How to Write a Book

One thing about being an author is that you often get approached by other people who want to write a book but haven’t done it. The first thing I tell them is that if I can do it, anyone can do it. So many great resources, books, and blogs are available to teach the craft of writing, but that’s usually not what holds would-be writers back. Often it’s a different kind of roadblock that stands in our way. Learning how to write a book can be as simple as changing your mindset.

Let go of your expectations.

Imagine what it looks like to be a writer. What comes to mind? Sitting at a desk in a quiet country house? Spending days in trendy coffee shops? A jacket with patches on the elbows? Whatever it is, let that idea go. Sure, I write at coffee shops now and then. But guess what, I also wrote almost an entire book on the notepad of my iPhone when my son was a newborn. Why? Because I spent hours holding him in my arms, and my iPhone was always close by. Most of the writers I know have full time jobs or kids at home or freelance on the side.

The idea of having the perfect office or hours and hours of free time to gaze out the window between sentences isn’t usually how books get written. Books get written right in the middle of our messy lives, at 5am before the kids wake up, or on the train on the way to work. It rarely looks like it does in the movies.

You’re going to give something up in order to make time to write a book.

Most people blame their lack of time for not being able to write a book, and that’s fair. We’re busy. We have jobs and families and responsibilities. The secret to making time to write a book is that you’re going to have to give something up. When I tell people this, I watch their expressions change from excited to frustrated because somehow we forget that time is finite. We only have 24 hours in a day, and we usually don’t have a very good grasp of where our time goes.

You can’t simply add write a book to your already busy life. You’re going to have to give up something. Is it sleep? Time with your family? Volunteering? Social media? TV? Exercise? What you give up may very well be something you deem as good. And if you aren’t careful, you’ll accidentally trade in the best stuff and not the trivial stuff. So do yourself a favor and be intentional about what you choose because something has to go.

Finish your first draft.

I’ve met writers who have tinkered with the same three chapters for years. In most cases, this is because of fear. Fear that the book won’t live up to what is in the writer’s head. Fear that the time spent won’t be worth it. Fear of being disappointed in what they end up with. Fear of someone else reading it. I can’t say it any better than Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird, but your first draft will be ugly. Finish it anyway. Keep writing until you hit the end. Then, start over at page one and begin the difficult but worthy process of making it into something great.

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