“So you’re thinking about writing a book…tell me about it,” the woman said on the phone.
Like that, the journey began…
A year ago I set out with a wild vision to write a book. Unsure of where to start, I called a writing teacher for advice. I thought it wouldn’t be too hard to accomplish, it became quickly evident this wasn’t the case. I was in for a wild ride on the creative roller coaster. Until one day, things…clicked. The words began to flow faster than I could handle and the writing began to pour.
Here are the 6 things I learned while writing the first draft of my book in less than 60 days.
1. Your quirks are what make you valuable.
Writing is a quick path to understand who you are, and it isn’t all about the words that fall onto the page. The process of creativity is the fastest path to discover your quirks and goofy traits, the things that make you, you.
I would find myself twisted up like a pretzel underneath multiple blankets talking out loud to myself mid-chapter. I would leave a book on top of my head while I story mapped. I would dance around my living room late in the night after ending a powerful scene.
But, the more I talked to other writers, the more I realized we are all the same. Everyone has their strange quirks or idiosyncrasies that really set you apart. And that is just it, these things you find yourself wanting to hide are precisely the things you should share because they are what makes you uniquely you.
2. The build-up and preparation are what make the end result.
When I set out to write this book everything was prep work: mapping things out, thinking about themes and learning how to actually write a scene worth reading. It felt like it was taking forever, and getting in the way of doing what I actually wanted..to write.
All that foreplay matters more than you know. A story that reminds me of this lesson is the napkin story about Picasso:
Picasso was sitting in a Paris cafe when a fan noticed him and made the request that he draw a sketch on a bar napkin. Picasso obliged, drew a sketch, showed it to the fan and then requested $100,000 for it. The fan was astonished and replied, “but that only took you five minutes to draw,” Picasso paused and then replied, “No, it took me my entire life.”
Whether you are writing a book, building a business or pursuing a sport, realize that sometimes it takes months, years, in some instances, a lifetime, to perfect something. You then turn around and make something magical happen in a single moment. But it was never one moment, it was a journey of highs and lows that would one day bring you there.
The truth is, delayed gratification gives higher feelings of joy than immediate gratification.
3. Your dream is your top priority.
Have you ever wanted something so much you would be willing to let go of everything else to get it? That sounds extreme, but making dreams come true is extreme. But, as someone who has lived both the inspired and the mundane life, I will say it is far more fulfilling to want things so much that you dedicate every ounce of your energy into them.
Creating art is as important as growing a child, you are bringing something to life! The goal of writing a book is often to make some kind of impact on people, a means to connect and tell a story that has the ability to save others. Your story may connect with something and help them change their life, you could tell a story that brings a smile to someones face on the day they didn’t want to live any longer, you could share something that inspires a person to create something themselves.
It is all healing in some way, and in order to do that, you have to care.
4. You have to write every single day.
I used to think I needed 4 hours of time blocked to get anything done. I would set aside my weekends and one evening a week to write. Well, the weekend would roll around and a friend would need support or the surf would be great and I’ de forgo writing. That had to change.
It all comes down to building habits that create success. If you question that, there are literally stacks and stacks of books on the importance of habit. For good reason, it works. When you build positive habits into your life positive change will occur. I’m not talking about taking an ice-cold shower in the morning or binge drinking green juice like it’s going out of style. I mean habits of action specific to creating.
Every day, from 9–10 am I would write. It didn’t matter how I felt, what I was wearing or whether my lucky diffuser was spreading Essential oils into the air. I was writing.
It started out rocky. I would write maybe 500–700 words or half of a scene would begin to form. But I was building the habit and by the end of the month I had figured out that if I spent 10 minutes mapping things out in my notebook and then 50 minutes of writing I could hit 1500 words every day.
5. Build it, and forget it.
Create the outline, learn the skillset to develop scenes, have voice build the stakes and character arc and then…don’t think about it.
Heres the thing, I came from an athletic background and learned at a young age that when it comes to the big moments of competition, you have to be fully present and not worry about minute details. You want to be in the flow. This is where the best moments of performance come, both athletically and creatively.
As soon as I was able to let go and forget about punctuation or all the prep work, magic happened. Suddenly, the story was telling itself. The story began to reveal things about myself that I never wanted to admit and that I had been searching for answers to in my mind but had always come up empty-handed. Now the words were pouring out onto the page in a way I had never imagined.
Give yourself the gift of forgetting for a while and be present with the story. The fifth editing revision is there for a reason my friends.
6. Stop worrying about the outcome and enjoy the process.
You must love what you do every minute of the day because each tiny moment adds up the big wins.
I have an idea called the “nametag effect”, this is when you walk into an event and people ask what you do for a living, you reply: “lawyer”, “doctor”, “entrepreneur”. In that moment, it probably felt so good to say. But then, the inflated feeling vanishes and you are right back to complete the daily tasks of your job title. If you don’t like them, that is a lot of moments that aren’t enjoyed.
Find something where the moments in between the wins are what bring you to life. Find something where you are not only proud to say it but also excited to return to it.
This is only the first draft for me, and there will be many more before it’s done. I hope you start the draft of what you believe in more than anything else. Because life isn’t meant to be lived in the shadows of the mundane, its meant to be lived in the light. As a fair-skinned redhead, that’s saying something.
This article first appeared in Medium.