I had a long professional identity crisis in my thirties and forties. After practicing law for a brief period, then caring for young children, the wandering and searching for the "thing I was meant to do" ensued.
For years, I felt frozen—and shame—every time someone asked me "What do you do?"
You know that question everyone inevitably asks when they first meet you.
I stammered and made apologies when I didn't have a simple—or satisfactory-to-me—answer, and pretty much wanted to dig a hole and bury myself in it in those moments.
I forgot that I had been a teenager who published my first article when I was a high school senior, a personal essay in my local newspaper about a study abroad experience in England.
My father, back in New York with the rest of my family, had mailed me a copy of the newspaper clipping with this note:
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...
I'm working on two books with two book coaches and have two deadlines to meet in the next four weeks.
Part of me wants to scream "I CAN'T DO IT!" and plead for an extension. Part of me wants to retreat to the couch and binge-watch Queer Eye. And there's that part of me that knows this is the only way I will ever get the work done.
Speaking of work, I have a lot ahead of me. For Book #1, a memoir about self-trust, my coach is asking for a draft of an "inside outline," a tool developed by book coach Jennie Nash that helps writers marry their plot story arc with the protagonist's internal journey. For Book #2, a self-help book about grief, my coach is asking for me to revise my "Blueprint for a Book," another Jennie Nash tool that helps writers build a firm foundation for their books before they begin writing.
Why I have two books going on at the same time with two different book coaches is a story for another day, but suffice...
Finding support is the final step in my 4-Step Solution to Getting Your Nonfiction Book Out of Your Head and Onto the Page.
Writers are better with support, and this is especially true for writers working on a book-length project. Writing a book is a marathon, and writers are more likely to get to Mile 26.2 if they aren't going it alone.
Writers can benefit from various types of support.
Here we are talking about support on the writing itself, ie., feedback on the page.
Family and friends: Just say no! Although it's tempting to ask family or friends to read and comment on your work-in-progress, this is almost always a bad idea. Even if people near and dear to you have experience with critique, it's difficult, if not impossible, for them to be objective.
Writing groups and critique partners: These two options can be effective...
Writing is solitary and it can be lonely. You spend lots of time in your head, perhaps wondering if anyone will even care.
While you are the only person who can put your butt in the chair and get your words on the page, your writing life will improve if you can find your people.
This is Step 3 of The 4-Step Solution to Getting Your Nonfiction Book Out of Your Head and onto the Page: Seeking Out Community.
Here are some ways I have found my people:
Writers Conferences: In-person writers' conferences have been a huge source of writing community for me. Of course, they are mostly on hold now due to COVID-19, but when they return (and they will!), find one that speaks to your writing interests and fits your budget. When I was just starting out as a memoir writer, I attended the Southampton Writers Conference where I workshopped with luminaries such as Mary Karr and Roger Rosenblatt. As awesome as those experiences were, what was even more valuable were the...
Writers are not people who simply talk about writing, dream about writing, think about writing, or plan to write.
A simple concept for sure, but for many aspiring writers, a ridiculously difficult one to execute.
Two weeks ago, I shared "The 4-Step Solution to Getting Your Non-Fiction Book Out of Your Head and Onto the Page," and last week, I dug into Step 1: Narrow Your Focus. I called out lack of clarity about a book's point as the number one reason people don't get their books written.
Truth be told: Step 2: Put Your Butt in the Chair is a strong competitor for that #1 slot.
If you don't put your butt in the chair, it doesn't matter how clear you are about your point. If you don't write, you aren't going to get your book written.
Writing is hard. It's "creation," which means making something new. It's scary. It's vulnerable. It brings out our insecurities, our fears, our doubts.
What if my writing...