What is the best advice you can hear to help you write a book?
Two words: Show up. The more you show up to write your book, the better chance you will not only write a book, but complete and publish it, too.
Here is its value. Showing up to write a book – whether you do it in systematic spurts or daily – reveals you take yourself seriously and give to yourself lovingly as a writer.
One writer who took my workshop said, “I realized my life always comes back to writing… Now I don’t wait until there is time and space for me to write my book. I schedule time to write daily and hold onto it. And I am writing…finally.”
Another writer from one of my writing groups echoed this wisdom, “Those two words – ‘show up’ – have been the most important writing advice I ever received to write my book. Since then, I show up and write for a few hours each day. Writing is what I love to do. It’s also the discipline I need to get my book done. The writing does not flow every day. Some days, I sit in the silence. Other days, I do research for my book. At times, rewriting can seem tedious – and endless. But showing up to write the book, no matter what happens during the writing time, is part of the process. Showing up, I completed my manuscript.”
I recently attended a presentation by a successful screenwriter who also knew the importance of showing up to write. When she was already a successful screenwriter, she also became a wife and mother. She continued to write at home, but her children started to interrupt her with regularity. She could not concentrate on her writing and maintain creative momentum. Sound familiar?
This writer did not hesitate. She sat her family down and told them, “I love you. You are important to me. But so is writing. And I can’t write when you interrupt me. So it’s your choice. I can either stay at home and write or rent a space and write or go to a coffee house to write. But know that I am going to do whatever is necessary to keep on writing.”
A miracle of miracles, her children began to respect her writing space, and she was able to stay home to write after all.
I have found “showing up” to be critical to my writing process, too. As much as I believe you only need 15 minutes a day a few days a week to get started to write a book, I also believe in the value of showing up. Consistently. This consistency of writing practice lets your writer self-grow strong. It lets your writer self-know on a deep visceral level that you are there for it, that you will show up. That more often than not, you will not follow the multitude of other voices that call you to go, do, live, work, play, handle all that is other than writing a book.
Right now, I am writing a novel. And as I have found with the other books I have written, at a certain point in the process, a book-in-progress cries out its need for a commitment of more of your time, more of your steady presence, your follow through, your showing up in order to birth itself.
This need presented itself recently, and I made the dive to show up to write my book, heart wide open. The novel is finally revealing the fullness of itself to me in a steady stream of words, a steady flow of words and ideas and next steps. I dive and flow between writing, outlining, plotting and research, a watery dance with the depths of what presents itself to come through me in the still moments of the early morning or at night.
I show up daily 5 to 6 days a week – even when I can’t, mustn’t. And the more I do, the more readily I slip into the writing groove, into the stillness from which the words arise to write a book. Dreams come in the night to support it, too. Ideas, phrases and scenes pop in unexpected as I am engaged in the rest of my work day or taking a walk in nature.
Showing up to write a book is a commitment I – and you – must make over and over again. One morning, I may wake up “too tired” to write. I may feel uninspired. Or, the “to-dos” of my work day call. My cat wants to play the moment I sit down to write. Or, I remember an email that “must” be answered. I sense the tug of war rope threatening to pull me away from writing. I acknowledge it. Let go of the rope.
Then, I turn to my writing desk, say to myself, I may not have the energy for it. But I will give the novel at least 15 minutes or an hour. That is something. Even if I sit there.
And before I know it, a couple hours have passed, and I have given myself over to the creative process.
Your “showing up” to write your book does not have to look like mine. In fact, mine changes from book to book, project to project. But however I do it, I’m more like a marathon runner as a writer. Other writers are sprinters. One writer friend does not move forward on her novel-in-progress until the day or two before each meeting of our shared writer’s group. Then, she writes and rewrites for several hours before the group – and comes in with sparkling gems of writing.
However you show up or don’t, writing has patience. It will wait. If you can’t commit right away, if you don’t show up in a day or month, it will forgive again and again and again. Then, when you do show up, it will come to you from such purity, such sweetness and trust as you open your soft petals to it, and it opens its soft petals to you. For what your writing loves is intimacy. What it loves is mutuality. What it loves is the gifts you co-create to share with others. What it loves is filling the stillness, the empty places in your heart with the slow dance of words. What it loves is the joy you find in showing up.