I meet a lot of people who tell me they want to write a book, and I get it. We all have stories and ideas that desperately want to find their way outside us and into the hearts and minds of others. When we feel this impulse, I believe it’s our life force wanting to express itself. And I believe that when we suppress that impulse, we harm ourselves physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
But do I think everyone ought to write a book? Not necessarily.
This may come as a surprise to those who know me and know what I do. For about two decades, I’ve been helping other people get their words on the page—first, for many years, with college students with whom I still work, and more recently in the past couple of years, with private coaching clients.
The first truth is this: Not everyone has the time or truly—deep in their soul—wants to make the time to write a book. They want to have a book with their name on it.
The second truth is this: not everyone is cut out for writing a book.
It takes an immense amount of resolve to build a writing practice from the ground up, let alone to maintain it. It also takes consistent time and effort to learn how to write. Everyone has a unique learning curve, and for some, it’s a tall order. There’s no shame in that!
Not having the time, not wanting to make the time, and not knowing how to write well are legitimate reasons for not writing. I do believe that most people can learn to write and write well, but the time and commitment it would take to get to that point and truly making just that phase of the process a primary focus in a life already filled to the brim with people, activities, and commitments is not reasonable for many people.
I’m a very DIY person. I like to learn everything about everything (this is also a symptom of being a writer.) But long ago, I embraced the reality that there just aren’t enough hours in the day for me to learn everything about everything and implement it all well.
I could learn how to do my own taxes. When I owned a car, I could have learned how to change the oil and the brakes. But I chose not to because I figured the money I spent hiring skilled professionals who can do these tasks well and quickly would, by far, override all the hours it would take me to learn how to do them, then feebly implement them many times over until I got it right.
It may sound like I’m discouraging you from writing your book. I’m not! I do believe we all have meaningful stories and brilliant ideas the world needs to experience and know about. I also believe that some people can write books and some people can’t. The reasons are many, and like I said before, there’s no shame in that. It’s a reality of life. (I can’t compose a song, cook an exquisite gourmet meal, or create a breathtaking sculpture from marble, either. I could decide that I want to focus all my energies in any one of these areas and likely make some decent headway, but I choose not to. I’d rather save my energetic and time bandwidths for other things. Life is only so long.)
So, how do we rectify this double bind of satisfying the impulse to write a book and, in some cases, not being able to? The first step is to get clear about how collaborative the project of writing a book is and then deciding—for your personal situation (lifestyle, life commitments, and budget)—when you need to reach out and hire an expert to help you.
To help you make informed decisions about the kind of help you might need to get a fully written book in hand, here’s a breakdown of the kind of help you can expect.
BOOK CONTENT DEVELOPER
Some people have a big idea but feel clueless about where to begin. They need help parsing their big idea into smaller, more manageable, pieces and zeroing in on the theme, focus, and structure of the book. These people need a book content developer.
What working with a book content developer looks like in practice
When I help clients develop the content for their book, this usually consists of a focused chunk of time (half-day or full-day meeting)—a VIP Day. I walk them through a process to sort out their idea into manageable parts. We also determine a structure for the book, and we determine a timeline. The client walks away with a solid plan to get started and keep moving forward. Being motivated and honoring deadlines is up to them.
Hiring a content developer is a good option for focused self-starters who are on a mission. These people are good at setting a goal, staying focused, and not getting distracted by shiny objects along the way. They understand this is a period in their life they’re committing to, and they know they can do it.
(I also offer one-off, one-hour sessions for check-ins if/when needed after the content development meeting, so clients aren’t adrift on a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean alone.)
Some people need help staying focused and motivated and getting feedback along the way (after they’ve gotten help developing their content). They may also need help with the mechanics of writing. These people need a book coach.
What working with a book coach looks like in practice
When I serve as book coach to clients, we go through the book content development stage, then we stay connected. The length of time can vary, depending on the genre. The least time-consuming books (don’t misunderstand… all books are time-consuming) are non-fiction books that feature a method, process, or program created by an author, entrepreneur, or business owner. Memoirs can be open-ended, depending on how much perspective the author has about the life events they’re writing about. (Writing any book is emotionally transformative, and memoirs are highly so. Sometimes memoirists encounter surprise emotional blocks, which can slow down the writing.) Novels can be even more open-ended than memoirs (and just as emotionally transformative) because characters shift and change and/or the author has new insights along the way.
Hiring a book coach is a good option for those who need the support of knowing they have a person who is “expecting” pages from them on a monthly basis. This keeps them accountable and honoring deadlines. They also benefit from constructive feedback to help them re-set their sails along the way.
Some people want to get their stories and ideas onto the page, and the most important goal is to have a book with their name on it and/or to get their story or idea outside themselves. These people need a ghostwriter.
What working with a ghostwriter looks like in practice
Ghostwriting is a highly collaborative process wherein I conduct a series of interviews with the client and we stay in close contact throughout the writing of the book with chapter-by-chapter check-ins over a period of several months, the length depending on many factors. My goal is to truly know the client and how she experiences the world so I can write prose that matches her lived experience and her voice—so it sounds as if she wrote it. During the time we work together, I deliver one draft, she gives feedback, and I complete a full revision on the draft.
Hiring a ghostwriter is a good option for those who genuinely don’t have time or don’t want to make the time to write. They have gotten honest with themselves about the viability of staying the course and putting in the effort required to learn to write well so they can produce a quality book. They have weighed the money and time investments and know that having a book with their name on it is the most important goal. They don’t need or want to learn the process of writing a book.
Why many people are still compelled to write their own book
The reality is that none of these avenues I mention above is free. A VIP Day (book content development) is the most affordable of the three, with coaching next, and ghostwriting the costliest. For some people, the financial investment prevents them from hiring a professional to help them ensure they start off well and stay the course.
Also, opening your life up to another person, sharing your stories and ideas, and turning over your voice to them requires immense trust. It’s a leap of faith, and for some, it feels “easier” and “safer” to go it alone.
I understand the impulse to write a book, to let your voice be heard, to have a legacy to leave behind, even if it’s solely for your family. In fact, I do what I do because I believe the practice of sharing meaningful stories and brilliant ideas can create change and heal the world.
For this reason, I do what I can to provide help and encouragement to people who want to—or feel they have to—go it “alone.” My Conjuring Clarity course offers all the essentials you need to get your book started so you can make progress. Part 1 (always COMPLIMENTARY) walks you through the planning and scheduling stages. It also helps you examine your writing mindset and walks you through a commitment process—all phases I take my clients through. Part 2 gets into the nitty gritty of setting the foundation for your book and getting started with a clear focus in mind.
If you’re ready to begin, learn more about the Conjuring Clarity course here. Get Part 1 at no cost and see what it does for you before you invest in Part 2 (which is very affordable—because I sincerely want to help you with your book!)
No matter the route you choose, as always… I’m sending you mad writing mojo.
Please leave a comment below… what do you most need help with to get your book started or keep it moving forward?