I often meet people who say to me, “I want to write a book,” or “There’s a book in me,” or “I’ve been trying so hard to write a book.” Well, let me just say it bluntly: The world doesn’t need another book. However, the world can benefit from your personal experience, your knowledge, and insights about a particular issue. It’s your version that is key. So when you start thinking of writing a book, or if you’re in the middle of writing a book, focus first on the knowledge you are imparting, and how much you want people to get value from what you have to say. The rest will follow. Here are five things not to do when getting started.
Don’t think about the final version
It might sound counterintuitive, but it’s important not to think about the book when you start writing. It can be overwhelming. Instead, think about telling your story, and who you’re telling it to. Ask yourself who would benefit from your knowledge and expertise. Think about how your words will lift others, contribute to their lives and keep in mind who you’re writing it for in particular.
Don’t overthink the structure
Don’t start mapping out chapters or thinking about the book’s structural components. Start by fleshing out your experiences, along with different themes, stories, and anecdotes. Write by hand or on your computer — or dictate it to someone else if you’re more of a speaker.
Don’t try to be an author
The journalist Hunter S. Thompson has a quote, “We strive to be ourselves.” This idea is crucial here. Don’t try to be an author, because you’ll screw it up. We want to hear your story from your voice and your vulnerability. It’s about your knowledge, and your soul. And on the same note, don’t write it to advance your career. Use your skills and talents you have to benefit someone else. Don’t put it out there to legitimize yourself.
Don’t try to do it all on your own
Later at some point, you can hire an editor who you will carefully choose after interviewing people — someone who will honor your voice instead of imposing their own. They can work with you to edit, bring structure, and give you helpful feedback. This will add value to your content. A good editor is priceless. And you don’t have to pay an arm and a leg. Be aware of the high fees of editors!
Don’t listen to your inner critic
Shut off your critical voice and your judgments. So often when we start to share information, we judge our own work and our abilities. We think to ourselves, “Who am I to write a book? I don’t have anything to say. No one’s going to read it.” These are all self-judgements. It’s critical that you evict that voice, and replace it with a voice of encouragement, support, and be a cheerleader for yourself.
The Greeks believed that creativity was an inspiration that came from another realm, and that’s why the epic poet Homer always started his writings and his odes by evoking the muse. So, remember that you’re not alone when you start writing. Call forward the invisible creative forces that work with all of us, and go beyond the linear thought patterns. That’s when the joy of writing starts to happen — when you become a conduit for some higher knowledge and wisdom to come through you as you allow it. That is the most blissful and rewarding experience worth having. And remember, even if one person gains from your writing, it’s worth having written.
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