By Lynda McDaniel, Co-Founder, The Book Catalysts
According to a recent survey, as many as 80 percent of adults want to write a book, but only 2 percent ever do. You can beat those odds. As a trainer consultant, you have a wealth of experiences to share in a book—techniques you learned the hard way, insights unique to your sessions, information people need to excel on the job. Books are the 21st century equivalent of business cards, so you don’t want to be without one.
“But I don’t have time to write a book,” you might be muttering about now. Or, “I’m not a very good writer.” Even worse, “I don’t have anything new to say.” Let’s look at why these notions just aren’t true.
1. I don’t have time. Honestly, you do have time to write a book or e-book. All you need is 20 minutes a day. Sure, at that rate you’ll need several months to finish your book, but does not starting help you finish any faster?
Look at this dilemma another way: A friend lived on a small farm, and many evenings she sat on her porch rocking and talking about turning an adjacent pasture into an orchard. She imagined all the applesauce she could put by, the pies she could bake. Years later, by the time she moved away, it was still a pasture in serious need of mowing. The enormity of plowing it, buying all those trees, and planting an orchard had overwhelmed her. But what if she’d planted just one tree a year? By the time she left, she’d have an orchard, some trees already heavy with fruit. She’d have jars of applesauce in her cellar and a pie or two under her belt.
Just start. Small steps are fine. Some budding authors flourish by writing only 100 words a day—though they often write much more. That’s because of inertia, a writer’s worst enemy and best friend. It’s your worst enemy when “a body at rest stays at rest.” But once you start writing, the other inertia—“a body in motion stays in motion”—keeps the words flowing.
In other words, easy does it. Take one step at a time. Perhaps you’ve even taught that in your training, so why not take some of your own advice?
2. I’m not a very good writer. No one is—in early drafts. Even writers you love to read are lousy writers in the first stages of their books. Keep this motto in mind as you write your first draft: Good writing is really good editing. Bad writers just stopped too soon. Write your first drafts fast and with gusto. Don’t worry about the quality of the words, and don’t edit as you go—just write and write to get to the finish line ASAP. (Writing fast without editing also increases your creativity—something about the speed and focus encourages your creative side to explore new ideas and fresh associations.)
Later, once you’ve captured your thoughts, you can wrestle with them and turn them into something great. But for now, just write. You can fix a messy first draft, but you can’t fix a blank page or screen.
3. I don’t really have anything new to say. Yes, you do—you have experiences, examples, and case studies no one else has. You have stories to tell from the time a student had a “Eureka!” moment in your class. Or the way you dealt with that student who insisted on interrupting the class with his shenanigans. Stories increase interest in and boost income from your book—whether that’s a how-to book, a self-help e-book, or a technical textbook. Stories also add appeal to all those blogs and articles you’ll write to promote your book—and your business.
We’re wired for stories. From troubadours to griots, we’ve captured our history through stories. (It’s only recently we’ve written our thoughts, let alone tweeted them!) And MRI tests show that our brains light up in ways far more creatively when we hear stories. The same information presented in lecture style falls flat, while stories make our synapses snap.
Another benefit of stories is they tap into our emotions—which is where we buy and buy in. And that makes your messages more memorable. Stories grab attention and take us out of our critical left brain. We’re no longer on the sidelines listening or looking in—we’re there with you and your story. For example, in the orchard story told earlier, you could feel the rhythm of the rocking chair and empathize with the enormity of the task.
Finally, start today creating a story inventory. Brainstorm a list of 20 stories from your experience. There! You now have the backbone of a good book. No one else has those stories. Not only do you have your unique perspective and expertise to share, you have the stories to back them up.
Besides, you need a book. Your book will introduce you to a wider audience and boost your business and brand. Just write and write and let all those ideas and stories tumble out. And start anywhere. You don’t have to begin with Chapter 1. If you’re excited about what comes in Chapter 5—start there!
In case you need one more nudge, ask yourself how much it’s costing you not to have a book or e-book. In addition to lost profits and prestige, you may even experience an emotional toll from not writing that book you’ve dreamed of writing. So why not begin writing those 100 words today?
This is the first of a four-part series on how to write a book. In the next article, The Book Catalysts co-founder Virginia McCullough will explore the power of a book proposal—even if you’re self-publishing.
Lynda McDaniel is a writing coach and co-founder of The Book Catalysts (www.bookcatalysts.com).