(This is part 3 of a 3-Part Series: What I Wish I’d Known Then.) 

The Journey of Writing a Book

I don’t take writing a book lightly. There’s a reason it’s on so many bucket lists, just like there’s a reason that many folks never start. And that’s because it’s hard work.

Writing a book is a journey.

Have you ever noticed how the hardest (and most-rewarding) parts of life are described as a journey? Parenting is a journey. Grief is a journey. Life itself is a journey. And, my friends, so is writing a book.

That’s because it’ll take everything you have. In return, it’ll grow and stretch you in ways you can’t comprehend. When you come out the other side, you might not recognize yourself. You’ll be stronger, surer in yourself and your abilities. More empowered. And you won’t be the same person who began the journey.

Writing a book, I’ve come to believe, is a spiritual journey, one sprinkled with moments of light, inspiration and awe as well as plenty of dark nights of the soul. It’ll test your meddle, ask you what you’re made of.

If you don’t believe me, read these words of wisdom by four writers who recently completed their books. (My favorite: “This book is trying to kill me.”)

If the spiritual metaphor doesn’t work for you, then here’s another: writing a book is a lot like undertaking therapy. When you go to your first-even therapy appointment, you think it’ll be quick. A few weeks, a month or two, tops. Three years later, you realize how much work there really was to be done.

It’s the same with writing a book. You simply don’t know what the journey will be like until you’re in it. That’s why it’s important to get support. Find your people. Join a writer’s group. Learn the proper craft and technique.

And know you’re in it for the long haul. Commit to your book and the gifts will come back to you in spades. Ask a writer what she’s gained from seeing her completed book out in the world and the answer will range from confidence to freedom to empowerment to fist-pumping joy.

And that’s because writing a book, at the deepest level, is a process of stepping into one’s power. The same holds true for publishing that book. It’s a process, an opening up. Much like life, it’s the dance: two steps forward, one back. This is how sustainable progress happens, after all, in baby steps.

Knowing this going in, understanding that it’s a process—that it takes time to fully inhabit one’s story—can help you navigate the journey with kindness and compassion. At the very least, it’ll set you up with realistic expectations.

So get help. Commit and recommit. Start again. And show up. If there’s a secret ingredient to writing a book, it’s showing up and starting again. And being kind to yourself in the process.

Where are you in the process? Is your book trying to kill you, or is it trying to heal you? As this writer says, “What you need to become a writer is grit, rather than talent.” 

If you missed the earlier parts of this 3-part series, you can read Part 1 (Don’t Give Away Your Power) here and Part 2 (How Long Does it Really Take to Write a Book) here

P.S.: I’m reaching a new 4-week class at Lighthouse called Troubleshooting Your Story. Interested in joining us? We start Tuesday, July 9! Here’s the skinny:

Struggling to pull your story together but not quite sure why it’s not working? In this 4-week class, we’ll teach you the tools you need to strengthen your story, whether it’s fiction or memoir. You’ll leave with a solid understanding of the importance of characterization, conflict, setting and dialogue, as well as how to weave them together in order to bring your work to the next level.

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