When you write about your biggest demons, first you get very very angry.
Then you find grace.
Then, only then, the real story emerges.
Life (and writing) is a process. A long-winded, often painful, frequently frustrating process. But one that’s worth making the effort for.
Novel #2 is done.
To be precise, it was done earlier this month and it’s with my editor now, awaiting final revisions and copyedits.
While this book was the second novel that I’ve written, it’s actually my eleventh book. And just writing that sentence makes me wonderfully giddy because as many of you know, I’ve spent years saying that all I want to do is write books and now, at this point in my career, I finally find myself in a position where I can honestly say that this is what I do.
But here’s what I want you to know and understand.
My first novel took seven years to finish. The second took seven months.
My first nonfiction book was published in 2005. I didn’t write the next one until nine years later, in 2014. And then it took me two years to publish the third one, in 2016.
Last year, I set myself a challenge to write an entire series of books in three months. The writing was going great but then I ran out of money for the covers and editing, and so I pulled the brakes on those and started working at a slower pace. But not before I wrote and released six new books.
If you’re in the fifth, sixth, or seventh year of a novel or if you’ve written one nonfiction book never to write another one again, I want you to look at my trajectory carefully and understand what makes the difference between someone who is able to say “I have a career writing books” and someone who is stuck in the first phase of that process.
The person who has a career finishes. REPEATEDLY.
And here’s something that I have now learned, that gives me a lot of hope for my career and I hope will give you some motivation to get your own books written:
The first time was the hardest. (Seven years for novel, nine years between publication of nonfiction.)
The second time was easier AND faster. (Seven months for novel, two years between publication of nonfiction.)
I haven’t started the third novel yet (though the protagonist has made an appearance in my psyche in the last week) but I can tell you, it’s not going to take seven months. And my nonfiction books? They’re now published months apart. (Next one’s coming in December!)
The difficulty level, both in how long it takes and how hard the actual process is, has been getting smaller and smaller. It takes less and less time.
And there’s only one reason why: I learned to finish. And let me be very clear: I learned to finish REPEATEDLY.
Writing one book after struggling for seven years is great. But if you’re a creative who likes to, you know, create, this is probably more frustrating for you than you can ever express.
I get it.
You see the speed at which I work. I write hundreds of articles, create dozens of courses and now write multiple books all in the span of one year. Seven years for ONE project? Just tells you how committed I was to that story and the battle within myself that I had to overcome.
But I did overcome it. And it came down to a few things:
Mindset: I believed. While there are thousands of writers out there moaning about not having time, not having energy, not having motivation, not havng any connections, I believed that I had everything I needed for the stage of the process I was in and that whatever was needed in the next step would magically appear once I got there. You know what? It did.
Education: I learnt. I went into a considerable amount of debt and hired one of the top editors in NY publishing to help me with my first novel. Then, even though the first one didn’t sell, I hired her again for the second one. Because I’m not in this for one book, I’m in this for a career. (Also: See #1. You either believe or you don’t. I have no time for people who say they believe but then run away at the very first moment they’re required to back that belief.)
Practice: Just believing in your success and learning how to do things isn’t enough. You actually have to DO them. I committed to my success by showing up, day after day, even when it was hard, even when I didn’t like what I was writing, even when the rest of my life was a mess.
Community: Finally, and this is as important as the other three, though most people will not realize it. I surrounded myself with positive writers only. For me, it’s really simple. In the last year, there were dozens of books that I saw published that I loved reading and whose writers are similar in style and substance to what I want to write. For all the people complaining about how publishing is impossible and there’s no opportunity for someone with no connections or wanting to write serious fiction, there are actual writers who have written and published serious fiction in the last year that I’ve read and enjoyed. If they could do it, I can do it. I surround myself with success stories because I choose to be infected with enthusiasm, not self-pity.
In 2002, I started my writing journey with no idea where I was going or what I wanted to do with my career. All I knew was that I loved books and I loved telling stories.
Sixteen years later, I’m writing books and I’m telling stories.
You know why? I learned to finish. And I learned to finish REPEATEDLY.
You can talk about writing a book. Or you can actually do it.
I’d love to see you over here in my camp.