6 Reasons Writing a Book is Hard

Sep 21, 2023 | Everything Else, Writing A Book

It’s autumn in the South. That means it’s college football season, and there are many get-togethers to watch games and spend time with friends. I was at one of those get-togethers on Saturday.

People always ask questions when they find out what I do for a living. During one conversation, a fellow asked me a question he’d been waiting to ask someone for a long time.

“Is it hard to write a book?”

There’s a short answer and a long answer to that question. The short answer is, “Yes, it’s hard.” I shared that answer and a longer one on Saturday. Here’s a refined version of what I said then.

Right now, somewhere near you, someone is telling themselves that they need to write a book. They join legions of other people who’ve had the same thought. Very few of them even start. Most of the ones who do abandon their project without finishing it.

As the saying goes, “If it were easy, everyone would do it.” Here are half a dozen reasons why writing a book is hard.

Writing is work.

We tend to think of writing as something easy. After all, it doesn’t compete in difficulty or danger with rocket science or underground mining. But writing is challenging in a different way. Writing forces you to get ideas out of your head and onto a page in some order. That’s tough. Turning the wonderfully connected ideas in your brain into coherent prose is work by any standard.

There’s really no way to beat this. You can’t make writing easy, but you can realize that you are going to have to work to produce a book.

It’s hard to get started.

Most of my clients show up after working on their books for a while. It usually took them two or three “decisions” to actually start their book. Then, there were usually some false starts. There are two ways to make it more likely you’ll begin writing your book for real.

Dive right in and start writing. If you want, do a zero draft. That’s where you write your book all the way through without worrying about gathering details, making the prose pretty, or having things out of order. You fix all those on the first draft.

You’re also more likely to start if you plan your book well. That means working out the details of who you’re writing for, why they need your book, and the key points of your message.

In my experience, you’ll do your best if you do both. Take some time to think about the issues and try out the writing. You’ll probably find yourself going back and forth between the two tasks as your results in one influence your thoughts on the other.

Writing a book takes time.

Most people have an upper limit on their productivity. Three hours seems to be about the maximum amount of deep work you can do in a single day. Since you’re not likely to finish your book in three hours, you must string writing sessions together.

For most books, the actual writing takes about a year. That assumes that the research and planning have been completed.

Writing a book takes time away from people and things you love.

You can’t just give yourself more time. You’re stuck with the same 24 hours a day and seven days a week everyone else has. You’ve probably already got a full schedule. So, when you start writing your book, you have to cut down on the time you spend on some other things.

Cutting down on sleep is a bad idea. You’ll need to be fresh and rested to do good work. Most of my clients cut down on the time they spend with things they love and people they love. Sometimes, they also cut down on the work in their day job.

Don’t forsake the people you love. They’re your major support. You’ll want them around after you finish your book. So, cut back judiciously. Explain why you’re doing what you’re doing. Ask for their help.

You don’t know a lot, and you don’t know what you don’t know.

Writing a book and bringing it to market has many moving parts. Unless you’ve been involved in publishing, they’re probably not sure what most of them are. Rest assured that you will make decisions about dozens of things you are not familiar with.

The solution for this one is simple. Get help. My obviously biased opinion is that an author coach would be an excellent choice. Find people you know who have some knowledge and experience with writing and publishing. Imagine your book as a team project. When you come upon a decision you need to make, think, “Who knows how to do this?” That’s better than trying to figure it all out yourself.

Life happens.

This is a big one. Many people abandon their book projects because something happens in their life. Serious illness is probably the biggest one. Remember that the universe gets a vote. Some things are more important and urgent than writing that book.

Writing a book is hard work. It’s also doable. Every day, thousands of people work through the hard stuff and write a book. You can, too. Make it one you’re proud of.


Writing is work.

It’s hard to get started.

Writing a book takes time.

Writing a book takes time away from people and things you love.

You don’t know a lot and you don’t know what you don’t know.

Life happens.