How many times have you heard someone say they have a book inside them? Somewhere between 80-90 percent of Americans have said they want to write a book “someday.” I’m guessing that number is closer to 90 percent for women between forty and sixty. Women in midlife have wisdom to share with the world. Maybe they’re solopreneurs seeking to become thought leaders in their field. Or business strategists aspiring to amplify their brand. Or therapists who want to impact more lives.
But the truth is most people will never even start writing their book … and for those who do start, very few will finish.
In this post, we’ll discuss the most common reasons people don’t follow through writing their books despite their best intentions, and then we’ll provide a 4-step solution to help you get your non-fiction book out of your head and onto the page.
At mid-life, you’ve lived and learned. You’ve accumulated wisdom that can make a difference in other people’s lives. Through your life experience, you have a solution to a problem many people have. Maybe you’ve already made a difference as you’ve shared your story in the work you do or in the personal relationships you’ve developed. Yet, you know you could impact many more people if you shared your story more broadly. You know many people would feel less alone if you wrote the book that’s been rattling around in your head forever. You know writing a book could make a big difference in your career.
You know you want to write that book, but something’s been holding you back.
You have many demands on your time ... family and work are at the top of the list. You think "if only I could escape to a cabin in the woods for a month, I'd write that book. But that cabin in the woods is an illusion.
You think about your book a lot. You outline it in your head. You imagine book signings and appearances at book clubs. Heck, if only Oprah still had her talk show … maybe Ellen will discover you? But the problem is—it’s not just one book in your head. You have so many good ideas that it’s impossible to just choose one.
So you don’t choose at all. You never start writing your book.
Or maybe you are one of those people who has actually started writing. You had a burst of energy. You took an online course. You went to a writers’ conference. You read a book about writing.
It was great at first. And then it got hard. And then you stopped.
You cringe when people ask you “how your book’s going?” You’ve stopped believing you can actually do this. “What was I thinking?” you say to yourself. “I’m not a real writer.”
It doesn’t have to be this way. It isn’t easy, but it’s simple. Here are the 4 key steps to getting your book out of your head and onto the page:
The number one reason people don’t get their book written is that they aren’t clear on what they are writing. What’s the precise problem your book is addressing? What is the solution your book is proposing? Who is the intended audience? What’s the takeaway? How will the reader be changed after she reads your book? If you can get clear on these basic questions, you will be ahead of most aspiring authors and ready for Step 2.
The only way your book gets written is by you writing. Obvious, yes, but many writers will do practically anything to avoid putting their butt in the chair and staring at a blank screen. The solution is simple: make writing appointments non-negotiable and set an intention for each one. Each time you sit down to write, state what you will work on and do that. Just that small part. And then do the next small part. As Anne Lamott famously wrote, “Just take it bird by bird.”
Even better, find a writing buddy/accountability partner. Schedule regular writing dates (in person or over a video-conferencing platform like Zoom). Verbalize your intention before you start writing and then check-in with each other after your time is up. Rinse and repeat.
Butt in chair. There’s no other way.
Writing is solitary and it can be lonely. You are spending all this time writing into a void and wondering if anyone will even care. Find your people—on-line and/or in person. There are a zillion great writing groups on Facebook, and most cities have in-person meetups. Share your successes and your struggles with your writer friends. The rest of the people in your life may be less interested :) Ask your writer friends to help hold you accountable (see Step 2). See if you can do the same for them.
Writing a book is a long haul, and writers need editorial and emotional support to make it to the end. Your writing community (see Step 3) can help provide support with critique groups and/or critique partners. You can also hire a book coach who works alongside you as you write, providing accountability, feedback on the page, as well as emotional support along the way.
Find support. You’ll need it to get through the ups and downs of the book-writing journey and to write a book that you will be proud of.
Your story matters and needs to be shared with the world. To be one of the few people who actually write the book that’s in their head, you need to narrow your book’s focus, get your butt in the chair and write, seek out writing community, and find support, professional or otherwise. Being a “real writer” simply means being someone who writes. You can do this! The world needs the book that’s been inside your head and inside your heart.
Next week: We'll dig into specific ways you can implement Step 1: Narrow Your Focus.
Looking for support on your book idea? Check out Dream-to-Draft™ JumpStart.