Let’s Do a Book+0
In the title, we see the first error many people make when they set out to have a book with their name on the cover. They say they are going to write a book. I suppose there are those creative folks who actually can open their computers and just start typing. The first thing you know, they have written a book. The finished book seems to have simply flowed out of them.
I admit it. I’m pretty jealous. It would definitely be cool to just open the creative hose and out comes a book. But here’s the truth of it. I don’t think there are any people who can do that. Here’s why.
A book is not a spontaneous creation. Having produced a dozen or so fairly successful books, I have come to understand that a book is not a creation, it’s a construction. I doubt that it matters what kind of book it is or for whom the book is intended. Books are much more constructed than written.
Sure, the words, sentences and paragraphs need to be written. There is no good alternative unless you can get a really smart computer to do the tedious job of writing for you. Some folks hire a ghost writer to produce the words, sentences and paragraphs for them, but that does seem a bit like cheating. For us, outsourcing writing to a computer or ghost will not do. We will make those words, sentences and paragraphs appear on our computer screens all by ourselves. – OK, if you really need to do this with a pencil on paper, go for it. Just know that, at some point, it will all have to be neatly typed and double spaced.
But I am getting way ahead of myself. Not only have I skipped over the construction part, I haven’t even mentioned the hardest part of doing a book. Before I can do a book, I have to figure out what I want the book to do. And it gets more specific. I need to figure out what I want the book to do for me. Naturally it will be good if thousands of people want to read the book and all feel better off in some way for having spent the time and energy it takes to consume a book. That’s all well and good, but if doing the book is not doing something of value for me, I’m not likely to sustain the construction process through to the finished book. Even if I do, the finished book is not very likely to do much for anyone else.
Let’s draw an analogy. You are an artist painting a picture or a musician creating a country song. If you don’t find satisfaction in the process, how likely are you to stick with it? If you don’t feel good about your final product, how likely is that others will engage with it? If you don’t think it’s awesome, I probably won’t either. Yes, you may think it’s awesome and I think it’s trash, but the first opinion is yours and always counts the most.
So what do you want your book to do for you? You want it to make you rich and famous? You can probably only get away with that if you are already rich and famous. And if you are, you have a far higher standard for releasing your next book to the public. Alternatively, if you only want to have your name on the cover so you can tell your friends that you are an author, don’t bother constructing a book. Just write down everything you do or think about for the next few months and then get your local print shop to bind it with a nice cover featuring your name. There you go. You are an author.
What Will Doing a Book Do for Me?
I’m assuming that you are not an employee or contractor. I’m also assuming that you are not doing a book for hire. In either of those situations, most of the parameters change. You may or may not enjoy the work, but what constructing the book does or does not do for you is secondary. What it does for the person or organization paying the bill is primary. Unless you have carte blanch to do as pleases you, you are constructing someone else’s book. I know little to nothing about that kind of work. My focus is only on you constructing your book, on your terms with no external constraints.
I’m feeling the need to rein this in a little. You might want to tell a story that pulls you in and takes you along for the trip. You might want to organize your ideas, understanding, insights and perspective about something so you feel totally comfortable with the topic. You may want to construct a tool for learning about and better understanding something or some area of knowledge. You may want to construct a world or set of circumstances that you find funny, fascinating, entertaining or inspiring. You may want to construct a repository including everything one needs to know about how to do something or how to understand the most important points about something. What do you want your book to do, first for you and then for others.
It might be as non-complex as sixty-four words that, along with appropriate drawings, help three-year-olds understand not to hit the cat or as complex ads a series of related intergenerational stories that tell the saga of a famous family that self-destructed over several generations. Either way, your book needs to be compelling, interesting and worth taking time to consume. If it has no WOW for you just thinking about constructing it, you may be well-advised to go play a round of gulf or spend some time with someone else’s book that you really enjoy. Pick one that leaves you thinking that you wish you had written it.
Having said that, be sure you very clearly understand that our goal is to construct our book, yours for you and mine for me. Whether it is your next book or your first book, there is a simple fact that definitely applies to me and likely applies to you as well. It’s possible that the book we construct will turn out to be a literary masterpiece or a scholarly gem, but neither is remotely likely. It may be but don’t count on it. We are going to give it our best effort and that will be quite sufficient. Remember that our first priority is to construct our book, one that does good things for us.
Let me share with you what I hope my book will do for me. I do this, also hoping that you will get your keyboard clicking as you record what you want your book to do for you.
- First, I want my book to help me better understand something about people, relationships, life and getting along in my world that for the most part has no dog in that fight. Sure, a few people do care a lot about how well I get along, but for the most part, I am in this by myself. I hope constructing this book will help me deal better with people, relationships and situations that come up over time.
- Next, I hope I am able to narrow the focus enough to get beyond the surface. Too broad and I won’t learn anything new or too narrow and I will dig a hole that only goes down without connection to the rest of my world. I am hoping for a shifted perspective or insight that makes me think “WOW, it’s pretty cool knowing that.” I have gotten a few of those insights along the way and am hoping for more.
- I have fairly high expectations for what constructing this book will do for me. I hope to be able to organize insights, new information, and a more solid understanding in a way that lets me capture the essence of what I learn in one sentence or short paragraph. My idea is that constructing the book will help me deal better with some aspect of my day to day life and living. I will have a new principle or set of strategies or techniques that improve my life outcomes, probably within a limited range of situations and circumstances. Constructing the book will be a net gain for me.
I’m hoping that you can see that writing a book is near the last step in the construction process. Before that, we need to figure out what we want constructing the book to do for us. Is that benefit worth the hours, weeks, months and possibly years that constructing the final book will take? If not, there is no point in starting. But if it is, there are few better ways to indulge ourselves over time. This is especially true if we enjoy long periods by ourselves, just wondering around in our heads. And most of the process is in our heads while we are focused on the book and most of the time when we are supposed to be focused on other things. It’s an internal journey that might result in a published book but may not, probably won’t. The published book is sort of a bonus for doing what we would likely be doing anyway: constructing stories, explorations and mental games in our heads. We authors do spend a lot of time poking around in the worlds we create for our own amusement, entertainment and mental exercise.
OK, that’s that. It’s time to put a net around it, around that particular itch we think may need scratching. We will get to that next time.
For now, be well, do well and do something nice for someone. He or she will appreciate it and you both will have a better day.