If you’ve read this blog at all this year you’ll know that I’ve set myself a challenge to write a blog post every day for 2014. It’s the end of February and I’m already tired from the effort. Instead of curling up on the couch with a good book, I tap away at this keyboard forcing out words that feel as dry as the Gibson Desert.
But I’m nothing if not an optimist.
So I get to thinking, if I’m going to write something every day, why not write a book!?
In round terms I’m writing 500 words each day so by the end of the year I’ll have written over 180,ooo words. That’s enough words for a couple of books and have a third in the pipeline.
But I kind of get the impression that my writing really isn’t up to scratch to get published.
I decide I need some help so I decide to employ a writing coach.
I make a call and explain my idea. He says that he usually assesses manuscripts and helps writers make their work better. Helping someone write a daily blog post isn’t really his thing.
But, he says, he’ll give it a go. I give him the address and wait about a week.
An email arrives. It goes as follows.
From reading some of your blogs it’s obvious that you are both adventurous and a very successful entrepreneur.
Nice, I like this guy…so far.
But at first glance, it is difficult to know what this blog is really about. What is its soul centre?
Yes, I know that. That’s why I called. I can’t work out what it’s about myself.
You like to share enthusiastically about yourself — your favourite music, books etc. And you write very well in the blog format (never a paragraph of more than three lines). But there’s very little depth to anything you share: why do you like something … what does it mean to you, what effect has it had on you?
Now we’re starting to get–well, not personal but–serious. He’s right though, I don’t let on about what stuff means to me. I don’t tell people what effect it has on me. He’s onto something here.
Frankly, there is nothing new or unique or truly insightful about anything I have read so far. There are no meaningful insights that an assiduous reader of blogs could not read somewhere else. This does not make for prime material for a book; not unless you take fifty thousand words of blog copy you have already written and construct it into an ebook for selling on Kindle/Amazon.
So what is your objective in publishing a book? To further which business? Real estate or business coaching or to tell your story? Do you have a good story to tell?
Bear in mind that, though your blog is interesting and eminently readable, the fundamental question in this business is… would people be prepared to pay to read this? That is the bottom line of all writing.
It’s nice to know that it’s “eminently readable” but the hard truth is that no-one would pay for it. Still, I’m not sure about his definition of the bottom line. My best writing was the book I wrote for Rita for our 20th wedding anniversary. The bottom line there was to shed tears of joy together as she ‘discovered’ it in a shop window. You couldn’t write me a cheque big enough to replace that moment.
That said, I take his point–if you’re going to write a book for commercial purposes then it better be good enough for the punters to want to fork out the dough.
So what, if anything, would you like me to do exactly? I cannot choose what you should write; only you can do that and that choice comes out of the heart far more than it comes out of the head.
And there’s the problem, right there. He can’t choose what I should write and neither can I. It’s as though I’ve got something inside me that wants to burst free but when I open my mouth there’s nothing. No sound, no words. Just blankness.
To get me through the blogging challenge I write that which catches my eye, something that makes me curious.
The best books are those about the writer’s journey: a story about yourself—your life, how you got to where you are now – the hard lessons you learned along the way.
So I respond via email.
“Identifying a theme is precisely why I’d like to work with you. I struggle with deciding what it is that I want to write until I’ve actually written it. In many ways the writing helps me clarify my views.
This time around I got into The Ethics of Shark Culling which was okay but pretty bland and much the same as other articles on the general topic of the preservation of species. From there I went to Tell Me: What do You Stand For? which didn’t really say anything fresh or new and then to Five Ordinary People who Inspire Me which was much better and had some bite and more of a unique point of view (POV). That’s the area in my view you should be pursuing rather than (frankly ) Mickey Mouse philosophy. Your background may be a fertile area for recounting stories which can develop the moralities to which you aspire. Most great lessons are imparted through story — called parables in the holy books. [Hyperlinks added]
Well, it’s nice to know at least one of the three were on the right track. Mickey Mouse philosophies? Ouch. I’m not sure what that term means exactly, but I think it means a philosophy that’s pretty close to worthless.
Turning to your last paragraph. As you are a guy who clearly espouses ethical standards, I’ll tell you the truth. Your reasons for wanting to publish a book are pretty shallow. No writer is ever fully satisfied with what they have written: there are no ‘good’ writers – there are lots of bad ones while the rest of us are trying to get better. And as for self-promotion – that’s a ‘How To’ Manual.
And double ouch. Not only are my philosophies close to worthless, I’m now shallow. On the self-promotion thing, I suspect he’s right. And that’s what I was thinking of writing – a ‘How To’ Manual – something that someone could read and learn something from.
But, being proud of a book is something all together different, he claims.
In order to be proud of a book it has to be a good book and no writer ever produced a good book easily. A good book is analogous to raising a child of whom you are genuinely proud: you don’t do it over night; it takes a lot of effort and you suffer a lot in the process. And one book is not a ‘body of work’; an oeuvre is three or more.
OK, so I’ve never raised a kid so I don’t know how hard that is…but I get the idea. It’s hard work. Still, this guy isn’t finished.
The self-promotion angle is, frankly, the kind of thing that hustlers and corner-creepers indulge in. You have plenty of people like that in your business… and so do we. You write a book because you have something to say; something burning inside and you want as many people as possible to read it. That’s what drives you to rewrite it four or maybe five times.
And there it is – same problem, different words. And can I say it again. I don’t know what it is I want to write. Yep, I get the whole burning thing, I really do, but no amount of fire in my guts is going to make words come out. Maybe some black, acrid smoke, but no words.
If you are going to write a book, Peter, I would exhort you to do it for the right reason. If it’s good enough it will get past the gatekeepers in publishing (of which there are many) and be published by a publishing house. Then you can genuinely call yourself an author and be proud.
Yep, I’d love to be proud, I’d love to write a book but I’d also love to pass the first step–knowing what it is I want to say.
And if you’ve read this far, please don’t leave a comment about how nasty the guy was. If there’s a fire inside I’ve just had someone stoke the embers. Sure, he used a pitch fork to do it but it had the right effect.
Now, to bed.