I recently co-authored a book, with Wendy Judith Cutler and Ahava Shira, entitled Writing Alone Together: Journaling in a Circle of Women for Creativity, Compassion and Connection (Butterfly Press, November 2014).
I have always dreamed of writing a book, maybe you can relate? While over the years I have written many things including Creative Wellness blog posts and museletters, training manuals, non-fiction workbooks and guides in various subjects related to my work in areas such as self-care, burnout prevention, stress and trauma management and crisis counselling over the years; what I have really longed to write is a book about the healing and transformational power of writing itself – a book would be nourishing, creative and soulful to both write and read.
This dream became reality when our Writing Alone Together book came off the press. I love holding the book in my hands – it is beautiful, colorful and feels good to simply look at, others have said the same thing! When I open its pages and read quotes from other women writers, see our many journal entries, combined with the practices and principles that make up the Writing Alone Together practice…something deep inside me stirs with satisfaction and joy. The book is still new in the world and at times it all feels a bit surreal that we actually managed to get this book written, designed and published, especially when there were times I felt like giving up.
As I look back on what helped me (us) to stick with it and actually write and publish our book (after all, that is what we all want as book writers…we want to write AND finish AND publish our books) a few strategies come to mind including the following:
- Make a Commitment: Writing a book is not easy (I have written one in the past). In my experience, co-authoring a book was even harder! While I shared the book writing journey with others (this at times could help lighten the load through dividing the work), this also inherently involved having to constantly work collaboratively (even when we were tired of working together), making decisions together (about every single detail!), dealing with conflicts that arose and much more. Ultimately, writing any book requires making a renewed commitment to the book authoring process over and over again, especially during the times when you are feeling stressed, pressed and doubtful. You have to really WANT to write AND complete your book, in order to make it to the publication finish line successfully. In other words, you need to make a commitment to yourself, to your writing and to your book!
- Honor Relationship: As a writer, you are in a relationship with both your book and your writing process over time, and like any long term relationship, it requires tenacity, purpose and care. In my co-authoring experience, it also took love, honesty and mutual respect to successfully work together as co-authors for over seven years (the length of time it took for our book to be born). What does it take to honor the relationships that are required to ultimately write your book? What does it require to honor and nurture the relationship to your writing, the relationship with the book itself, the relationship with yourself as a writer and the relationships with your co-authors (if they exist)?
- Recognize Ambivalence: On some occasions I wanted to stop writing our book. I wanted to abandon the project because it was so time consuming, arduous and frustrating. I wanted to put my energy into a different book (my memoir project) and I sometimes felt resentful that this book was taking so much time and energy that could have been used elsewhere. I wanted to stop AND I also wanted to see our book completed. I think this might be true for all authors – there are times when you might want to give up, set it down or abandon your book altogether. However, there is also part of you that wants to make it to the finish line, complete your book and share your message/words with others. This is the nature of ambivalence – we want something and we don’t want something all at once. We are willing to work towards our book writing dreams and we sometimes turn away. Writing a book is a dance, it involves an ebb and flow, ups and downs. It is important to acknowledge and identify ambivalence and resistance, acknowledge it and move on (don’t let it get you stuck or completely off track from writing your book) – these are normal feelings, simply honor them and keep writing. Forward action is the antidote to ambivalence (fear, resistance, etc.).
- Know Your Why: It is easy when writing a book to get overwhelmed with all that needs to be done. Remember why you are writing your book. For what are you motivated when it comes to writing and publishing your book? What difference do you want your book to make in the world? What difference do you want your book to make in your life and/or business? Knowing your why will help you stick with it! It will provide you with the internal motivation you need to keep on writing. Your why transcends and informs what you need to do to get your book out in the world.
- Be in the Moment: One of my favorite moments when writing our book, were the times we were doing just that…writing. Not talking about writing, or thinking about writing, or organizing our writing and so forth, but that sweet moment of actually putting the pen to the page, fingers on the keyboard and letting the ideas and words flow from within each one of us onto the page – for these are the words that are now in our book (most of them at least), these are the words that are being read by women all over the world. I just got an email this morning from a friend in Hong Kong who said the book had arrived and how much she loves it! Each moment, each word, each breath – inhale, pause, exhale – wants our full presence. I believe presence is the heart of creative and authentic self-expression – it is our awareness in this moment, our mindful attention in the now that infuses our writing and our lives with meaning and success.
- Look Long Term: The reality is books get written word-by-word AND even after all the words are down, they need to be edited and reviewed and changed. Then they need to be read again. Then the words are all there and the book needs to be designed and proofread, a cover needs to be made, an ISBN has to be assigned, a marketing plan is needed, a printer and means for sales and distribution must be found. In other words, writing a book is one thing, producing a book is another, whilst marketing and selling a book requires yet other skills and energy – all of which are required by authors who want to not only write their book, but also share and sell their book! What are both the short and long term tasks and needs that are required to write and publish your book? Break these tasks down so it feels manageable and doable. What needs to be done now in service to writing your book? What are the longer term needs for your book?
- Express Gratitude: It is important to pause along the way and give thanks for all that is happening in support of writing your book. I regularly pause to give thanks for words, ideas, my sister writers (co-authors), my family and friends and to Spirit/Source energy for moving through me out onto the page. I give thanks for the challenges along the way, in writing and in life, as these often offer the best lessons and learning and grist for the creative muse. Gratitude fuels my writing life and nourishes me all at once; gratitude inspires the creative and awakened spirit in us all.
Thank you for reading this blog post, thank you for the books you are writing and/or have written, thank you for the unique contributions you are making – we are all in this world of writing – alone and together.