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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Ask for help – Guess what, we don’t have to do it ALONE! There are options! Writing groups, retreats, book coaches, ghostwriters, beta readers.
- 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.
- It will happen when the time is right – I’ll admit it…I missed deadlines. A 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!