3 Lessons I Learned From Writing A Book
The Adventure of Writing a Book
A couple of years ago, I gave birth to a book, Living Singlish, an ‘older sister in your pocket’ for women building strong, independent lives, whether alone or in a relationship. It flowed out of me, as the result of helping a young friend launch her life. What started as a letter grew, till one day I thought ‘This is a book’! Completing it took focus and work, and was one of the most energizing projects I have ever undertaken. And along the way, I learned some important lessons about big projects, publishing, and personal satisfaction.
One step at a time
Actually getting a book out there into the world takes many more steps than writing. Thinking about them all at once was enough to send me to a corner to hide. Weeks went by with no progress. Finally I decided not to think about the entire project at once. I set small tasks: read and edit this chapter. Add more to this section. Look for references on that subject. Each was big enough to be a real step towards completion, but small enough that I could handle thinking about it. That turned out to be a good lesson for any big project. Cutting it up into smaller chunks makes it easier to see progress, and that inspires you to keep going.
About the ‘rules’
There are lots of rules about writing books: make an outline first. Write about what you know. Or don’t. Get a publisher before you write . …some work, some don’t. Nowadays, with the likes of Upwork, Bookbub and Amazon, you can create and publish your book on your own. Yes, a publisher can do promotional work that you can’t do on your own. It’s easier to get a review in the New York Times when a major publisher stands behind the book. But plenty of people achieve bestseller status without that. There are books and courses devoted to teaching you how to promote your own books on Amazon, Bookbub, Goodreads and more. And don’t forget podcasts! After a while, I realized that ‘the rules’ didn’t always apply.
Done is better than perfect
After months of writing, I thought I had a finished book. Then I read it again and made a few edits. A week later, the same. And a week after that. Finally, I had to admit that the additional edits weren’t really making a material difference. Sure, I could go through it again with my trusty Elements of Style, the ultimate grammar bible, by my side. But was changing one more sentence from passive to active tense really going to make a major difference? I recognized that 98% right was as good as 1005. It was time to publish.
And that book? Well, it hasn’t made me a billionaire (yet), but it has touched lives, and that’s an amazing feeling. Women I have never met write to tell me that it encouraged them to change careers, move cities, or start taking control of their finances. They are learning to live the lives that they want. And that was really my goal. You can get it on Amazon -check out my homemade Author page too. It’s not perfect, but it is 100% mine. And that’s the real lesson I took away: I can do it. You can do it. And it feels great!