It’s on most people’s bucket lists—everyone has a book inside them, waiting to be written.
It’s such a big task though, where do we start? That’s why so many great books just stay inside people’s heads, unwritten.
I loved writing poetry as a kid, but these days, my writing skills are utilized more in the form of reports, emails and letters to staff. I was just about to quit my corporate job because I was unhappy, but I wasn’t sure what else I was going to do. I decided to take a year off to fix a life that had recently fallen apart and rebuild it into something that vaguely resembled happiness.
I set off around the world to live my dreams, to do all the things that made my heart sing and discover my passion. I trained to be a yoga teacher, visited many countries and experienced different cultures. I studied mindfulness and meditation, and I volunteered, teaching English to Buddhist monks. I learned a lot about life and so much about myself and what it takes to create our own happiness.
Along the way I wrote—more for my own needs than anything else. I loved what I was learning and took notes as I went. This newly found wisdom, plus my own personal transformation, became a powerful message I wanted to share with others—and by the end of that year I was a blogger.
But a full-fledged author? That was another step—maybe one too far. I’d never really thought about it before, but as the notes piled up, I almost felt like there could be a book there. For a few months, I wrote in secret, before I was comfortable telling people about my dream. I’d never considered myself an author before, but here it was an actual book that I had written.
I overhauled my life and learned so much in the transformation, I wanted to share my story. What started off as my own personal writing therapy became something that now inspires others on similar journeys of self discovery. But as I wrote a book to share lessons I’d learned, the process itself taught me a host of other lessons too.
1. We are the authors of our own stories, and we can rewrite the ending.
As a writer, one gets a unique perspective—like an artist with a blank canvas, we get to create the vision, redraft, re-edit and perfect it. If you don’t like how it’s unfolding, change it. Often we can be so wrapped up in our lives, particularly if they’re a bit tough, that it can help to stand back as the author of your story (or the director of the movie that is your life) and gain some perspective. Watch the events without being in them to figure out what needs to change and how we can move forward.
2. We can’t move onto the next chapter if we keep re-reading the last one.
If we dwell on the past, we’ll miss what comes next—and that’s the best bit, because we’re crafting it now. What do you want it to be?
3. With both writing a book and with life—it’s only going to happen if you make it happen.
Ideas had been in my head for years, but it seemed like too big of a job to even start. Where would I start? And of course, there was the fear of what people would think, and the fear that I would fail. I just didn’t have the time—there was always something else I’d need do first. (I imagined that writing a book would perhaps be one of those things I’d do in my retirement, when I’d got lots of free time.) Begin today. Write the first word, then the first page—and then, before you know it, there’s a book! It’s the same for life; take one step at a time.
4. Accept the rough along with the smooth.
Writing about things that fuel my passion was one thing, and I loved it. But building a website, doing promotional events and radio interviews? Not so much. I thought that writing the book would be the hardest part, but once I’d done that, a whole new side of publishing lay before me—a world I knew nothing about. Marketing and self-promotion are not my strengths, and this was the beginning of a very steep learning curve. Standing up in front of rooms full of people to talk about my story left my palms feeling sweaty. I learned a lot about the business side of writing, a lot about failure and how we learn from this to improve and grow. I learned a lot about fear and how we have to get out of our comfort zone to achieve what we’re capable of.
5. Be resilient.
Then came the disappointments. The lack of book sales, negative reviews and rejection letters from agents. People who didn’t like my book—the one I’d spent years writing that carried my heart and soul. The tough times have helped me learn and grow, and resilience has helped me carry on regardless, and accept that there will be bumps in the road. It won’t always be easy, and not everyone will like the book just because I do. Resilience also helped me manage my self-doubt. It’s all been done before, by people far more successful than me, so what chance do I have? A wise woman once said to me, “Yes everyone has written a book about everything. It’s always been done before, but not by you.” We bring our unique perspective to everything in life.
6. Persevere with perspective.
Living our dreams is not always easy. There were times I struggled to make ends meet and was penniless and homeless, but despite worrying about the lack of money, I realized that money wasn’t the reason I did this. (I don’t know many writers who do!) It has to be done for love, because sometimes that’s all there is. Otherwise, we’d never make it through the tough times. This experience has taught me perspective, and it’s taught me to never give up.
I constantly remind myself of my “why”—the reason I do this and what success means to me. Not necessarily the money or book sales, but knowing that I can help at least a handful of people change their lives; that makes it all worthwhile. When I feel impatient that I’m not a best selling author yet, I have to remind myself how far I’ve come and remember to celebrate the little wins along the way.
As with life, writing a book is a challenge. It’s a journey from beginning to end, and along the way there are ups and downs, failures, successes and learning curves. However, it pays to remember that in life, we are the authors.
We write our own stories, writing each page as we go—and by taking small steps each day toward our goals, we’re creating those stories through our words. Whether it’s writing a book, or another dream on you bucket list—start today. Take that first step. Put pen to paper, and make it happen.
Author: Jess Stuart
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina