I’m writing this post because I am over all the BS you read online that says writing a book is an easy-peasy project that you can complete in a weekend, or a month, and you’ll scale your business, fill that funnel with leads, or make a gazillion dollars once you do it. That’s a bunch of unethical marketing copy trying to get you to buy the book writing program. No program or coach can guarantee any of that.
And yes, I know that Paulo Coelho wrote The Alchemist in three weeks and has made a great income with it, but that’s the exception, not the rule. There are ZERO GUARANTEES as to what a book can do for your business and life.
Here’s the truth: writing a book is hard and there are no guarantees of its success which is why you need to know your WHY.
I don’t want to dampen your enthusiasm, but I do want to add some honesty to the book-writing discussion.
As an author myself, writing is worth it, even though it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, right up there with raising my kids. You’ll need to decide for yourself, but you need to know what you’re getting into. There are a lot of hurdles and obstacles to navigate.
You will get stuck.
You will go through periods where you doubt your ideas, your structure, your argument, your whole book, and yourself.
You will spend hundreds of hours on this project. Writing a book is nothing if not time-consuming.
And, you will hope with all of your heart that readers will love it, but there are no guarantees which can bring up fears of rejection and judgment.
When you’re stuck in the middle, with tens of thousands of words still to crank out, you may wonder why the hell you embarked upon this whole project to begin with.
You will have to figure out how to keep going even when you are absolutely sure that you are the worst, suckiest writer ever to put pen to paper (keep reading for tips on how to do that).
You will learn about yourself as you work through your struggles. Do you power through when it gets hard? Or, should you take short or longer breaks from your work? Does a walk outside alone help, drafting a few journal pages, using a prompt, or possibly talking your stuckiness through work better?
You will learn about your own creative process and you might not like what you find. I would love to be a faster writer. I’ve tried to speed up my word counts to get to the end more quickly, and it doesn’t work for me. I write myself into holes and end up spending far more time revising. It’s best to just write at my own pace.
After years of hating on myself for being a slower writer, I now embrace my own creative process and how I get to my best ideas, expand on them, develop them, and structure them (for the latest book at least). This process might change on the next one. You never know which is another reason writing a book is hard.
Your creative process is itself an iterative one, always changing depending on the project, on you, on the content, and on anything and everything.
You will become besties with your inner critic who will often try to be in charge of the whole process, and you will also go through the sometimes painful process of learning how to relegate your inner critic to the backseat. As Liz Gilbert shares in her book Big Magic, your inner critic can be in the car, but she can’t drive.
You will get frustrated with the never-ending feeling of the process. You can always tweak a word here or there, deepen an example, and add some more research or detail. How the hell do you know when you’re done and your book is ready for the world?
And once you finish your manuscript or proposal, you’ve still got to tackle the beasts of publishing and marketing which will bring up a whole new set of fears, doubts, and new things to learn.
Why write even when it’s hard?
Despite it being hard, you will find deep joy in the process.
Delving that deeply into your ideas and stories brings depth and meaning to our lives. As you write, you will learn about what you think and what you believe as your craft your book.
You get to share your story and hopefully impact others in a positive way through inspiring, educating, or entertaining them.
You will discover more about yourself and how you deal with challenges and obstacles than you might have wanted to know. Each of my books has presented challenges that I’ve had to tackle. And each time I learn about myself and how I can best navigate the obstacles I’m facing. It’s almost a spiritual journey in terms of self-growth and learning.
Thankfully, writing can be cathartic. Several memoirists have shared with me that writing their memoir was the most therapeutic thing they’d ever done, including therapy. I’ve also worked through difficult emotional situations on the page. Most writers have.
Writing a book is not for everyone. It’s a long and arduous project, but if you’ve gotten bitten by the “book writing bug” I’m guessing that you’re headed down the author road no matter how hard it might get. Good for you.
In order to keep going, to get through the “hard” that I outlined above, you’ve got to know why you’re embarking on this project in the first place.
Know your WHY
Before you start, drill down your why. Know why it’s important for you to write this book.
If you don’t know that and can’t articulate it other than to “build your business” or “make money,” neither of which are guaranteed (especially if you write a crappy book), then hit the pause button.
There are so many reasons why people want to write a book and take on such a big project. You may or may not have heard of Simon Sinek and his TED Talk. If not, I encourage you to watch it. Basically, he argues that people don’t buy what we are selling as much as they are buying why we are selling it. This means we must know our why. (As a sidenote, you don’t need to read his whole book like I did to get the message – the TED talk has everything you need to know).
There are two ways to answer the question, why write your book. We have external reasons for writing (extrinsic motivation) and internal reasons (intrinsic motivation). I’d like you to think about both your external and internal reasons for writing. Maybe it’s to make money (not guaranteed), to establish your authority, to entertain others, to open your business up to speaking opportunities, to share an important message, to teach something, to share your knowledge, to do it because you’ve always dreamed of being an author.
You might also have a deeper why, a reason this book matters to you, why it’s important. You want to go deep, to connect, to get past the surface meaning and into the generosity of being vulnerable and true. That is what connects with readers.
Or, your why might not be deep at all, and that’s fine too. My why for my first novel was that I’d always wanted to write a book, so I did. That’s it. I wanted to meet the challenge and conquer it. That was enough. For my second novel, I wanted to see if I could write a mystery that readers couldn’t solve, and I wanted to entertain readers. As I wrote, themes emerged that felt meaningful and deep that I explored, but I didn’t start with those. My starting why’s aren’t necessarily deep, but they’re enough to keep me going, and that’s all you need.
So, what’s your why?
Grab your journal and take some notes. You’ll need to rely on that when the writing process gets tough.
Once you know your why, let me ask another question, why this book?*
There is a reason that this message, your book idea, resonates with you and that you want to share it. It came to YOU (and not me or another author) for a reason. Perhaps you’ve had a deeply personal experience with the topic or it’s changed your life in some way. Perhaps it’s been a lifelong interest or perhaps it touched you briefly but deeply. Or perhaps you just love the topic or idea. It lights you up!
Whatever it is, think on why YOU are the best person to write THIS book. What do you bring to this topic that no one else does? What is your personal experience or understanding of it that is unique to you?
For my first novel, I honestly had a dream, like one at night when I was sleeping. I dreamed the plot. I’d also read my great-great-grandmother’s diary about her journey on the Oregon Trail, so there was some family history there as well. The non-fiction book that’s composting inside right now will be about something having to do with creativity and honoring those creative callings because that is so important to me, to how I live a satisfying life.
Again, grab your journal and jot down what makes you the best person to write this book.
Knowing your why and your why for this book is what will get you past the challenges and struggles you’ll face as you dive into this project.
Is writing a book worth it?
If you are writing a book because you have something to share, you believe deeply in your message and story, and you are aware of what it takes to develop, draft, revise, polish and market a quality book, then yes, it is worth it.
If you are writing a book merely to make money or as a “business card for your business,” revisit your why. As I noted earlier, neither of these outcomes is guaranteed.
The only way that these two things will happen is if you craft an engaging, polished, meaningful book which means you’ll most definitely hit the hard stuff I outlined above.
As an author and book coach, I love books. I love helping aspiring authors develop and organize their ideas into a quality book. And, people hire me because…wait for it…writing a book is hard.
If you’re ready to get going, share your why in the comments! I’d love to hear it.
*Thanks to Jenny Nash and her book Blueprint for a Nonfiction Book for this question.