One of my online communities had a thread on writing a book this year. It led me to reflect on writing in a way that might help someone where I was before starting to write.
I consider what I wrote relevant to practicing any craft or developing one’s passion. Here’s what I wrote:
Last week I learned that Booklist is giving it a starred review. It has blurbs from bestsellers, top TED talkers, and luminaries like
- Dan Pink
- Marshall Goldsmith
- Seth Godin
- Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree Frances Hesselbein
- Professors from Harvard, Columbia, NYU
- A 4-star General
I self-published two books before this one, but I consider this one on another level for going through an established publisher, which came from writing a book proposal before writing the book, which came from working with a professional agent, which came from writing for years, developing the core idea for the book, and telling people about the idea, which led a friend to introduce me to his friend, who is an agent.
Since it’s not on sale yet, I don’t know how successful it will become, though the response from the blurb writers has been positive, so I don’t know if my experience is worth learning from, but of all the things that helped, the first was writing consistently for a long time. I’ve posted to my blog every day since 2011—http://joshuaspodek.com/archives. That meant over 2,000 posts when I started writing the book and nearly 2,500 today.
For me, I made writing not something I struggled to do consistently but like brushing my teeth—something I wouldn’t go to sleep without doing. Can you imagine going to bed without brushing your teeth? I don’t know about you, but it nearly makes my skin crawl. Writing enough got me to where I feel the same about ending a day without writing. But I had to get there. People think I’m disciplined, which helps me write. They have it backward. The writing came first and developed the discipline. Their thinking is like thinking that people lift weights because they’re strong. They started as weak as anyone and became strong because they lift weights.
Writing teaches you many skills valuable for writing: how to come up with ideas to write about, discipline, focus, editing, working through dry periods, handling criticism, sore shoulders, talking about your ideas, finding your voice, getting past clichés, and so on.
Writing consistently for a long time also reveals and develops passion, as with any craft. I kind of liked writing before. I love it now. There’s no way I would have developed that passion without all the writing when I was tired, unmotivated, and so on. I kept writing. Writing consistently enabled me to live what I wrote, since I teach leadership, and clarify my goals. My goal is not “to write a book.”
The book is a means to an end, which is to enable people to practice what I teach, which is empathy, compassion, creating meaning, value, importance, and purpose in their lives and the lives of people around them, and things like that. I’ll measure my success not by sales, but by feedback from people who improved their lives and relationships by doing the exercises in the book. That purpose motivates and guides me so I’m not just writing a book, but using the book as a medium to communicate and influence interested people. Our world and nation could use leadership with those skills, in my opinion. I could only refine, clarify, understand, and state this purpose from writing consistently for a long time.
Another critical element for me was the public accountability of posting publicly. At first I had few subscribers, but I still knew others could read my work and, more importantly, could tell if I didn’t write anything.
A big help that came with working on the book was working with a professional editor, mainly my book agent helping me write my book proposal. I had to develop my craft enough to reach the point where I was worth her time, but then she helped my writing develop a lot more.
Anyway, I’m risking writing too much when my work hasn’t reached the market yet, but I felt compelled to share what developed my craft to the point of having a book with prominent people supporting it:
- Writing daily for five years, no exception
- Public accountability
- Professional editing
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