I’ve been a book coach for two decades. I’ve worked with expats on novels, lawyers on self-help books, and acupuncturists on memoir, and I’ve written three novels myself. People often ask, “What is the biggest issue new writers face when writing books?” There are many, like:
- Writers need to learn to let go of perfectionism to write the rough draft (rough means rough, people).
- They must commit to the book, and not try to write it “on the side”.
- We together have to address their low self esteem, their belief that their story isn’t important enough. This kills many a very good book idea.
All of these, though, fit into a larger issue: the book itself is an entity with a mind of its own. We need to respect “the book” and what it wants, and stop trying to control it. “Submitting” to a power greater than us (yes, it’s a very spiritual concept) can be difficult for many writers, especially in Western culture.
There are two metaphors that always come to mind when I’m trying to explain this to clients — a child, and old-growth forest.
A book is like your child. You can try to control how she develops, what she wears, what she says, and what she wants to grow up to be, or you can stand back and watch to see the way the child wants to grow and nurture that. One is a healthy approach, and the other is full of a helluva lot of frustration (and lack of success). If you’re stuck in your book, or you can’t get started, sit with it. Ask the book what IT wants. Nurture the ideas, and truths that are demanding to come into form. (I believe “god” is pure creativity that has an urge to be born into physical reality. It is my deepest spiritual belief.) Often, if you can align with what your book wants to be, the manuscript will write itself.
A book is like an old-growth forest. I’ve spent a lot of time hiking the ancient forests in the Pacific Northwest, down to the Redwoods in California. You know that feeling when you walk into nature, and it’s so much bigger than you are? You’re overwhelmed and humbled. You know that despite your ego’s belief to the contrary, you are NOT in control of everything.
Your book is bigger than you are. If it isn’t, you’re not doing it right. It is ancient. It is epic. It is legend. Move out of the way, and let it be bigger than you are.
Can you see how approaching writing your book from this sacred, huble place could take care of all the issues you might have as a new writer? You don’t need to be perfect in writing the book, because the very act of meeting this larger-than-life project requires humility, requires you get that you’re not perfect — ever. You may have low self esteem, but your book doesn’t. Let it lead you. Finally, this is a deeply sacred undertaking, this bringing truth and authenticity into the world. How could you not commit fully to it? It’s the most important thing you’ll ever do in your life.