As we start 2021, becoming an author may be a goal for many of you. But if you’re not used to long-form writing, then you may find yourself getting stuck before you’ve even started. In this article, I want to look at some of the common roadblocks many people face on their journey to becoming an author and give you some advice on how you can overcome them.
Roadblock to Becoming an Author #1: Time
As business owners, coaches and thought leaders, time is something that we all feel we don’t have enough of. So naturally time is one of the most common roadblocks to starting and completing any largescale project.
I’m not going to lie to you, writing a book takes time; and writing a quality book that will benefit your audience takes even longer. Don’t be fooled by these millionaire author courses floating around social media saying that you can write an Amazon bestseller in a weekend. But at the same time, it doesn’t need to take as long as you might think… you just need to do a little bit of planning.
Start out with writing a book plan. This plan will help you to answer 6 key questions about your book: Who, What, Where, Why, How and When. To find out more about how to write a book plan, see my article “How a Publishing Plan Helped Me Publish a Great Book”. You then move on to sketching out a book skeleton, which is basically a breakdown of the chapters and headings your book is going to contain. You can find out more about who to generate a book skeleton in my article “How I Wrote My Book with Just 30mins a Day”. Now that you have your plan and your skeleton, it’s time to start writing… but they key is to write regularly and consistently.
A good tip is to look at your existing schedule and find patterns of time where you can fit writing time into regularly. For me, it was my morning coffee. With a little adjustment to my regular routine, I was able to set aside 30 minutes every day to dedicate to writing. Using that process, I was able to finish the manuscript for my first book within 12 months, and the first draft of my second book (which was 50% longer) in just 9 months.
It’s important to note that this tip only works if you are consistent. Aim to not skip any more than one or two writing sessions in a row. The more sessions you skip the less momentum you will have and the more progress you will lose. This can easily lead to feeling discouraged and eventually giving up altogether.
Roadblock to Becoming an Author #2: Imposter Syndrome
Feeling like a fraud is a phenomenon that plagues many successful people. Nearly every writer in history has experienced it in some form or another – including myself. Before I wrote my first book “Stress-Free Self-Publishing”, I found myself constantly thinking: “Who am I to write a book on self-publishing – I’ve only been doing it for 5 years; I’m not an expert”. And as a result, I putting it off.
What makes imposter syndrome so common is something called “pluralistic ignorance”, which basically means while we are each second-guessing ourselves privately, we believe we are alone in our doubts because no one else voices their own feelings of doubt. It leaves many of us feeling as though we haven’t earned our success, or that our thoughts aren’t worthy of attention. This feeling is often intensified by the belief that we are the only ones who feel this way, and in extreme cases, it can even prevent us from sharing ideas, starting that new venture, pursuing certain jobs, or… you guessed it… writing that book.
The good news is that there are 5 simple steps to overcoming importer syndrome:
- Start a conversation. Confide about how you feel to someone you trust and ask for their opinion/feedback. Often learning that others have experienced similar feelings helps
- Own your successes. We’re very good at downplaying our achievements and concentrating on we could have done better. Instead, start focussing on the positive and listen out for and TRULY hear when someone pays you a compliment. It also really helps to list out your accomplishments; seeing it in black and white can help make it feel more real.
- Think in the third person. British culture is synonymous with the ‘reserved stiff upper lip’; celebrating wins is much more of an American thing. If you struggle with step 2, try thinking about those successes as if it were someone else’s.
- Understand your strengths & weaknesses. Become more aware of your strengths & weaknesses. If you’re not sure what they are, try conduct a SWOT analysis on yourself. Doing this allows you to stop worrying about what you might not be good at and concentrate on what you ARE good at.
- Overcome perfectionism. No one is perfect. Learn to set yourself realistic, challenging yet achievable goals. Start seeing any mistakes you make as a learning experience.
I’m going to leave you with one last thought regarding imposter syndrome, and that is a quote from my coach and mentor Brad Burton who says:
“An expert is someone who has made all the mistakes in a given field”.
Roadblock to Becoming an Author #3: Strategy
This roadblock is one that catches a lot of people out, even experienced authors. They make the mistake of jumping straight into writing a book without first taking a step back to consider how that book fits into the wider picture of their business or personal goals.
Great books do not exist in a vacuum; they serve a purpose not only to the reader, but also to the author. Without being clear on what both of those purposes are for your book, the reader will likely forget about you after they’ve read it, and you will start to forget about marketing it once the initial buzz of launch has faded away.
I touched on this briefly in my tip for overcoming roadblock #1 with answering the Why question in your book plan, but knowing the why is only part of the solution. You need to leverage both your why and your readers’ why into a long-term plan of what you want to do with your book once it’s published, and what you want your readers to do once they have finished reading it.
A great resource for exploring some of the options of how to leverage a business book as part of a wider strategy is my article “5 Ways a Book Can Boost Your Credibility”.
Roadblock to Becoming an Author #4: What to write about
A statement I hear quite often from people when I explain what I do at SWATT Books is “I’d love to write a book, but I have no idea what to write about”.
When it comes to businesspeople wanting to write a book to support their business or advance their careers, this dilemma often stems from too much choice of what to write about as opposed to a lack of ideas.
This can sometimes lead a writer to try and shoehorn everything into one book which results in a book that doesn’t have a very clear message or purpose for the reader. If this sounds familiar, check out this article from my good friend Karen Williams from Librotas Book Mentoring entitled “Are you writing more than one book?”. Not only is it a great resource to help sort out if you are trying to write multiple books, but it’s also a fantastic resource about the different types of business books you could write if you are stuck for initial ideas.
Another aspect of the ‘what to write about’ roadblock is overlooking what you could write about. As an expert in your particular industry or niche, there is probably a lot of useful and informative stuff that you know that you completely forget about simply because it is second nature to you. What might be very complex or confusing to your reader is intuitive to you because of your experience.
A great method for overcoming this roadblock is to sit down and map out your process step by step. This is especially powerful for service-based business such as coaches, therapists, and consultants. You will be surprised at what you actually do for your clients that you just don’t think about.
P.S. this exercise also has the added benefit of giving you the opportunity to refine and adapt your processes, and help you see any gaps that need filling in or steps that are unnecessary.
Roadblock to Becoming an Author #5: Brain Dumping/lack of structure
The final roadblock to becoming an author that I see quite often can also the most painful one because it usually doesn’t manifest itself until the writer has already done a considerable amount of work.
If a writer is unaware of, or skips over, the initial planning steps that I mentioned in my tip for overcoming roadblock #1 it’s likely that they will just sit down and start to write. It very well may be that they get a considerable amount of content written and feel a vast sense of achievement when they think they have finished their first draft. But then when they read it back cover to cover in the context of an actual book, or have a family member, friend or colleague review it for them, it just falls flat; or worse yet it comes across as incomplete, inconsistent, or just plain confusing. That feeling of achievement is instantly shattered, and they are left feeing demoralised and that they are wasting their time.
This is the potential result of your book not having a structure.
Structure is very important to only help you write it, but to help you reader navigate through the ideas and content that you are writing about. Without it, your book can end up just meandering along simply following your train of thought, as opposed to logically working towards an end goal or outcome.
If you are not very experience with long-form writing, it can be challenging to initial learn how to convert an idea into a structured piece of writing, but the good news is that there is plenty of help out there in the form of writing coaches and book mentors who can offer guidance and support in determining the best structure for your book. Two that I would highly recommend are Karen Williams with her “Smart Author System”, and Jennifer Jones with her “Entrepreneurs’ Writing Club”.
I hope you have found those tips useful. Writing and publishing a book can be challenging, but one that is very worthwhile. And if you are able to avoid the common roadblocks that people often experience on the journey to becoming an author, you will be more able to enjoy the experience and get the very most out of it.
Do you have any tips on overcoming roadblocks to becoming an author? If so, post them in the comments below.
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