According to one writer, 97 percent of the people who start a book never finish that book. I don’t know if that precise number is correct, but I do think the proportion’s about right. I spend my days working with mid-career businesspeople who are writing a book. They’re doing it to improve their reputation and income.
Many people never bother to take the first step to find out what’s involved in writing a book. Others investigate, but the majority don’t start writing. Approximately 2/3 of the people who contact me about writing a book never start writing. They’re scared off by the realities.
There are at least four reasons why writing a book is hard. That’s the bad news. The good news is that everything worthwhile you’ve ever done was hard. If it’s important, you’ll get it done.
Writing a Book is Hard Because You Have to Motivate Yourself
Writing is a solitary activity. You’re all alone. There’s no one to motivate you. And you can’t wait for inspiration. If you do, you’ll never get your book done. As the artist Chuck Close says, “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us show up and go to work.”
You must master the discipline and the mental tricks to get yourself started and keep yourself going. Some days that’s easy. Other days it can be frightfully hard.
Writing a Book is Hard Because Everybody’s a Critic
Yep, everybody’s got an opinion about what you should do and how you should do it. That includes your mother, your spouse, your friends, and your distant cousin who was an English major. They don’t just have an opinion, they’re more than ready to share it with you.
To make things just a little bit harder, even experts don’t know a lot about some of what goes into writing a successful book. I published my first book almost 50 years ago. I’ve been working as a book writing coach and studying the craft and the market for 20. I still can’t tell you in advance when a title will be capture potential readers’ imaginations. I don’t know anyone who can.
William Goldman described something similar in his excellent book about movies, Adventures in The Screen Trade. Goldman says, “Nobody knows anything.”
True, but everyone has an opinion and most seem willing to share it. Remember this. All feedback is a gift, so say thank you. Only some feedback is useful.
It’s Hard to Write a Book Because It Takes a Long Time
There are very few really fast writers, just like there are very few really fast runners. The fastest writers I know are people who learned to write as journalists. The rest of us are a bit slower.
Most of my clients are working full-time and don’t have the luxury of heading off to that cabin in the woods and only coming home when the book is done. It takes most of them a year or more to write the basic book. Most go through three or four full revisions. Some do more.
What that means is that if you want to write a book you can look forward to months of hard work. Putting in the effort for a day may be okay. It might be okay for a week. But it’s hard to work steadily on a project day after day for months. Motivation will only take you so far. You need discipline and habits to finish the project.
Writing A Book Is Hard Because You’ve Already Got a Full Life
You’ve probably got a calendar full of things already. Where are you going to find the time to write your book?
Your relationships are important, especially with your family. You won’t want to pull too much time from there. What about sleep? You can do it, but it’s a bad idea and it will have a negative effect on your productivity. Work’s important, too. Oh yeah, there’s rest and recreation, too.
If you’re going to complete your book, it’s going to take some work to carve out the time to write your book. But it’s necessary.
You must master the art of writing when you don’t feel like it.
Inspiration is for amateurs.
Everybody has an opinion about what you should do.
All feedback is a gift. Some is useful.
It will probably take you a year or more to write your book.
You must fit the writing process into an already full life.