Despite what I’ve accomplished before, writing a book is without a doubt the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. If I knew just how hard it would be, I might have decided to skip this grueling effort altogether. Instead, I am all in. I swam out from the shore with no regard for the return trip, and there is only one option remaining: Finish.
For my book research, I have a survey with 15,000 short answer responses. I have countless hours of phone interviews. I’ve met with scores of people and there are layers of philosophy, ideology, and analysis to weave around the heart of my book: the evolving narratives of regular people and my own personal journey. Organizing this much information in a coherent, entertaining, or informative way is overwhelming to me. I just want to write, who knew how much planning it took?!
[READ: Quit Wasting Time: Change Yourself Before Worrying About the Rest]
I’m learning this skill as I go. I make mistakes each day, some go on for weeks. Learning how much information to include, explain, gloss over or ignore makes daily writing akin to sprinting up a mountain. I’m trying to get to the top, I swear, but I’m wearing a weight vest of amateur mistakes and overzealous outlines.
Just how much background information do people need? If I defined every term and its history, provided full context for each idea, I’d be explaining the nature of the universe starting with the big bang. I have to draw the line somewhere, right? Let me know when you find it! Every so often I can escape the weeds, see with a wider lens and get the energy to press on – but man, floundering deep in the trough of details makes the wave crest of theme seem miles away.
I’m an introvert and love spending time solo. But the solitude of writing is its own unique thing. You may be the only person in the room when you write, but you’re never alone. Your own thoughts, whether spilled on the pages or trapped in your skull, accompany you on every keystroke (or lack thereof).
Quiet hours with stacks of white paper, red pens, notecards, and gigs of data can make even the most ardent introvert yearn for a cocktail party.
Hours go by without seeing another person. No matter how much help you get from others, the will to produce is a solitary event. The internal spark must be turned into a blowtorch and only you’re the only one with a lighter. It’s All. On. You.
And then the doubt. The ever-present self-doubt. When your thoughts hit the page, your clothes drop off, and the nakedness of creative expression exposes you to the world. If you have any blemishes, deformities, or are just plain bad at writing – everyone is gonna know. Struggling against these headwinds may be the hardest part. Pep talks, long walks, hours of staring at the whiteboard – all efforts to coach myself up so I can give the world a chance to hate me…that is if they even read it at all!
It’s no wonder why there are so few really good books out there. This shit is hard.
The need for aggressive personal development during the writing process surprised me. Typically I carry a confidence once described as “preternatural” in all my endeavors. But this book thing, man, I had to regroup for this. And regroup I did. Mindset control, physical exercise, daily schedules, weekly goals – all my tools needed sharpening. Luckily for me, I already had these with me, and all I had to do was get better. Without them, I’d be a guy with a laptop and a diary, rather than a writer and forthcoming author.
When it’s all said and done I hope the subject matter of my book informs my readers and the example I set for others will inspire them to achieve. If I can go from blogger to published author in two years, anyone (willing to work their ass off in obscurity with delirious enthusiasm) can.
I can see now why authors on one subject can become experts on personal development as well. The crossover is easy as the paths are the same.
One can not be an author without mastering process and process is the key to success in any field.
I never claimed to be a superhero. On my blog jackmurphylive.com I’ve shared my highs and my biggest L’s. Writing only about success is too much like bragging. My goal has always been to share my experiences so others can learn, relate, and find hope. I think the vulnerability and empathy I show in my writing is an example of healthy male emotion.
Being unafraid to admit my weaknesses, while improving them, is what I mean when I say men can and should be vulnerable. Positive masculinity doesn’t pretend life is grand while the room burns around you. Reflective honesty and compassionate self-assessment are hallmarks of the evolved, self-regulating man (or woman).