I am three weeks away from turning in my second book to my publisher. I am also three weeks away from my first book releasing in bookstores everywhere. Three weeks away to the day. I know what it is to write books. Ish. I say that to remind you that everything I say today is seen through the lens of a writer who is steadily approaching both a major deadline as well as a book release. I might be seven shades of crazy.
Publishing is business, and I know so very little about it. (Hello, this is my first book, and I am no expert. Nice to meet you). One thing I do know: If you want to share a message, you have to do the work. Maybe the work is a book. Or maybe it is just a few blog posts or a series on a blog or an ebook. You don’t have to know which you have when you start, but as you handle it and sit with it and simply do the next thing that makes sense, you will know. Here are some things to keep in mind if you have a blog but would like to pursue traditional publication.
Writing may be different from publishing. You may be a writer. Does that mean you are also supposed to pursue publication? Are all writers destined to be published? Should all writers try? Rachelle Gardner wrote a post about Writing vs. Publishing on her blog a few months ago and the comments are especially interesting. A common theme among writers is the desire to not only want to write, but to want to be read. I relate with that. But are we limiting ourselves when being read only means writing books?
Blog writing is not practice. Sometimes I get the feeling that bloggers write on blogs as practice for their books that don’t exist yet. But they don’t take it seriously. This is a bad idea. If you need to practice, do it in your private journal. Don’t operate from a corner of scarcity, hoarding your best work for a future book. Do the work now. Why wait?
Book writing is not glamorous. Examine your reasons for wanting to be published in the traditional way. This isn’t the place to gloss over your red flags, or to say you’ll figure it out when the time comes. Know your reasons, and know them well. Is it to see your name on the cover of a book? Is it for the affirmation? Is it because a book is the absolute best way to get your message out and there is no other medium by which you could do that?
I’m not here to talk you out of your reasons. As you know, all kinds of writing can be grueling, lonely, and difficult. But when you write in such a way that forces you to get to the heart of your message, when you set out to create a large piece of work for public consumption, and when you have to do it on a deadline, you will cry, hate, go crazy, complain, fight, neglect things, and see yourself at your worst. And then, at the end of the day, you are the only one who can do it. Just you. You can’t delegate it, ration it, or boss it. It’s you and the book, and it won’t leave you alone until it’s done. And then when it’s done, it’s not yours anymore. You do all the work, and then you have to release it, this thing you have loved, shaped, hated, surrendered, taken back, hoarded, questioned, feared, rejoiced over, and made – you have to write it and then you have to release it into the hands of people who might love, hate, question, or dismiss it.
Your message needs to have long legs. When you publish a book, you’ll be sitting with this one message day after day, month after month, week after week, year after ever loving year. You have to love this message like you love yourself. You have to care for your reader with grace and compassion and endurance. You have to be willing to talk about this message in some form for the rest of your life. I’m not saying you will be talking about it forever, but you have to be willing to.
Know the real dream. You may have a dream to write a book, and that is a legitimate dream to be sure. But the truth is the fulfillment of that dream is partially out of your control. If you are a writer who has something to say, an even deeper dream than writing a book is to have people who need to hear what you have to say hear it. That’s really it. Your dream doesn’t have to change, but the method might.
The message is more important than the method. Your job is to cultivate a message. Once you embrace that you are a writer and begin writing the things that make you come alive, then you will become well versed in this area of your message. And you will want to share it in conversation, on a blog, through an ebook, a newsletter, a magazine article, a note to a friend. And here’s another thing. If it’s worth writing a book for, then it’s worth having a blog for, too. It’s also worth leading a small group at your church and having coffee with a friend and writing a blurb about it in a newsletter. Once you know your passion, you can mold it to fit anywhere.
This week, I’ve been sharing some thoughts from a talk I gave at the She Speaks Conference two weeks ago. Tomorrow we will finish up talking about writing. Are there any specific things we haven’t talked about that you have been wondering? Share them with us in the comments.