There’s a parallel universe where I am a millionaire. That’s where someone has given me a dollar every time I’ve heard the words, “I could never write a book”. There are two reasons I want to live there: first up, I’d be rich and could buy a lot of gin; and secondly, there would be less competition for my books.
You see, I firmly believe that everyone does have (at least) one book inside them, but maybe Christopher Hitchens was right when he said that’s where they should stay. Not because people don’t have the ideas, or the talent, or the wherewithal, but rather because there is such a huge difference between a book and a good book.
In my business career I underwent regular psychometric testing. You know the stuff – NLP, MBTI, etc. – you answer twenty questions and they tell you if you are a serial killer. When I started to work with such tests, I learned that they don’t describe a person’s ability to work in a certain way; they focus on the person’s preference – how easily they can work in that particular way.
Writing a book is the same. What no-one tells you before you start is that it’s harder than it looks. In fact, it’s not only difficult, it’s all-pervasive. I find myself playing Lego with my boys and thinking about medieval torture or execution by beheading. And they’re not even badly behaved… It’s just that when you create a world in your mind, it takes on a reality that is somehow separate from you. When my characters started doing things I hadn’t planned for them, my author friends nodded wisely and mumbled something understanding.
It’s a difficult process and it’s a long journey. Having an idea is like having a seed. Having people read your book is more akin to that warm, full feeling you get when you put your knife and fork down after a great meal. There’s the slog of writing – great some days, dreadful the next; even worse when you type like a drunk rhino, like yours truly. The brutal intimacy of the editing process, baring your soul for some to tear to shreds, is my personal bete noire. After that, you have a manuscript and you embark on one of two paths: self-publish and therefore self-market; or find an agent and a publishing contract. Just remember, the grass is always greener on the other side.
The likes of J.K.Rowling or Hudd Howie don’t mirror reality for most people; you would be better served by using someone like Joanna Penn as an example. She’s tireless, not just as an author, but as a businessperson: writing, blogging, interviewing, speaking, learning, sharing. And she’s not on her own, either – there’s a real community of authors out there, willing to help, courageous enough to ask for help.
When I speak with people in business circles, I often ask them why they want to embark on a major project, what they hope to achieve, what success would look like. I see no reason to treat new authors any differently. The reason to write a book could be anything: a bucket-list, vanity, or because you think you’re the next Hemingway, but it must be something; there has to be a reason for you to give birth to the idea that is burning inside you. That drive will have to be very strong, as it’s the only thing that will accompany you on every step of the road.
So yes, I believe that everyone has a book inside them, but you have to decide if you really want to bring it out.