Am I Ready to Write a Book?
There comes a time in many an entrepreneur or small business owner’s life when she’s confronted with this question: how do I know when I am ready to write a book?
The ensuing process is not usually as romantic as we think: sitting in your turret, fluffy dog at your feet, hot tea at your side as the wind whistles in the pines. “Today I am ready to write a book,” you think happily before you crack your knuckles and are soon blissfully humming away, and, as writer Anne Lamott puts it, “typing fully formed passages as fast as a court reporter.”
*Note: “not usually” is a euphemism for never. It is never like this.
Rather, for entrepreneurs, small business owners, and freelancers, the decision to write a book tends to come in in one of three markedly less romantic ways:
- As a pragmatic decision after much work and planning involving checklists, vision boards, workshops and several Internet-based organizational platforms.
- When two thought streams collide causing a beautiful almost cartoon-like epiphany when the light bulb goes on: perhaps while you are searching for something in your lecture notes, realize you answer the same kinds of questions for many of your clients, or finish reading a book from someone in your field and think casually, “Hey, I could do that.” Then you hear your own words and realize what you just said could actually come true.
- Or it comes at you from the side, suggested by a friend or colleague. Writing a book may have simply never occurred to you, which often happens when you’re too close, too deep in the work itself to see how it could be translated into another format. (For example, you know how when you’ve written something- a blog draft or document- and you read the lines over and over to the point where they sound like gibberish? That’s a scientifically known brain exhaustion that happens when we’re too familiar with the material to be able to see it clearly anymore.)
A great example of being sideswiped by an incredible business idea is in David Chang’s premiere episode on his Netflix documentary show Ugly Delicious, when Wolfgang Puck remembers how Johnny Carson used to come in on Fridays and order a dozen pizzas. Turns out he was freezing them. Puck thought he was nuts until Puck tried it himself, realized Carson was on to something, and soon, frozen Wolfgang Puck pies hit the shelves, and soon after that, Puck’s empire blossomed a whole frozen entree arm. The opportunity was there all along, but he was just too close to see it.
Regardless of how you landed at the idea of writing a book, once the seed is planted, that seed is a tenacious thing, and it’s planted.
From there, you may go through a number of psychological stages: disbelief (me?), fear (no way, I couldn’t), giddy possibility (but what if I did?) and then the interview when you actually see if you’re up to the task:
~ Am I ready to parlay my knowledge into a print format?
[Answer: of course you are, dope. You wouldn’t be asking yourself this if you weren’t ready.]
~ What can I offer my clients, customers, or the world at large that will make their life easier, work more effectively, or spirits lighter?
[Answer: Everything (or let’s be straight; you’ve have shut this whole thing down right away if you didn’t believe you had the information, skills and wherewithal) (But let’s be even straighter: you wouldn’t be in business, striving the way you do, if you didn’t have those important things)].
… until you finally arrive back at yourself, ready to get back to work inside of the architecture of this new normal.
So whether you sat down and practically gave writing a book a good think in the pre-planning stage, or the idea came at you from behind and hit you upside the head, the result is the same: once that horse is out of the gate, it’s gone, sprinting for the sunset, and you’re going to write a book.
Now you’re imagining how it would work, what questions you would answer, how you would be the one to close the gap in your clients’ or customers’ knowledge, or how you would fill a much-needed niche in your field. Then you start thinking about whom you’d approach for testimonials, what you’d wear in the photo of you on the back cover, how your peers and colleagues would respect you differently. Go ahead; enjoy the feeling. It’s exciting!
But where do I find my material?
The early enthusiastic phase is a fun one, but next comes actually writing the darn thing. Before reality hits and you put up your hands and say, “Oh, no, not me; I don’t even know what a turret is!” it’s important to recognize that your book is already lying in wait. You’ve been working at your business for long enough that you have a body of material at your fingertips. You know what your clients and customers need help with, what they want more of, and how to speak to their particular needs in a voice and with a perspective that is uniquely yours.
It’s simply a matter of gathering your resources:
- You teach and have a body of lecture notes that when organized into a single principle, will “arc” through a certain narrative or move from one state to the next
- You give talks or seminars based on an area of your business, which could be rounded up under an umbrella topic and expanded on
- You see trends in your clients’ desires and can speak to helping them through a particular situation or experience
- Over the years, you’ve developed a process for your business: working with clients, creating systems, or selling items and services. Your insider knowledge could help demystify your market for others who may be just starting out or making a change to their business model
- You went through a significant learning experience or transition in your business, and now, on the other side of that experience, you have a body of knowledge you could share with others to make their journeys easier and more fruitful
- You have a growing social media following who engage with you regularly and trust you and your business and ask questions
- You have been blogging for some time and see how you are drawn to the same types of material, which, if given a longer format, you could explore more fully and in-depth
- The questions that come in from a Facebook live or webinar you did show holes in people’s knowledge. If you speak to those gaps in information, using the question trends as chapter headings, you’d have yourself a book.
If you sit quietly with the idea of writing a book, you will soon see shapes forming given how you run your business and your years of experience. Ultimately, your business and all that you bring to it will show you what to write about.
Now, you just need to get yourself a turret…
Still not sure writing a book is for you? Worth the expense of time and energy?
Coming up next in this blog series How to Write a Book for your Business, I will discuss the intrinsic and long-reaching benefit entrepreneurs and small business owners will see from writing a book. Emotional/spiritual fulfilment, intellectual satisfaction, increased authority in your field, and long-term passive and active financial gain are just some of the ways in which having a book to augment, support, and expand your business will change your whole game and take you to the next level.
Jenna Kalinsky is a writer, editor, writing coach, and founder of One Lit Place: a full-service writers’ centre offering writing courses, individualized editorial and coaching services, and a private online community where writers of all levels and interests gather to connect, collaborate, and create. She lives in Toronto with her husband and two children.