10 Things I’ve Learned about Writing a Book


I was on my way to the library to return some books, and decided to sit outside on the park bench and take in the sunshine.  I heard my phone ding, and clicked on an email from my brilliant book coach Sandra.  This is what it said:

“Okay honey.  I want you to take a minute and really take this in.  This is the first draft of your book.  All 59800 words.  Just 20,000 words shy of an entire book.   This is quite an accomplishment and you should be incredibly proud of what we have created.  It is by all estimations now A BOOK! Not a proposal, not a conversation “I’m writing a book,” but, the first solid draft of YOUR book.  Funny how it just kinda snuck up on you isn’t it?  So take a minute — send your grandparents a huge prayer of thanks and one to Brownie Dean and all the other guides and muses that joined in to get you to this point.

Lots of work still to do, but YOWZA! Such a massive achievement.”

My eyes filled with tears and I took a deep breath to really take the moment in.

She was so right.  Over the past few months, I have been sending her page after page, filling in all of the details that she highlights in yellow, not even concerned with page or word count.  I’ve just been sending and breathing.  Sending and breathing.

I went from utterly overwhelmed (see beautiful but chaotic photo of the material I was drowning in), to having a finished proposal and full first draft of my book!

Before working with Sandra, I was struggling.  Writing this book alone was so hard. I was miserable, and the joy was stripped from the process for me.  I made family members change my social media passwords and basically locked myself to the desk and had a huge shame storm on myself.  “You’ll never pull this off.  You can’t write.  You suck.” I was putting myself, and those around me (love you, Adam) through agony. I was on an emotional rollercoaster.  It wasn’t fun.

The second I booked a flight to San Diego, I knew things were changing.  Sandra rolled out a huge scroll of easel paper and busted out every colour of Post-it I’ve ever seen.

“Let’s start at the beginning, girl!”

In honour of this HUGE step in the process, I want to share some things I’ve learned.

10 things I’ve learned about writing a book

  1. Find other writers – A turning point in the process for me was finding other writers.  I joined an online writing group that changed everything for me.  Not only do I have writer friends locally now, but I also have them scattered around the world.  Like-minded beautiful writers, who get what we’re going through.  This was the first step to realizing that I didn’t have to do this alone.
  2. The fear never goes away – And great, seasoned authors attest to it too.  Brene Brown, Liz Gilbert, Cheryl Strayed. It’s scary putting yourself out there creatively…but in the end it’s worth it. Something that has helped me with this is listening to podcasts by fellow creatives. My all time favourite podcast series is “Magic Lessons” by Elizabeth Gilbert.  See the little purple icon on your iPhone that says Podcasts?  Open it and search “Elizabeth Gilbert.” Do it now.  You won’t regret it.
  3. Read – Writing has given me a whole new level of appreciation for books.  I appreciate every single sentence in them.  I know what kind of work went into every single word.
  4. Ask for help – Guess what, we don’t have to do it ALONE! There are options! Writing groups, retreats, book coaches, ghostwriters, beta readers.
  5. Find what kind of goals motivate you – For me, small tasks like “Tell me the story of meeting this friend,” or “Tell me the story of the first day in England” works wonders.  Big tasks like “Write Book” on my to-do list just overwhelms me.
  6. It will happen when the time is right – I’ll admit it…I missed deadlinesA lot of them.  And the reason I missed those deadlines is because they were unrealistic.  They were a pipe dream.  Sometimes the story needs to marinate for a little while.  Some stories take decades to write.  I really do believe in divine timing for books.  If it happens in a forced way, you might be missing crucial pieces of the story, or you might not be ready.  Trust the process, even when it hurts.
  7. Write to those you love – I have found that my best writing has come when I tell myself to write to my best friend.  Sometimes I even open up my email and start by saying “Dear Jess.  I just want to tell you this little story.”  And then it flows and flows and flows out of me.  Just make sure your email autosaves, or write it in a word document first.
  8. My name is Carly & I am a People Pleaser – As a recovering people pleaser, I worry a lot about what people are going to think.  Coming to terms with the fact that writers can’t please everyone, is huge. Some people might not like my book, my story, or me.  I will survive.
  9. Post-it’s, colourful pens & stepping away from the computer – Like I said, when Sandra busted out the Post-its, I was in awe.  As a visual person, seeing my book on a wall was exactly what I needed.  I also found that printing chapters out and editing by hand with colourful pens helps a lot too.  Pen & paper will never die.
  10. Exercise & talk it out – Yoga.  Walks.  Time outside.  Talk therapy.  It all helped me through the past year.  Find what works for you.

It’s been a challenging and rewarding year working on this book.  I learned a lot and am sure there is so much more to learn.  The best part has been celebrating these little (and big) victories with my amazing hubby, family and friends.  I couldn’t have gone this far without any of them.  For that I am grateful.  Stay tuned for more!


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Take time to CELEBRATE


Since January, I have been using the DESIRE map day planner by Danielle LaPorte.  I just LOVE it.  Sure, there are days when I only manage to fill out a few words here or there, but mostly I love the monthly check-ins around all there is to celebrate, recognize & acknowledge.  It gives you a chance to revisit your intentions & goals for the year, reflect on the month that’s coming to a close and visualize & plan for the month ahead.

This month was specifically interesting because I wasn’t very excited to sit down to go over it all.  I felt that February wasn’t very productive, that I had let some goals & intentions go, and that I hung out in the land of self-doubt a little too much.

To my surprise the section of celebration far outweighed the “recognize the negative so you can do something constructive with it” section.  And my biggest celebration was around the talk that I gave at the University of Fraser Valley on “Doing What I Love.” I not only faced a fear and learned more about public speaking, but I also met new people, felt part of a creative community, got to share my story, and created opportunities for the future.  In the below photos, you’ll see the sold out crowd of 150 people rolling in, confirmation that I talk with my hands, and that I totally started my talk with taking a audience wide vote (hence my nervously-excited raised hand)!


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The other thing that I’m very happy with is the daily reading & writing that I’m doing.  Since the beginning of the year, I have been working through a book called “The Assassin’s Cloak: An Anthology of the World’s Greatest Diarists” and read the daily pages as it reads chronologically. It’s so interesting to read diary entries  from as far back at 1650- 2003.  I love starting my morning reading personal encounters & perspectives of events that happened on this very day throughout time.  I’ve also been reading through my Grama’s letters again.  Life’s Letter 2.0, if you will.  I’m doing the retrace again, 2 years after the original retrace, to keep the ideas fresh in my mind that reflect in the pages of my writing.

As far as writing, although I try to work on book writing as much as I can, I try to remember that as long as I show up to the page & get my ideas down, I find that I feel positive about my progress.  As outlined in Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way,” I commit to clearing my thoughts and mind by doing morning pages as often as I can to not only get in the habit of a daily writing practice, but to also clear the space in between the ears to feel more present in my days.

I felt like sharing this here for myself to look back on what works well for my creative mind, and also to share with some of you who are looking to be more intentional with your days, weeks & months.  Or perhaps get into a more consistent writing practice.

Happy creating.

Photo credit for pecha kucha event HERE & HERE


Call Home



I have a confession to make.  This Oscar acceptance speech really got to me.  It literally made me pick up my phone, scroll to the top of my call log and actually see how long I talked to my mother earlier that day when she called.  2 minutes.  Mind you, she called at the exact moment that I sat down at my desk to start being “productive” – I tend to jam pack my weekends with writing & reading goals to balance out the full time work schedule with my writing dreams.  And yes, after our 2 minute call I was productive for a good 15 minutes.  Until I grabbed my phone that I could see out of the corner of my eye, and started to scroll instagram.

I can’t tell you how much I love instagram.  Really.  It is such an incredible source of inspiration to me.  Creativity seems to flow from the screen into my hands…it’s my krytonite.  Until a line is crossed.  Until I choose instagram over people.  People that I love with all of my heart.

Needless to say, I called home the next morning.  And came clean to my mom that I chose instagram over her.


I’m currently writing section 3 of my book, which is primarily based on March of 2013.  It was a time when my mom was visiting England and I was feeling very reflective on the passing of time and the changing dynamics between mothers & daughters.  My grama’s relationship with her mother, my mothers relationship with my grama, my relationship with my mom, and hopefully some day, my relationship with a daughter of my own.

I came across this video again, which brings me to tears every time.  And brings me back to what it all boils down to: Love.  And that it liberates.

Beautiful said, Maya Angelou.




Word by Word


 I’m reading a book right now which has been recommended to me several times. The book is called Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott and within the first few chapters I stumbled across something that really hit home for me.

Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write.  It was due the next day.  We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead.  Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy.  Just take it bird by bird.”

This spoke to me because this is exactly what I’ve been feeling the past 3 months.  The deadline I set for my first draft is just around the corner.  October 30th is 4 days away.  Over the past 3 months, I have sat, on numerous occasions, surrounded by the many journals from England, my grama’s letters, my letters to Adam, Adam’s letter to me, blog posts and emails, completely immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead.  It’s a lot.  I would imagine in the journals, notes and letters combined there are several hundred thousand words to go through, to organize and to craft into a story.  It has been overwhelming.  I sometimes don’t even know where to start.

The good news is, I’m still going.  I may not meet my deadline in 4 days, but I am happy to report that I’m still going.  Still showing up to the page and scripting my heart out.  I don’t even feel like it’s really a choice anymore, I am feeling called to do this.  It’s what I think about when I get out of bed in the morning and is with me until I rest my head at night.  I didn’t realize that creativity could have that kind of power over someone, but it does.

There of course has been some FUN in the mix as well.  I’ve joined an online writing group that has brought some incredible ladies into my life who are also on the journey of memoir writing.  It feels amazing to know that I am not alone in all of this and it has been an honour to witness the process for each and every one of them.

The other thing to note, is that the reason I chose October 30th as a deadline, was because it will be 2 years since the launch of Life’s Letter.   Which means this idea has been in my everyday orbit for 2 and a half years.  Knowing that this is likely the halfway point makes me want to jump for joy and cringe, all at the same time.  I’ve already thought so much about this project, that the thought of it haunting me for 2 more years seems unbearable, AND what is also true, is that the desire to see it in print, even just for my future children to hold in their hands, will keep me writing.

When my parents recently came to BC to visit our new home, they brought my Grama’s original letters for me.  I didn’t even have the originals in England for the fear of something happening to them.  Having the letters on my desk, staring up at me as I write, gives me a feeling of connection to the purpose of all of this in the first place.  These letters are a gift and they remind me that my Grama wrote them, almost 7 decades ago, word by word.



Putting down roots


Well it’s official, folks.  The hubs and I are putting down some roots alongside the ginormous trees and mountainous skyline out here in B.C.  Last friday, Adam was offered his dream job as a full-time Phys-Ed & Earth Science teacher.  Yay, hubs (insert proud wifey cheer HERE)! And I am happy to announce that along with an exciting start to my photography biz, I have accepted a job just a few hours ago as a bank Customer Relations Coordinator.  If this Friday streak continues, who knows what will happen next Friday…I say a book deal! Just sayin’!

Needless to say, we are thrilled to share this exciting news.  It’s amazing when things just seem to fall into place and reiterate that this move across the country was right for us.  We simply couldn’t have done it alone, so I’m turning this post into a Grateful Friday share.  We can’t thank our family and friends enough who had a hand in helping us with our move – even from afar.  With each and every box packed and article of clothing sorted, the time and energy was much appreciated. I simply couldn’t have cut my wardrobe in half without you, Ashly.  You were ruthless and I love you for it – although I will miss that leopard print sweater.  I still think about it daily.

To my parents and my in-laws, thank you for still loving me after the ‘boxes of childhood memories’ moment.  As my father-in-law, also lovingly ruthless, started holding up Grade 3 class projects, baby blankets & my Justin Timberlake autographed CD, I was officially faced with overwhelm.  They stuck around though and powered through.  That is love, if you ask me.

Thank you to the friends, family and co-workers who came to our going away party and threw me a pool party.  You guys are the best and we miss you daily.  And to the friends who were unable to make it and sent their well wishes, it means so much to know that with technology the world is truly a small, small place.  The letters, messages and well wishes from afar, made the transition even easier.  For anyone making a move in the near future, I recommend giving your mailing address out in advance.  There’s nothing better than getting snail mail on day 2 in a new place.

And last but not least, a huge thank you goes to the 2 incredible people who have opened their home to us for the past month and a half.  Adam’s sister and her husband have scooped us up and made us feel so at home, regardless of the many miles we truly are from the home we know.

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