Writing a book is a journey that takes a lot of dedication, persistence, and hard work. As an author who has written six books, I know all too well the challenges and rewards of the writing process. Along the way, I’ve learned many valuable lessons that have helped me grow as a writer and a person.
It feels almost a privilege, then, to be sharing my insights from the writing trenches and reflecting on my experience of writing six books. From managing the creative process to dealing with writer’s block, I’m about to share my candid reflections on what I’ve learned, what worked, what didn’t, and what I would do differently.
So, if you’re an aspiring writer or simply curious about what it takes to write a book, keep reading!
My writing journey thus far
If you’d told me ten years ago, I’d be writing six books; I’d have thought you’d been on the gin. After all, I never aspired to be a writer as a child. It was something that crept up on me, a bit like middle age. But unlike grey hairs or night sweats, writing was a rather welcome surprise. Instead of feeling like a chore, it felt easy and enjoyable. An escape from my busy life as a teacher.
And, like anything, the more I wrote, the better I became. Malcolm Gladwell would be proud. But most importantly, the more I wrote, the more I loved it. And that was the unexpected part. After all, research shows the more you practise something, the more skilled you become. But to love something too? That’s not always guaranteed.
One of the reasons I think I have loved this journey is the lessons I’ve learned along the way – about my writing skills, yes, but also about the person I’ve had to become to publish six books in seven years. It’s that transformation that interests – and delights – me.
So here are ten lessons I want to share with you in the hope they inspire your writing journey, too.
Ten lessons I’ve learned on my writing journey
Before I start, I want to emphasise that these lessons don’t make me a superhuman writer. I still struggle with self-doubt and procrastination as much as the next person. I still worry about what people will think of my work and whether, at some point, someone will tap me on the shoulder and tell me I’m a fraud.
But, as you’re about to find out, all of this is part of the creative process and should be expected!
So, here goes.
1. Consistent writing habits matter
You can be the world’s greatest writer, but it’s moot unless you sit your butt in the chair and write. Every day preferably.
It doesn’t always have to be a book you’re working on – if you’ve lost motivation, just write whatever you like. Think of writing activities like journaling or free writing as your ‘warm-up stretches’ before you get into the actual race.
2. Follow your gut
Write what you love. Never write ‘for the market’ or ‘because someone said you should’. Write whatever is calling you to put words on the page. If nothing is, it’s okay to wait. Forcing it will only end in misery.
And if something has been in your head for a long time – which always happens with me – for the love of God, write it! There’s nothing worse than carrying around a project bursting to come out and doing nothing with it. Let it spill out onto the page and help others.
3. Invite your inner critic along for the ride but don’t let it grab the steering wheel
I love this analogy from Liz Gilbert. That niggling inner voice WILL pop up with its opinions but don’t shut it out. Embrace it. It’s just trying to protect you. Acknowledge its existence, thank it for its concern and reassure it you’re okay.
Realise your inner critic/self-doubt isn’t going anywhere, no matter how much you try to ignore it. Accept it will be there for most of the journey and crack on anyway.
4. Celebrate the small wins – don’t wait for the big ones
A small win is completing 300 words when you felt all words eluded you. A small win is getting to the end of a chapter. A small win is sitting down to write when you’d rather be ANYWHERE else. Rewards work – coffee, wine or a boogie around the kitchen.
I like to have a milestone reward for the end of each 5000 words – it might just be a coffee in my favourite café with a slice of cake, or sometimes it’s as simple as sticking on Beyoncé’s ‘Run the World’ and turning the volume up.
Need further inspiration? Here’s how one author likes to celebrate her writing milestones.
5. Log your word count daily – seriously
A simple spreadsheet will do. Nothing is more motivating than seeing your word count increase – every word is another word closer to the end!
And if you’re feeling brave, share your word count at various intervals on social media or with friends. People love to support progress – even incremental stuff!
6. Editing is where the magic happens
NEVER edit and write. Vomit your words on the page in the first draft. Don’t go back and read it until the very end. EVER. Keep writing. Keep moving forwards. You’ll hate your first draft, but that’s okay. Subsequent drafts are for polishing and making it shine.
First draft = a lump of clay. Final draft = shiny, glazed pot.
7. Avoid comparing your first draft to a published book on the shelf in a bookshop
8. Be unashamedly YOU
Yes, use other authors for inspiration and motivation, but don’t attempt to BE them. People want to read YOUR tone of voice, not a poor attempt to sound like someone else.
Avoid adopting your mother’s phone voice, too – it’s not 1973 anymore. Instead, stay true to yourself and your authentic voice. People will love your book all the more for it.
9. Find a support crew
It doesn’t have to be the size of the Kardashian’s makeup team, either. Just a few people to support you on your writing journey and help you keep your chin up when you’d rather weep into your cornflakes.
Want to be a better writer? Here’s the answer. Read the great stuff, the crap stuff and everything in between. In your genre and out. Thirty minutes a day minimum. You can thank me later.
So there you have them! My lessons learned from over ten years of writing and six books published. And, to be fair, these are applicable whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction.
Just remember to enjoy the journey, reflect on your growth and write the damn book already!
If you’d like some support writing your damn book, why not book in a clarity call and see how I can support you.