I suppose this is the standard line when one meets an author. If not, then I’ve received this unusual comment about half a dozen times this past week. As something different this year in my classroom, I thought I’d put up quotes, perhaps a new one every week or so. Well, we’re into the second semester, and the first quote is still on the board. Napoleon Hill said, “The start of all achievement is desire.” Appropriate, I believe, for a high school classroom, and for those who shared with me their desire to ‘write a book’.
They are not the only ones. In a writing workshop, the instructor stated that, “80% of all Americans believe they have a book inside of them.” It appears that since I have three in print, a fourth completed, and a fifth that is definitely the first in a trilogy, I belong in this category. And, because I’ve done what these people desire to do, they ask for my opinion, how I did it, how much work it was, and how successful I’ve become, which, they realize after speaking to me, is all very subjective. When I see a soldier in the community, I try not to stare. I want to ask them all kinds of questions about what it’s like being in the miliary and all the great stuff they get to learn. I’m not into guns and blowing things up, but the knowledge and the skill are what draw me to these modern warriors. Though I desire to know how it feels to be a soldier, I have no plans to sign up at the recruiter’s office. (Besides, don’t they have an age limit?) So I’m wondering if this same phenomenon occurs when people find out that I’ve written and published books.
I believe part of them wants to have a sounding board, someone who would listen to their idea and not think it is impossible, like a spouse or friend or coworker might say. The other part of them looks at me like I do with military personnel: awe and curiosity. I listen patiently to their idea, offer kudos for the guts to share their thoughts, and give them encouragement. If it is nonfiction, I suggest other mediums that they may employ to get their materials out into the hands of the masses. But really, it all comes down to their desire. Volumes of ideas are available on how to organize your time, where and when and how to partake in the act of writing. There are just as many suggestions on how to toss out the first 800 words written, deeming them as ‘no good’, and beginning somewhere else in the story or pile of case studies.
One of the first things they ask me is when do I write. Whenever and wherever I can is my standard answer. Some people have a certain place, a particular time. All that is fine, but when it matters, do the words land on the page or the computer screen, or are there more excuses than punctuation rules in the English language? We, as a society and as the human race, excel at procrastination. There will always be something or someone that will insert itself between you and your creativity, if you allow it. (I wrote a blog on this a while ago titled, “Time”.) There are reasons and excuses, all legitimate, for NOT writing your book, composing your song, sculpting that piece of wood or granite, or tying on your ballet shoes and doing time at the bar (the metal one on the mirrored wall, not the one where adult beverages are served).
There has never been a desire that did not demand some action for it to manifest in reality. A law degree, owning an SUV, hiking the Grand Canyon, losing twenty pounds, meeting Mr. or Mrs. Right, or taking a dream vacation all begin as a ‘want’ but require ‘work’ to move into tangible form. If the desire is strong enough, and you feed it with hopes and wishes and ‘work’, it will be your next achievement. However, there is no guarantee that it will arise exactly how you envisioned it, but I think that is half the excitement. But there is quite a gap between, “I’m thinking about,” and “I’m doing a __________,” (fill in the blank).
I tell people that I have always liked to write, that it is something I can do with little effort, and nearly always it brings understanding and joy, two things that I desire to have in my life. If you are serious about ‘writing a book’, then I have some questions for you: 1) Why do you want to write? 2) What do you hope to gain, or have others get, from your writing? 3) How often do you think about writing anything? 4) Do you keep a journal, have you taken a class, attended a workshop? 5) What are you willing to give up in exchange for what writing demands? 6) Does it push at you, consume your thoughts, keep you up at night, or do you think it might be cool to write and publish a book?
All these questions are directed to determine the level of desire for this achievement, and publishing a book is certainly an accomplishment! It could be that you, or one of the people who have shared this want with me, is feeling the pressure of the muse that dwells in creativity, and, unsure of an appropriate outlet, says, “So, I’m thinking about writing a book.” There are myriad avenues for creation to be formed. If writing doesn’t suit, perhaps painting, drawing, sculpting, dancing, or singing will free that which has become trapped because we, as humans, ignore the ‘work’ and allow procrastination to decide how we spend our time. Sometimes my students will tell me, “I’ll try to be on time,” or “I’ll try to do my homework,” or “I’ll try harder.” In the wise words of Yoda, “There is no ‘try’. Do or not do.” That is what I tell my kids, and what I’m going to begin saying to people who tell me that they are ‘thinking’ about writing a book.
If you’re in the group of ‘thinking about’ and not yet doing, go back and answer the set of questions I have posted here. If your desire becomes strong enough, or you’d like to explore what to do next, here are my suggestions: 1) Write down you idea(s), 2) if it is nonfiction, read through notes or interviews or organize pictures that will be included in the book, 3) fiction writers could begin with listing characters and setting and what might/will happen in the story, 4) begin a list of possible titles, 5) write every day (and if you continue to devise ways NOT to write, then investigate another outlet for the creativity that has gotten your attention), and the biggest, most important thing to do, 6) STOP the fear of judgement, of failure, of success.
“Do, or not do.” If the ‘doing’ elicits bubbles of joy and ease and fulfillment (if how/what you write is cathartic, then these ‘feelings’ come afterward), if it comes willingly, though with some ‘work’, then ride the flow. Write your book. End the thinking and begin the doing. However, if the ‘doing’ becomes a chore, more painful and uncomfortable than a stubbed toe, direct your attention to another modality. Creation should always be expressive, joyful, require a little work, the desire overriding the procrastination, the action manifesting the want. I invite you to view that which fills me, but still requires a little something on my part. I’ll soon be revamping my web site, and no guarantee that I’ll continue to have the stories and poems available. Read them here www.myjoyenterprises.com Perhaps they will help to fuel your ‘thinking about writing a book’.