As I have previously announced, I’ll be ghostwriting a book for friends of mine who want to share their story with the world. This upcoming Saturday, the three of us will be sitting down for a lengthy interview. I’ll spend a few hours listening to the full, nitty-gritty details of their story and culling the meaty parts of a full, hopefully inspiring, hopefully entertaining book.
I’ve got my digital voice recorder ready. I have a nice, long list of interview questions. The time is blocked out.
While I am absolutely, 100% doing this to help out some friends and support their desire to share their experience with readers, I’m also reflecting on this as a pivotal point in my writing life. This isn’t just some book idea. This is a book. This is me writing a book with the intent of publishing it. So I do happen to feel a bit of gravity as I move forward here.
Here’s what’s going through my head:
- Will this book be good enough for readers? Easily the first thing, due to my continuously-stunning lack of self-confidence. I’ve been chastised in my writers group for being too hard on myself. I’m aware that I have writing talent. That’s fine. I’ll accept that. But committing to writing a full book is a major undertaking, and it is not to be taken lightly – as Stephen King once said…
“You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair – the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.“
- Will this book be good enough for my friends? This is, ultimately, their book. It’s their story. I may be writing the words, but the voice, the breath, the fire, the passion, the emotion is all coming from them. It needs to accurately represent them. That’s a big difference. As a copywriter, I do a lot of work in other people’s voices, and that’s fine. But the stakes are higher here. There may be more money on the line when I’m writing about some stock expert’s favorite tech picks, but I’m writing about people’s lives here: their joy, their heartbreak, and their deep emotions. It’s intimidating.
- Will this book be good enough for me? As you can tell, I’m my own worst critic. I also have taken on projects that have lost steam halfway through. I’ve brought passion into it, only to have it peter out at the end. This isn’t to say that I’m going to peter out on this, or that I’m going to phone in the last couple chapters, but will I be able to sustain the fire? Will I be able to approach the intimidation of a blank page with enthusiasm? Will the finished product be something that I will be proud of and excited to share with the world? Will this be a shining moment in my writing career, or just another disappointing failure, like so many others before?
- Other random questions in my head: How long is this going to take? Will I be able to get it published efficiently and affordably? How am I going to market this? Word of mouth? Who’s going to design the book cover? Can I do their story justice? Why am I so scared?
Yeah, I’m terrified. This is a new experience, though it is one that I have firmly on my bucket list. It’s the next step in growing as a writer for me. And while there is great trepidation in moving ahead in an unknown and unfamiliar process, I should also step back and take solace in the fact that, for me, I have a life and career where I can still have new, unknown experiences.
I know a lot of people that do not have any unpredictability in their careers or their lives. Every day is the same. Ultimately, I run my own business and I write because I don’t want that. So I look forward to this uncertainty. I embrace these questions. I stare at this doubt in the face and say, “All right. Let’s do this.”
Because excitement like this can cause plenty of down times. It can frustrate and destroy you, if you let it. But opening yourself up to those risks puts you in a position to have the most fulfilling, exciting, and satisfying accomplishments that you’ll ever experience.
For some reason, I think of this speech that Homer gave Marge on The Simpsons when he wanted to fly to another country on vacation:
I wanna shake off the dust of this one-horse town. I wanna explore the world. I wanna watch TV in a different time zone. I wanna visit strange, exotic malls. I’m sick of eating hoagies. I want a grinder, a sub, a foot-long hero. I want to live, Marge! WON’T YOU LET ME LIVE?!
Here goes nothing.