I meet a lot of people who respond to discovering that I’m an author with, “I really want to write a book.” I take these comments in stride, because writing a book isn’t for everyone. But some people are more persistent than others, asking questions and digging a little deeper. I don’t mind this at all. What I do mind is what I think happens pretty often when we think of writing a book, and it is this: romanticizing the process.
When we romanticize the process, we essentially diminish the work that all authors put into their craft. When someone says they’d like to write a book this year and it’s already December 1, I feel myself mentally shaking my head a little. Writing a book takes time and intention and practice, and many don’t understand this. They think you get an idea, you write, and then it’s done.
But that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
So, in the interest of truth telling, I wanted to list six reasons why you might not want to write a book.
1. You’re not willing to put in a LOT of effort and time.
Writing a book is really hard work. My books take me hours upon hours to write, revise and perfect. And even then, the writing is not done, which we’ll get to in a minute. If you’re not willing to put in a lot of effort and time, this is not the thing for you, at least not right now.
2. You’re not ready to write consistently and plan obsessively.
Writing a book also doesn’t just happen sporadically. An idea is step 1. There are many steps after that where you draw out the idea and brainstorm and write a first draft and write another draft and another and another. Some ideas take years to flesh out. I have a middle grade series that’s been stewing for about eight years now. It might take eight more to get it to a point where it’s more than just a vague concept. What many don’t realize about ideas is that in order for them to be turned into a book, they first have to be conceptualized and planned. And that’s where many falter.
3. You want to check it off your list and be done with it.
Some novice writers erroneously believe that writing The End on their manuscript is actually the end. But there is much more that goes into it, because writing a book doesn’t magically publish a book. There are decisions that must be made—should I self publish, should I work toward traditional publishing—and a whole host of steps that follow each of those decisions. In fact, most books feel like they’re never done. If you’re someone who prefers closure, you’ll be spending most of your life uncomfortable.
4. Patience isn’t exactly your strong point.
Nothing in the writing world happens quickly. Everything is a long game. When I first started self-publishing books, I assumed that people would find me. And then I started digging into some resources and discovered that there’s a lot of work that has to be done in order to gain attention in the marketplace, and even if you have all the tools at your disposal, these things take time. People aren’t going to sit up and notice all at once. Not even in the traditional world—which, by the way, takes years to see any book published in the first place.
5. You’re not interested in evolving as a writer.
Writers must always be learning more about their craft, practicing what they’ve learned and growing in their expertise. I happen to really enjoy learning new things, but it’s not for everyone—and if you don’t enjoy learning more about your craft and you don’t enjoy researching random subjects (for your books or for your pleasure), writing a book might not be for you.
6. You don’t have a greater purpose for writing.
Writing is mostly a mental game. So if you don’t have a greater purpose for writing, the days writing feels hard or you get a bad review or you feel invisible in the marketplace will cripple you. You have to have a why, and you have to know it inside and out.
If, after reading these reasons not to write a book, you still want to pick up your pen and try, here are the three most important things you can do to ensure that you’ll start and finish:
1. Develop a consistent writing habit.
There is nothing more important than committing to write every day in some way. If you have to get up at 4 a.m. to squeeze it in, then do it.
2. Read to learn.
Read the kind of books you want to write and books that teach you how to write. They’re both important for learning.
3. Know your why.
I keep mine on post-it notes stuck to my dresser mirror, where I stand every day and write (my standing desk is makeshift—but it works). If I get discouraged, I look at my why. If I feel stuck, I look at my why. If I wonder why in the world I decided to be a writer, I look at my why. Those post-it notes keep me grounded.
Writing a book seems glamorous. And maybe, in a certain way, it is. To take something that exists only as an idea and make it into something tangible and, hopefully, enjoyable is a wonderful thing. But, like anything else, it takes hard, persistent work.
—Emily DickinsonWrite about a silence that seems to be the loudest in the room or a sound that seems silent because of its regular presence.