At 86, my friend / mentor "Nana Sue" has produced her first book. It's never too late to start. Here's some inspiration and 10 very practical tips to how you can do it too.
Do you aspire to write a book someday? Maybe you already have. If so, you would be among a miniscule percentage of people around the world who say they want to write and publish a book and actually do it.
Of course, the advent of self-publishing has made a huge sea change when it comes to writing and publishing that book.
In this article from January 2019 we learn UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) keeps track of books published by country and estimates 2.2 million new titles are published worldwide each year. But this estimate may actually be from six years ago!
Image credit: The ifod, How many new books are created each year and other book facts
So, it would appear more and more people – a higher percentage – are getting their ideas out into the world in the form of traditionally and self-published hardback, paperback and ebooks.
But still, those numbers represent a tiny percentage of people who actually move on their intention.
Indeed, to some extent, the process of becoming a published author can appear daunting. It also even can feel like you are crossing into another culture!
First-time author at 86 years old!
In last week’s post, The Art of Living with Skill, Integrity & Grace – Part 1, I shared in some detail about “Nana Sue,” or her official and now author name, Mary Sue Wulfmeyer. We have just managed to self-publish Nana Sue’s first book ever and, quite frankly, she is over the moon!
And, within the next two weeks, Nana Sue will have the opportunity to join me in attending the very last Tribe Conference (for writers and creatives) in Franklin, Tennessee as well as present her book locally at The Carmel Foundation to an adoring group of (mostly) senior citizens.
Having recently lost her husband of 42 years to Parkinson’s at age 90, the accomplishment of writing and publishing her memoirs – and she does have a worthwhile story to tell – this is a dream come true. It is actually so fun for me, as someone who has traveled with her through the process, to see her childlike wonder and enthusiasm about what has – and is about to – unfold.
Nana Sue has faced challenges and opportunities throughout her life, and her story is one of faith and perseverance. She is, now widowed and 86 years old, still in great shape, full of energy. The grief of the last couple years remains, but sunshine pervades most of her days. She is an eternal optimist. And no question, that does help.
But it wasn’t always that way. You’ll need to read her story to learn more! You can do that here.
Do you have to wait until you’re 86 years old?
Of course, I hope not! So I’m going to give you 10 ideas here of how you can get that book inside of you from idea to reality. Maybe it’ll be many books for, once you’ve “birthed” the first, there’s this desire to usher in more. But remember, it all begins with first steps. And consistency. Read on!
1 | Commit to writing every single day.
OK, if you want to take a day off – say, a sabbath or rest day, be it Sunday or any other day, you can do it. But consistent writing is the key.
2 | Write in community.
Yes, of course, the actual act of writing is mostly a solitary experience. But there are ways to bring community into the picture. For me, the first step was joining Tribe Writers. I've grown in my writing because of Tribe Writers and the many associated groups.
For me, the SPAR app and its challenges have really moved the needle as far as consistency goes. I’ve been in an ongoing writing challenge for months now. I actually began writing every single day since November 24, 2018. That’s 270 days at the writing of this article! Most of that time, I have been in a SPAR (Write 500+ words) challenge, requiring me to check in every day to show what I’ve done.
When I wasn’t? I found it much more difficult to get those 500+ words out. You may find the community you need is face-to-face. Most places have local writing groups you can join to help you move the needle forward.
3 | Track your writing.
It is gratifying to see the progress you make over time. There are a number of tools. One is ----. Personally, I use a Google Sheets page with a word counter I’ve created up top. Using this, I can see at 270 days, I’ve written ---- words on a variety of different projects. Some may be blog posts, some posts for other publications. Some has been personal journaling, some even long-form Facebook posts.
4 | Find a “writing buddy,” if you can.
This was KEY for my first book. We met consistently, early in the morning at a coffee shop for that season, and we both cranked out our projects. For me, it was my first book (here). For her, it was a master’s thesis. But the accountability to meet up with someone early in the morning was huge.
5 | Participate in – and complete – NaNoWriMo.
What is that?!? NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and it happens in November. You don’t have to write a novel, of course. You can write non-fiction or anything, really. But word count is key (over the course of the month, you are aiming for a 50K+ word DRAFT). People all over the planet participate in this and, in doing so, you feel as if you have accountability and support. And there are often local groups, too.
6 | Find your rhythm – when and where you will write, on a consistent basis.
But for now, I want to emphasize the structure and rhythm of your day for writing is important. I shared about how I wrote my first book in the mornings, meeting up with a friend who was working on her masters thesis. Doing made all the difference – for that season. Now I workout very early several days each week, so I cannot follow the same pattern. I’ve had to restructure my days to get the writing in. But still, I do it. I find a way to make it work, a rhythm, a pattern. I’m not so consistent with place anymore – but I am with time, mostly.
7 | Set your goal.
What IS that book you really want to write? Do you need to outline it, or are you going to just shoot from the hip? (In NaNoWriMo terminology, that’s called a “pantster.”) Fiction or nonfiction, a basic structure to know where you’re headed can be of immense value. Those with OCD might want to get very detailed. Others may not. Up to you.
8 | Get involved with writer’s groups.
These may be online or in-person, but get involved to challenge yourself, to help expand your thinking and your mind, to help you move in the direction of your ultimate goal – to become a published author, self-published or otherwise. Writer’s groups have the power of iron sharpening iron, helping you recognize where you need to improve, and learning how to get better. Also, through these groups, you learn about the process of not only writing a book, but marketing it as well.
9 | Reward yourself at the milestones of your project.
This is positive reinforcement. Yes, set up goodies to treat yourself to when you hit a milestone. Don’t skimp! Perhaps it’s purchasing something you’ve been putting off, or maybe giving yourself that manicure or pedicure you wouldn’t usually take. Just make sure to set those markers to reinforce your desire to move forward – and to drive you!
10 | Give yourself a consequence.
One intense one would be to set a monetary contribution to an organization you really don’t like if you miss your goal. Now, I know some will see this as a form of negative conditioning, and they may not like it. If that’s you and this suggestion causes your hair to rise, then simply ignore it! It’s not for everyone. But some people are strongly motivated by a negative consequence and are able to see it for what it is – a training tool, not a mindset shift.
When it comes down to it, books don’t “just happen.” They require hard work and diligence. Consistency in anything will, over time, lead to behavior change. This has been proven and explored in detail in works like The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and Atomic Habits by James Clear.
Whatever you do, don't just follow your dream. Make it happen. Intention and small steps forward every day are the secret. And now you know it!
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Roots & Petals is newly available for purchase on Amazon, both in paperback and Kindle.
Let me know how you are inspired to move forward in your creative dream in the comments!
Image credit: Sue Wulfmeyer and Caroline DePalatis
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