with something along the lines of, ‘Oh wow, that’s amazing, won’t that be so hard?’
There’s also an image in peoples’ minds of the tortured writer, sitting at her desk with scrunched paper everywhere, piles of paper everywhere else, pulling her hair out and screaming, staring into space with cold tea and tea-marked drafts all over the desk.
This another thing Elizabeth Gilbert writes about in Big Magic – how we don’t need to play into this image. We don’t need to be the tortured artist.
Art isn’t torturous.
So I understand the wary comments from strangers.
But I didn’t take them on board.
You don’t need to either.
You might think you’ve run out of things to say
Your muse won’t always come.
But you must sit down and write anyway.
– Steven Pressfield, The War of Art
This may stem from many things: a sense of lack, of ‘I have nothing else of value to say, ever again’. Self-doubt. Overwhelm. Sometimes it’s fatigue, too. Maybe you don’t have anything new to say today because you need a quick break, a walk around the block, to get out of the house and experience something to bring you back to your centre again.
Then you’ll have more to say.
You always will.
But to find out what that is, you’ll need to get back to your desk, sit down and write.
– Steven Pressfield, Turning Pro
You might think you have writer’s block
For me, this is different to thinking you’ve run out of things to say.
Sometimes writer’s block can feel like ‘I know I have a lot to say, yet it’s not coming out, and I’m probably not good enough to be the one to say it or know how to structure it anyway’.
My biggest period of writer’s block, however painful, only lasted a couple of days.
It hit me in the face when I was attempting to edit the first few chapters of my book, in the middle of writing the middle chapters of my book. I know. #Confusing.
My remedy was this: go back to basics. Take a little time away from my computer to refresh and regroup. But then get back into it.
The knot won’t untie itself. You have to sit down and work through it.
Did you ever read that book about going on a bear hunt, when you were little? We can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, we have to go through it.
You have to sit down through your writer’s block, because it’s not really a block. It’s a little wall you have to leap over, or bash down, or repaint. It’s a maths problem you don’t yet know the answer to. A new route to get from point A to point B. And once you figure it out, you’ll feel this sense of relief because you just kept going. You just went through it.
Writer’s block is a myth, a recent invention, a cultural malady.
More important than the output, though, is the act itself. The act of doing it every day. When you commit to a practice, you will certainly have days when you don’t feel like it, when you believe it’s not your best work, when the muse deserts you. But, when you keep your commitment, the muse returns. When you keep your commitment, the work happens.
It doesn’t matter if anyone reads it, buys it, sponsors it or shares it.
It matters that you show up.
Show up, sit down and type.
Your view of productivity might change significantly
And again, this is only an obstacle if you’re attached to a certain way of working, or to seeing a concrete outcome or output each day.
While I was writing the courses and guides in my Heartfelt Harmony Society, there were some immaculately productive days where I wrote 4,000 or 5,000 words.
I was on a major deadline (I had to write all the content in a month to keep up with the project timeline) so I ended up writing 100,000 words in a month.
(In truth, this also gave me great confidence when I sat down to write my book.)
When it came to writing my book, however, the most I could write in a day was about 1,000 to 2,000 words a day. That may seem like a lot, or not, but the point is it was very different to how I “usually” wrote. Perhaps this was because of how I was writing, or what I was writing, or the amount of energy I was investing. I’m not exactly sure, but I honoured it – my time, energy and intentions.
I felt okay with this from the start, because one of my intentions was simple: sit down everyday, and write 1,000 words. They could be the best or the worst 1,000 words. But sit down and write them anyway.
This took the pressure off myself. This was my permission slip to just get out the messiest first draft … to actually get it out, no matter what I initially thought of it.
Some days, I wrote less than 1,000 words but shifted and restructured whole paragraphs which paved the way for even more sweet progress the next day.
My point is this: don’t have any expectations about what your productivity levels “should” look like, of what your book writing process “should” feel like.
My other point is this: just sit down and write.
(Are you seeing a theme here?)
A few helpful books on the subject of writing, creativity and ‘doing the work’:
- The War of Art, Steven Pressfield
- Do The Work!, Steven Pressfield
- Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert (and her podcast, Magic Lessons)
- Die Empty, Todd Henry (and his podcast, Accidental Creative)
I’d love to know if you’ve come across any obstacles on your creative journey (and um, who hasn’t?) and how you’ve leapt over them.
And if you know anyone who’s in need of a little gentle nudge, please feel free to share this post with them.