An astonishing number of Americans say they want to write a book someday. The most often quoted statistic comes from writer Joseph Epstein who said that “81 percent of Americans feel that they have a book in them — and should write it.”
How he got that number, I have no idea. I’ve even seen 90% thrown around as a statistic. Regardless of the precision, it’s fair to say that a lot of people say they’d like to write a book someday.
Maybe you are one of them.
Let’s consider why this number is so high. There’s something romantic about saying you are an author. Exotic. Prestigious. People look at you differently. All of a sudden, you have risen in the ranks. You have authority. You may desire to raise your profile in the world—perhaps your goal is to be viewed as a thought leader, which will help you grow your business and make more money. Did your ears perk up at the mention of money? I'll be writing a future blog post about the financial implications of becoming a published author, but for the moment, let's look at non-money-related reasons people give for wanting to write a book.
The two most common reasons I hear people give for wanting to write a book are:
#1: Everyone tells me I should write a book, and
#2: I have a story or a message I am burning to share with the world.
Let’s start with Reason #1. Has anyone ever told you that you should write a book? Have you ever said that to anyone? I have to admit—I’m guilty of it all the time. I can’t help it—I see in books. I think this happens most often when the person you know has a story or an experience that inspires you. The mother who has lost a child and still maintains a positive attitude. The young teacher with a terminal cancer diagnosis who still makes the most of every day. You think, how does she do that? I want to know her secret.
So it can be a good thing that people tell you that “you should write a book." But here’s the catch: if it’s just other people saying you should write a book and you don’t feel an independent desire to do so, you are probably not going to write that book.
Because, and I hate to say it, writing a book is hard.
It’s a complex project that you have to learn how to manage.
You have to really want to do it.
So back to Reason #2: you have a story or message you are burning to share with the world. What does this look like? It’s something that won’t go away. It nags at you. It tugs at you. You tell yourself you’re crazy—who are you to write a book? You don’t have time. You are too busy. But this voice inside won’t leave you alone. You wake up in the middle of the night thinking about your book. Your house, your car, your office is filled with scraps of paper where you’ve scribbled down your ideas, your thoughts, your titles, your outline.
Does this sound like you? If yes, what’s the book idea that won’t leave you alone? I'd love to hear it.
Without that burning desire, you probably aren't going to get that book written. t’s just too easy to let everything else get in the way. I mean, everything! Writers are known for their amazingly well-organized sock drawers and alphabetized spice cabinets.
Of the 80 or 90% of people who say they want to write a book, most, of course, never will. For lots of reasons. They like the idea of writing a book but aren’t prepared to do the work. They have an idea, but they don’t know how to begin. They have many ideas, and they don’t know which one to start with.
At most, three percent will follow through.
Still, that’s a lot of books that do get written every year.
Curious about what it takes to be part of that three percent? Read this blog. Sign up for my weekly newsletter with stories and tips for writers. And if you are a nonfiction writer who's committed to getting their book or book proposal written, sign up for a complimentary discovery call so I can share more about how I provide accountability and emotional support as well as feedback on the page, so you can get to the finish line.
I work with writers who want to change lives with their books.
If that sounds like you, take the next step.
Life's too short to stay stuck.