Our guest blogger on common obstacles to writing your book is my friend-in-real-life Kate Hanley, a New York Times-bestselling ghostwriter who helps authors get their message out and make a difference in the world. Her self-paced online class, “Write Your Book Like a Boss,” covers the nitty-gritty details of how to get a book written and published, as well as the squishier subjects, such as how to deal with your inner critic. (If you take the course, please select my name in the drop down menu — I will receive a small commission for the referral.) Kate is also the author of books under her own name. I received A Year of Daily Calm for Mother’s Day (my request!) and love it. Learn more about Kate on her website.
5 most common obstacles to writing your book
By Kate Hanley
There’s a reason why 80 percent of Americans (that’s 200 million people) say they want to write a book, yet only .04 percent of them actually do it in any given year: Writing a book is no small undertaking.
Doable? Absolutely. Easy? Not so much.
Especially if you’re falling prey to one or some of the most common obstacles to actually getting a book out into the world.
Are you subjecting yourself to any of these common roadblock thoughts? I hope seeing them with more clarity—and learning their workarounds—will help you get going!
Roadblock thought #1: “I don’t have the time.”
Of course getting all those words and thoughts down seems like it will take up mountains of time—and who has those lying around?
Detour: Rather than trying to “find” the time, presume it’s already there, and then go about claiming it.
Small chunks add up to big progress. You could resolve to spend 20 minutes a day working on your book, and in a month you’d have ten hours under your belt—enough to write about 10,000 words. If the average book is 75,000 words, you could have a complete first draft by Valentine’s Day.
Or, maybe you’re not a daily person; you really need to do a deep dive. You could carve out one four-hour period each week (Sunday morning?), or one full weekend a month, for 16 hours a month and be done by Christmas.
Roadblock thought #2: “I don’t know where to start.”
Writing a book is a big project, and there’s no one right way to do it. You could spend months, even years, thinking through all your options. In fact, many people do.
Detour: Use a two-page book proposal to distill your idea, set your intentions, and create a roadmap for yourself.
Here’s what it includes:
- The gist of what your book is about
- Who it’s for
- The problem it solves (for nonfiction books)
- The benefits it offers (for nonfiction books)
- Why you’re the perfect person to write it
- A down-and-dirty table of contents
Keep it concise and don’t overthink. Anyone can write two pages. And then you’ll have started!
Roadblock thought #3: “Who am I to write this book?”
Compiling all your best thoughts, slapping your name on the cover, and putting it “out there” is a great recipe for kicking off a swirl of self-doubt.
“I don’t have a degree.”
“I’m no expert.”
“People will see I’m a fraud.”
Detour: Go back to your two-page book proposal, and flesh out why you are the right person to right this book. Include everything that relates to your book’s subject—experiences from your personal life as well as the more quantifiable traits, such as training, clients, degrees, and writing experience.
Re-read it whenever you feel those doubts creeping back in.
Roadblock thought #4: “I need to focus on the work that pays the bills—there’s no energy left for anything else.”
At the root of this one is motivation, or a lack of it.
Detour: The best way to inspire yourself to take action is to remind yourself of the positive results you’re trying to create.
What do you want this book to do for you—build a fan base that will buy novels in your series or get you a promotion, better-paying or higher-profile clients, speaking gigs, media appearances, or increased credibility?
Then write out what’s at stake for your audience—how will they benefit from the ideas, entertainment, or the point of view that only you can present?
Write your answers down. Post them on the bulletin board above your desk. Don’t let yourself distract yourself from what’s really at stake.
Roadblock thought #5: “I just want to write the thing—I’m not good at marketing myself.”
If I had a quarter for every time I heard a writer say, “I’m just not good at marketing,” I’d be a rich woman. And yet, I get it. I had to get over this particular roadblock too.
Detour: What you need is a mindset shift.
If you believe that the information or entertainment you have to share can help people, it’s not an intrusion to tell them about it—it’s a service.
Also, it’s not really about you; it’s about the message inside it, and the potential of that message to help other people.
I say this with love: Get over yourself. The world needs what you’ve got, and you’re not helping anyone by keeping it corked up.
Which obstacle is keeping you from finishing your book? What are you going to do about it?
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