I’ve been thinking recently about why people write and why they publish.
In my experience, it’s typically because they need to express something: thoughts, feelings, or experiences. The writing of these thoughts, feelings, and experiences is therapeutic for many. But why people publish is very different from why they write. Writers publish because they feel they have a unique perspective, they can offer advice or experiences that might help someone else, they simply want to be a published author, they are establishing themselves as an expert in their career or industry, or even because they have information no one else does that should be captured. There are many reasons and they are all good.
These two questions, why people write and why people publish, are also the two biggest hurdles. The first, is getting your thoughts on paper, completing the act of writing so that you have a finished product. The second, is putting it out there for all to see, publishing your work for an audience. Both are difficult because we tend to second guess ourselves. Is what I’m writing even worth it? Should I go back and organize it a different way? What if people don’t like it? Do I really want that information out there? Is any of this sounding familiar?
So how do you start a writing project and see it across the finish line? I’ve broken down the two topics above into smaller, bite-sized challenges and included some tips to overcome and succeed:
- Sometimes your hesitation or struggle will have to do with your skill level. If this is the case, I recommend practicing. Read often and write often. Join a writing group or take a class. Show your work to a trusted friend for constructive feedback. These activities will help you to improve your skill and comfort level in writing.
- Other times, hesitation can be more related to your level of self-confidence. How comfortable are you being in the limelight? What if you put something out there and then you contradict yourself or you change your mind? I think this is one of the reasons I waited so long to publish my first book. On the other hand, someone once told me that at every age and every stage you have a unique perspective to share. If you wait too long, that age, stage, and perspective is lost. Don’t let one of these opportunities pass you by.
- Often, you will compare your work to others. This isn’t a bad exercise to engage in, but it should be done with purpose. You look at the “competition” to determine where your book fits into the larger body of knowledge on that subject. But it’s a slippery slope. If you continually compare, you will second guess forever.
- Similarly, if you start editing before you’ve finished writing, you may never finish. Even experienced authors can get caught editing forever. It can always be better, right? No. When the incremental changes you are making no longer result in significant improvements to the value proposition, it’s time to stop.
- Last, but not least, writing is hard work. It takes dedication and time, it takes brain power, and determination. We think of writing as this romantic endeavour, in some beautiful cottage overlooking a picturesque landscape, perhaps typing on a typewriter. That’s just not reality. And while writing can be romantic and beautiful, the reality of it can be difficult to accept. Be prepared for the work aspect of writing.
At the end of the day, everyone has a unique perspective, so that shouldn’t be a concern. It’s more about finding the gems in your life experiences, thoughts, or perspectives. I find that if you’re listening to yourself, these ideas may come to you when you’re driving, in the shower, falling asleep, dreaming, daydreaming, or other random unexpected times. It’s been said before, but I will say it again: have a notebook handy. I’ve started emailing myself when I think of something since I always have my phone with me. Or use one of the many notetaking apps on your phone. I’ve seen people use sticky notes or whiteboards effectively for this purpose.
Then you start writing. And then you finish.
And it feels amazing.