“The imperfect book that gets published is better than the perfect book that never leaves my computer.” (Brené Brown)
Has anyone ever told you that your first book doesn’t have to be ‘the’ book?
I think that’s where many of us get stuck.
Before I wrote my first book, I was caught up in the idea that I needed to write ‘the’ book. I had a message that I wanted to share and I needed to do it justice.
The curse of perfectionism.
It stopped me.
When I got over myself and realised that without any words I was limiting my chances of ever being able to call myself an author, I could begin.
What is the message you want to share?
Start exploring that and start putting words down on paper (or screen). It really is as simple as that. There are planning tools, structuring tools, writing hacks and all sorts of things that you can use to help you, but unless you do the work, you won’t have a book at all, let alone ‘the’ book.
I realised that it wasn’t down to me to decide which of my books would be ‘the’ book. When I talk about ‘the’ book that changed my life, that’s a personal thing. I wrote about it here! I have had letters from young women who have told me that my books have helped them. Usually, in ways I had not considered when I was writing. I wanted the book (now ‘books’ as it’s a trilogy) to offer a message of hope. The young (and some not-so-young) women I have heard from have been much more specific about how it has helped them and I love reading about their interpretation.
I can celebrate today as I talk to young people about my books, about writing and about how they can make their story count. It’s a real buzz!
You can celebrate World Book Day 2019 as an author. You can be preparing for an author visit, a book signing or simply basking in the glory of seeing your book pop up on the ‘must read’ lists in your genre.
There’s no such thing as perfection so please, get out of your own way and get those words out into the world.
There’s no better day to start than on World Book Day!
“You were born an original. Don’t die a copy.” (John Mason)
This exact phrase is why my friend, Chris Kent & I wrote a book together! You see, I don’t just play with words. I play with dogs too.
In my other life, I run a social enterprise called Canine Perspective CIC. It was created as a direct result of the success of my first book, Reggie & Me. Our signature programme, Canine Hope, works with survivors of sexual violence and rescue dogs. I love it, I’m proud of it and the fact it combines words and dogs is quite literally me living my dream.
Chris is someone I have admired for a long time, she also runs an awesome social business working with dogs to change the lives of humans. She’s also an author. She’s fabulous!
So, Chris and I were chatting over a cuppa and discussing the number of phone calls we get from people who say ‘I want to do what you do.’
We’d chat with them, talk through their business ideas and never hear from them again. Well, Chris would often get more than one call but she’s much nicer than me! You see, people saw us when we were delivering a workshop or a talk. We were, essentially, spending the day playing with dogs. Brilliant, right?!
They didn’t see the hours upon hours we spent designing the sessions, applying for funding, working in the business, approaching potential clients… you know, the stuff that doesn’t involve talking about and playing with dogs but takes up 95% of the time. They didn’t really want to do what we do.
‘We should write a book, then they can at least give us a couple of quid before deciding it’s too much like hard work.’ I joked.
So, we wrote a book.
It’s a short guide to setting up a social business with the important addition of everything you need to factor in when including dogs in your grand master plan. I trained as a behaviourist so that I could run my social enterprise effectively and Chris has the most incredible background in working with people. We’re proud of our little book and we know that by following the steps, the reader can make an informed decision about their business idea.
We both hear the same phase when people learn that we’re authors. ‘Dogs AND books, you’re so lucky.’
We’re not lucky. We work hard and we create our own luck.
The 95% of time that’s spent planning your book, writing, deleting, editing, rewriting and wondering what the point is (we all have those moments) are absolutely worth it for the 5% of time that’s spent enjoying the author visits, the speaking and the thing that I love the most, the letters from readers (ok, emails… but letters sounds better!) saying that your book helped them.
You don’t have to do what I do, or what anyone else does. Nobody can do what YOU are going to do. Nobody can write what YOU are going to write.
We found inspiration from this one phrase and created a book… what’s going to give you the nudge you need?
“Make it a rule never to give a child a book you would not read yourself.” (George Bernard Shaw)
Today is International Book Giving Day. It’s February 14th. I’m sure that date is significant for other reasons too, but what could be more important than the giving of books? You’re right. Nothing!
With that in mind, I have sent five Dani Moore Trilogy collections to charities in the UK working with young survivors. They were posted on Monday and I hope that they’ll be arriving today. The aim of International Book Giving Day is to get as many books into the hands of young people as possible. For me, there’s always the added goal with the Trilogy that a young (or not-so-young) person will learn that whatever they’re going through right now, life can be awesome and they’re more resilient than they think they are.
I know that you love words, I know that you understand the power of sharing stories and the comfort that could be found from getting lost in a book. Today, find a book that you know will inspire a young person. Find a book that will share a message that you know they need to read. If you can’t give it to them directly, leave it somewhere they’ll find it, with a note explaining this random act of kindness.
Books are game-changers and you could absolutely change someone’s life by taking this action today.
If you’d like to share the book you have chosen, I’d love to see it. You can tweet a picture & share the reasons why you’ve decided on ‘this’ book.
Go forth and share the power of words!
“You know everything you need to know about a person from the answer to the question, What is your favorite book?”(Gabrielle Zevin, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry)
‘I used to love reading, but I just can’t find the time anymore.’ I hear this a lot. So many of us were lost in books as youngsters but as life takes over it drops further and further down the priority list. It’s seen as a luxury or something that we ‘treat ourselves’ to on holiday.
What a load of rubbish.
Reading isn’t a reward, it’s a necessity. If we can’t make time for reading then we definitely can’t make time for writing. The two are intrinsically linked.
Reading teaches us about the intricacies of language, what works, what we enjoy and it inspires us to write. Whether we enjoy a book or we don’t, we’ll learn something!
Reading outside of our preferred genres is a great way to explore new ideas. When I started researching the genre of teen fiction for my trilogy, it was just that; research. Now, I’m addicted! A teen fiction novel called The State of Grace by Rachel Lucas was in my top ten books of 2017.
Reading both fiction and non-fiction, regardless of what you’re writing, is important too. Something that I try and do is just read one book at a time. I know plenty of people who have lots of books on the go and rarely finish of them. I think the commitment to one book is similar to the commitment you’ll need as a writer. There are always new books to read, new ideas or that friend who sends you the link to the latest ‘must read’. We lead busy lives, flitting from one thing to another, multitasking and feeling pressure to do everything and then some more. Reading and finishing a book can offer a sense of accomplishment. If the book you’re reading isn’t worth finishing, close it and put it in the charity bag. Just because it’s not for you doesn’t mean it’s a ‘bad book’!
I thought that ‘Read In The Bathtub Day’ gives the perfect reason to read AND tick today’s ‘self-care’ box. As a writer, you need to read and you need to make sure you’re taking time out. Today offers a win-win situation.
So, grab a book and run the bath. You could go all in and light some candles but be careful!
“It’s not always enough to be brave, I realized years later. You have to be brave and contribute something positive, too. Brave on its own is just a party trick.” (B.J. Novak, One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories)
It won’t come as a surprise to read that I love personal stories. I love that people share their stories and nothing will change my mind about the importance of this.
Can you sense there’s a ‘but’ coming?
We do not have to focus on the crap we’ve been through in order to feel we’ve earned the right to share our story.
I was (almost) speechless earlier this week when my friend said that she didn’t feel she could relate to the young people she’s working with because she hadn’t had to deal with the things they’re going through.
She’s a support staff member at an inner-city school with a high percentage of students who speak English as a second language and live in what is classed by some as ‘deprived’ areas but where she has seen the sort of community spirit many of us can only dream of. She asked me to speak at the school but not in my usual author-visit-type-way, she wanted me to talk about resilience and as she put it, ‘reach them in a way that I can’t.’
I have not studied at an inner-city school. My secondary school was in Bath where the biggest challenge most of us faced on a daily basis was walking past the neighbouring school’s students who called us ‘turds’ because our uniform was brown and gold.
English is not my second language. I don’t have a second language because GCSE French doesn’t count. I couldn’t even begin to imagine trying to live in another country, learn the language and not only be able to function in that country but be educated within that country too.
I spent my secondary school years living on the outskirts of Bath. I don’t have experience of deprivation or community spirit. I don’t count the gaggle of curtain twitchers as being community spirited at all.
I went to the school, I shared my story and talked about resilience in the only way I know how. My friend does exactly the same thing every single day and the students adore her. Part of the session included talking about what we admire in other people. We created the opportunity to share snippets our own stories and also share what inspired us about other people’s stories.
The day before this school visit, I was speaking to a group of adults. I facilitated the same exercise. In a group of nine women, the discussion was predominantly negative. Every woman in that room had experienced trauma. Every woman focused on that experience as their ‘story’. When one woman was talking about her experience, another chipped in and actually said the words ‘oh, at least you were only with him for three years, I had fifteen years of it and it was much worse, if you want ‘inspiration’ then there’s much worse out there than what you’ve been through.’ While that comment did allow me to step in and work on reframing our narratives, it was an insight into the world we live in. Is that really the message we’re receiving? If we haven’t been through ‘enough’ then our stories aren’t valid? We’re seeing a huge increase in people sharing their stories and experiences in books, blogs, videos and every other medium that’s available to us. We can see what humans are forced to endure on a daily basis in this world of 24/7 information sharing. How has that become something we’re turning into a competition? We all have a story. We don’t have to have had ‘the worst’ experience in order to feel the need to share it. We certainly don’t need to undermine someone else’s story to validate our own.
Not one of these young people turned their experience into a competition. Not one had a trauma-off.
There were 34 young people in that room. Their stories blew my mind but what impressed me the most was the fact that everyone was heard. As one person spoke, there was silence from everyone else. As we went around the room sharing the ways in which we have been inspired by the stories of the other group members, every single person was named as having inspired another.
My friend was named a number of times. She told her story. She shared that she had enjoyed what could be considered a privileged upbringing. Her parents showered her with love and she’s thankful every day that they’re still around to see her children, their grandchildren, grow up. She shared that she married her childhood sweetheart and they’re happy. She told us that she loves her job and couldn’t imagine working with more inspirational young people. She cried. I cried. The young people did not cry!
Not one of those young people said ‘well, aren’t you lucky’ or words to that effect, which is what she had been afraid of.
One of the young men stood up and towered over us both. He said, ‘you know what, you need to write a book. All we get, day in day out, is the shit stuff. I love that you’re happy. If I just think about how much my family loves me, I’m fucking lucky too. I’m not saying I’d read your book, but nobody believes you can just be happy anymore.’
THAT is why YOUR STORY COUNTS. We find inspiration in so many different places. Only you can share your story and who knows who you’ll inspire along the way.
“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” (Richard Bach)
I’ve been thinking about this. You see, I don’t have any tips! For me, if there’s something you want to do, you’ll make the time. It’s that simple.
I know that’s easy for me to say. I work for myself and I manage my own time. Right?!
Well, yes. Now.
When I wrote my first book, I had a full-time job that was destroying my soul, a really long commute from Birmingham to London for months on end and an equally long commute from Birmingham to Coventry. If anyone else has tried the M6 at peak time, you’ll feel my pain.
Weekends were mainly spent crying into my laptop while job hunting and binging on Jaffa Cakes.
Motivation was at an all-time low and I couldn’t even spell inspiration.
Still, life wasn’t all bad!
The desire to write hadn’t gone away and if I wanted to write a book, I had to do just that, write a book.
I get a lot of emails and calls from people who tell me they want to write a book but when it comes to it, they find every excuse under the sun not to write it. The reason I use the word ‘excuse’ is because the people I am working with at the moment are really busy people. They have full-time jobs, they have children, they are business owners… the list goes on. They haven’t found a magical portal where the words come easily and time slows down. They have prioritised, they have made the time and believe me, they are rocking it.
When I wrote my first book, it was messy. I had a schedule but I’d sit down at my computer and the words wouldn’t come. When faced with a blank screen, the bestselling ideas that I’d had in the shower, in the car or while in a soul-destroying meeting, had completely disappeared. I could sit and wait for inspiration, or I could go out and find it.
That’s the choice.
I made time. I created space, every day, for writing. Sometimes it was just fifteen minutes with my journal, but I created a habit. I had my book planned out and I had a schedule. Within three weeks, I deleted the schedule and created a new one, a realistic one. It’s not until you start writing that you realise what is realistic in an hour!
In an ideal world, my routine would involve getting outside and spending time with my dogs, having breakfast and then writing. That’s what I do now. Back then, I had to take the dogs and eat breakfast on the way to the place of doom. So, my alarm was set for 4:30 am instead of 5:30 am and that was my hour of writing. It wasn’t easy. I’m a morning person but 4:30 am is still bloody early. At least I could nap in the futile meetings! My burst of fresh air came through an open window and every morning I had a choice.
Get up… or don’t.
Start writing… or don’t.
That’s it. Do it, or don’t!
Everyone has commitments, leads busy lives and can have 101 things on their to-do list. If writing a book isn’t a priority, that’s fine. If it is, make the time. You won’t regret it, I promise.