1. Make a commitment
Writing a book is work. So, before you write one syllable you must decide you're IN! That is, you COMMIT to writing a book. It's that commitment that will carry you through inevitable storms and surprises. No commitment equals no book. Do you know how many books have been started that never get completed? I don't know either, because the book that's not available can't be counted. Let's just say that's a whole lot of books.
2. Be a creative channel
Writing a book requires that you think, but I’m convinced that the BEST books emerge from within us, they come through us. I feel like my first book, Love Addicted, was channeled. Something about love addiction wanted to be said and I was the vessel that allowed it to be said. Try dipping your mind in to the well of your soul, whatever it gathers up pour it into the computer. Experiment with this. This is how I write all my blogs.
3. Write what matters to you
This is self-explanatory, right? Still, I'll expound on it. Write about things that interest you, that you're curious about, things you've lived, done, know. Don’t waste time trying (and I do mean TRYING) to write a book on a topic just because you imagine it will sell.
4. Don't try to sound intelligent
Forget trying to sound erudite. (Like I just did. LOL If your brain didn't know the definition
of "erudite" did it get annoyed? Some brains would ponder whether to look the word up. Others would just imagine what the word means.) Reading can be easy, enjoyable AND enlightening when we remember that: simple words can be powerful words.
5. Share relevant stories
Obviously fiction writers tell stories. Good nonfiction writers do too. Most people are naturally nosey, uh, I mean inquisitive. They like poking around into the lives of others. People tend to recall an idea or message that's embedded in a story, while abstract ideas are forgotten. Share your stories and those of your clients, family and friends. I hope I don't need to tell you this but I'll do it anyway, change names and identifying information to protect their privacy. Finally, a story can be one sentence, a paragraph or more.
Hi, my name is DeBora and I'm a recovering perfectionist.
If you can relate, then I want to encourage you to free yourself. I'm especially talking to my wannabe authors and entrepreneurs. Why this group? Because I know them best. I'm one of you.
A man would do nothing if he waited until he could do it so well that no one could find fault. ~John Henry Newman
First, what is perfectionism? An online dictionary says perfectionism is, "A tendency to set rigid high standards of personal performance." The key words here are "rigid high standards." Standards are good. They are necessary. We like to do business with people that have high standards, right? But rigidity is dangerous, particularly when we're creating something new. New creations like books and businesses require our flexibility, our willingness to take risks and make mistakes, our ability to embrace uncertainty and awkwardness.
This is why I often say "Done is Better than Perfect." For a recovering perfectionist, this is progress of colossal proportions.
Perfectionism is a dream killer. See, perfectionists take fewer risks than non-perfectionists. The perfectionist plays it safe. She accomplishes far less than she could because she imagines she must wait until her rendering is beyond reproach before she releases that new idea, book, painting, project, program to the world. That's how dreams die. The perfectionist decides they're just not yet good enough for the world. And "not yet" very often means never.
Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor. ~ Anne Lamott
We talk and write endlessly about success and succeeding. Everybody, everywhere has an opinion on how we can achieve, succeed, and soar.
I read such books and blogs. I'm an avid documentary watcher because I'm naturally curious and, uh, unapologetically nosey. I simply must know what made people like Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Nina Simone, James Baldwin, Robert Johnson and Amy Winehouse persist until they became legends.
I'm also intrigued by failure. Why do gifted and talented people fail? Why do people insist that they're up to so and so, then invest massive amounts of time, energy and attention in everything BUT so and so?
What's the path, uh, to failure?
Well, I'm so glad you asked. I know, I know, you're probably thinking, "I didn't ask for any such thing! I already know how to fail. I've failed before, plenty of times." Okay, I got it. I invite you to be open. You just might learn something that will help you succeed. If you don't, pass this along to that friend who has been writing a book now for years! Maybe they'll learn something.
OK, no more small talk, let's dive in!
How to Fail at Writing a Book and Everything Else...
You can do better! Yes, I'm talking to YOU! You're a writer, right? Even if you've yet to start plucking out your book, if you blog, write a newsletter, even pen long emails, you are a writer.
As such, you owe it to yourself...and your audience to crank out your very best. The best way to ensure that you do this is by editing.
You might not need to read this, but I'll bet you a hundred rupees that some of your writer friends do. Am I right? As people who communicate via the written word, it behooves us to get as happy about editing and re-writing as we do about writing.
As an editor and writing coach, I regularly canoodle with writers and aspiring authors. Come close, let me tell you about one of the struggles that a lot of emerging writers have: they hate to edit their work. Well, that might be a bit harsh. In any event, they tend to neglect self-editing. Too many writers simply do not give proper time and attention to editing their work.
Two professors of mine-—one in college, the other in law school—bellowed to the class, "There's no such thing as writing, there's only re-writing!"
Over the years, I discovered this to be true. Good writing requires a massive amount of rewriting.
Think of your first draft as vomit. What do you do after you vomit? You clean that mess up, right?
Don't be lazy, clean up your renderings. Note to the wannabe author, the less you edit, the more your editing cost. Ask my clients, they'll tell you.
I'm an editor with nearly fifteen years in the business, and I edit, edit, and edit some more. And guess what, after I've pushed "send" I still find typos in my newsletter. Ugh! But I'll tell you this, I've put in hours of writing, editing and re-writing so I forgive myself. After all, I'm human. Our readers will tolerate a typo here and there. But a post riddled with errors will cause your reader to distrust the content.
How to Self-Edit Like a Boss:
A great long time ago I read something that has inspired my writing for years now. Someone I don't know wrote: Climb a mountain...then write about it.
In other words, have an experience...then share that experience with the world. Your life experiences, in case you didn't know this, are worthy of being shared.
This was sweet advice for the writer me. See, once upon a time I tried valiantly to write articles that ESSENCE magazine would publish. So I wrote about things far removed from my own personal experiences, things that I imagined ESSENCE readers needed or wanted to read. The writing was gawdawful! It was stiff, dry, and dull. In a word, it was BORRRRRRINNNG!
3 Avenues to Writing More Powerful Prose:
Writing is a skill. Sure, some are naturally talented at writing. But really, writing is a skill. It's one that you can develop. Get better...and better...and better at.
But how do you do that?
You write. That's one way. Writing is the fundamental way to improve your writing ability.
Write. Write often. Stretch yourself. Always strive to improve your ability to communicate.
I started writing "creatively" when I started keeping a journal. In fact, my first book, Love Addicted, might not be had I not started journaling many years ago. Journaling helped me learn how to describe things and feelings. It "forced" me to see.
Many people desire to write well, but refuse to write often. Writing might be likened to dancing. The more you do it, the smoother you get.
Another thing that improves our ability to write well is reading. Readers have bigger, richer vocabularies. Although writers are encouraged to write at a six-grade level, an expanded vocabulary serves you well nonetheless. Reading also stretches and develops the mind. Yes, reading is fundamental to writing well. You could even read on writing.
I won't deep-dive into it in this blog, but vulnerability is another quality of good writing, particularly if you're writing your story, memoir, or autographical pieces. What is vulnerability? I like social worker, researcher Brene Brown's definition, vulnerability is the willingness to embrace "uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure."
If you desire to write well, keep writing. And read, read, and read some more.