I want to write a book but I’m afraid of starting because, knowing me, I will fail, so I keep wondering whether anyone will care. Should I do it?
Eagerly awaiting your thoughts,
What I can tell you is that writing a book will turn you into a nut job. There is no way around it. All authors are nut jobs. And when you finish your book, you will be a lovable nut job too.
Here’s a day in the life of a writer. You wake up. You brush your teeth. You wander into your office. It’s tiny. It’s messy. There is a rubber chicken hanging from the mouth of a taxidermied alligator head that’s mounted on the wall. You fire up your laptop.
Mostly your writing consists of spinning in your office chair, staring at the ceiling, trying to think deep, author-like thoughts, such as, “Was it me who put the chicken in the alligator’s mouth, or my wife?” Or “What’s the capital of New Hampshire?”
Whatever you might be thinking about, you’re NOT thinking about your book because you’re stalling. Why? Because you’re stuck. You can’t think of anything to write, so you just—
Concord. That’s the capital of New Hampshire.
Phew! What a busy morning you’ve had. So you strut out of your office, fix lunch, and hope that saturated fat will fuel some more creativity and insight. When you finish eating, you feel an overwhelming urge to get to work. So you stand, stretch, and lie down for a nap instead.
See what I mean? Total nut job.
And it’s even worse for writers during a pandemic. Right now creativity is hard to come by because the pandemic is killing creativity within every industry.
People are in slumps. Many work remotely, stuck at home, with spouses shouting from adjoining rooms, dogs barking, and screaming kids running around who are caught in the horrific throes of puberty.
These are hard times.
Still, one of your biggest obstacles as a writer in the 21st century will be negative feedback. This might not sound like a big deal, but for some writers it is THE BIGGEST DEAL.
Because negative feedback will obliterate your inspiration. According to one study done by John Gottman and Robert Levenson, which monitored the effects of criticism, researchers discovered that insults impact us much more than praise.
The study found that it takes roughly five compliments to counterbalance one insult.
Think about this. This means for every 10 people who say “you suck,” you need 50 people to feed you and call you pretty.
I have met MANY authors who quit writing after ugly feedback. I have almost quit dozens of times. It’s only natural. As a human you’re hardwired to feed on encouragement. Your brain is constantly trying to figure out whether you’re making progress or wasting time.
Sadly, we live in an age of negative remarks. It’s popular to be critical, and you will definitely encounter this venom when you write your book. If you don’t believe me, let’s have a look at a few actual book reviews I found online:
“Awful, awful! Do not recommend this book! It is horrible!!!”
That review was for John Steinbeck.
“…Really hard to read this crap, it’s so plebeian, I don’t know how anyone can enjoy this guy.”
That was for Hemingway.
“Never heard of this author before, don’t know why she keeps popping up on my feed? This book was stupid.”
That comment was intended for Jane Austen.
Yes! THE Jane Austen. One of history’s most famous novelists, whose work is translated into almost every language, whose books have continually been in print since 1811, inspiring literary anthologies, major motion pictures, and BBC male actors to spontaneously wear skintight riding pants.
So before you even start writing, I think it’s good to be aware of these pitfalls. But now that I’ve said all that, here’s what I actually think:
Just sit down and write your book.
I know that sounds painfully simple, but you’d be surprised how many people want to write a book but never do. So just “doing it” is 80 percent of the battle.
Have fun when you write. Don’t worry about how it turns out. Lose yourself in your sentences. Enjoy the tapping sound of the keyboard. Success is not not your reward. Your life is your reward. The book is merely evidence of your wonderful life.
During the worst of this pandemic, I was finishing my recent novel. The world was falling apart, I had friends who were dying, and my family was sick. And yet somehow I was supposed to summon the energy to write. I kept feeling like a major idiot every time I sat down to work. I felt like a real fool. I don’t know why.
But something happened to me midway through the first chapter. I became so enveloped in what I was doing that I couldn’t wait to revisit my novel each morning. I began caring about my characters like close friends. I realize this sounds bizarre, but I formed friendships with these imaginary people as if they were members of my life. Because in a way they were.
After months working on this book, I wrote the final chapter, closed my laptop, and cried for about 15 minutes until my wife found me with my head in my hands. I was weeping tears of joy and pure exhaustion.
My caring wife knelt before me and asked why I was crying, but I couldn’t explain. Maybe it’s something all writers go through.
That’s when she placed a hand on my shoulder, met my eyes with her own, and affectionately said: “You are such a freaking nut job.”