12 Things You Can Do To Get Started on Your First (or Next) Book (Painlessly)

Sometimes, for reasons unknown to us, we can’t. get. started. even if the project is something we REALLY, REALLY want to do. Often it’s overwhelm that gets us. We don’t know quite where to begin. Writing that first word, especially if it’s our first go with making a book, can be intimidating. The good news is there are tons of things you can do before you actually start writing your book.

And these are not frilly, fool-yourself-into-doing-something things. These are actually important to do. These first 11 are the least threatening of the many things it pays to do before getting started with the writing, or at least early in the process.

Stay tuned for part two, in which we start getting a little more technical, but no less preparatory and necessary to your badass love project’s success.

Here you go:

  1. Start by writing down everything you know about your book idea: what the topic, title, nonfiction, fiction? Just like you would if you were telling someone about it. “It’s a book about…” You might be pleasantly surprised at how much you write down. Also, you’ll be practicing a happy creative habit that’s hard to beat: Find a way to capture your great ideas so you don’t have to remember them! Free up some hard drive space and write down your book idea.

2. Start a list of possible titles, chapters, and other content. Again, just give  your imagination free rein. “There will be a poem between each chapter, and quotations that are mysterious, and references to music. There will be an entire universe….”

3. And on that note: Will it be illustrated? Have quotations? Questions for the reader to answer? Flesh it out in your mind and on paper.

4. Write or draw some character sketches. This is self-explanatory, but if you do need more guidance, imagine your characters not only in the roles they play in your work, but also in the rest of their “off-camera” lives. What’s in their sock drawer? Where do they keep their money? Bills facing the same way, or a crumbled mess in the front pocket of their greasy jeans? What do they smell like? Etc. Even if it’s a first person narrator in nonfiction, how do you want that person to come across?

5. While you’re dreaming and sketching, picture your ideal reader. Who are they and what do they care about? What else do they read? Brainstorm a list of who would be interested in your book.

6. Think about how your readers will find you. Where do they hang out? How do they find books? Supermarket check-out? Back pages of specialty mags? Internet? This all makes a difference later when you’ll be making publishing and marketing decisions. (Isn’t that beyond exciting? You will be making publishing and marketing decisions!)

7. A related question: how do you see people using your book?  By themselves, in groups, with their therapist or coach, on a cruise?

8. Try drawing or sketching your cover. What colors go with your book? What textures, what design features, what century and feel? Western? Army? Victorian? Friendly? Comforting?

9. How do you see yourself writing it, in what time frame, and by what method? Will you write a little every day, record and transcribe? Get it done this year? 5 years? Whenev?

10. Read up on how authors go about writing your kind of book. Whether it’s a workbook, mystery or historical fiction, each author uses specific methods and processes to create them. Will you have to map out the plot and scenes ahead of time? Will you work from an outline? Find out how some of your favorite writers do it.

11. Lastly, could there be other, related products as well? Should there be a video? Music? Mugs? Just dream and wonder. And wander.

Next time, we’ll get into some of nitty-gritty, but for today, try easing into these 11 not-too-taxing ways to get started on the darned thing.

And, last, what not to do: Sit and fret about it one more day.

Can’t quite get there on your own?

After you download my ebook, Happily Creative: How to Become a Happy Creative in Just 30 Days, focus on just the first 10 pages, and ignore the rest for now.  The first 10 pages are specific tools to help you overcome the three major mental and emotional obstacles that keep us from getting started.

I’d love to have you join my tribe of happy creatives.

Five things that stop you from creating and what to do about them

If there’s nothing else you get out of this article, I want you to remember this one oddly comforting and horribly true thing: Nobody cares. Now, onto the things that stop you from putting pen or brush to paper or canvas, or writing that song or resume–and what you can do about them.

Fear of Failure

I’m not sure what people mean by this, because there are so many ways to fail, it’s almost impossible to count them. I’m tempted to ask, but I think that would just make these people more fearful. That said, there are also countless ways to succeed.

The key is to define success for yourself. This is a necessary step in the creative process anyway, as soon as you set out to do something specific. It helps to have something in mind that you’re aiming for, and it could be something as simple as wanting to create a better one than the last one.

But artists generally focus on an aspect of the work and are much more specific than that. They also set personal challenges for themselves: “I want to get the shading right.” “I want to widen my vocabulary and description powers.” “I want to try poetry.” “I want to write a gospel song.”

See how this is not copping out and going easy on yourself, but actually creating a specificity it’s damned hard to be afraid of? The worst that can happen is you don’t get the shading right. Not the end of the world and public shaming.

What to do: Set a personal success target that has nothing to do with anyone else. What would constitute achievement, a new high mark, make you proud? If the answer is nothing, examine your mindset. If literally nothing is ever good enough, you are probably driving yourself crazy and upset everywhere in your life, not just with your creative projects and art.

Setting unrealistic expectations

Related to fear of failure and defining success, this has to do with imposing expectations and requirements you feel you must be held to in order for it to “count.” Example: first time writer wants to write a runaway bestseller. While there’s nothing wrong with wanting that, and it certainly is possible, having that be your sole motivator is intrinsically disempowering. Whether something becomes a hit or not is at least 50% out of your control (maybe more like 80%) and is a bonus to actually making something of good quality that you will be proud to put your name on.

Fantasizing about being rich and famous because of your work is one thing; using that fantasy as a standard of success is all or nothing thinking, and a set-up for disappointment.

What to do: Break your expectations and benchmarks into much smaller, doable steps. Want to write a bestseller? Sketch out story ideas. Make a reading list. Schedule in a time every day to write. Browse the Amazon bestseller list. Write your chapter headings. Write character sketches. Map out the plot. If these are too big, guess what? Make them even smaller. Clear the space, get the notebook or document file up, and mess around, for a specific period of time.

Fear of criticism

Repeat after me: Nobody cares. Criticism happened when you were in school and everybody had to pass judgement on everybody else, before we were all enlightened and realized that good/bad, right/wrong is old school, and there’s something for everyone, and process and product and purpose are three different things. So shut up. (I may have digressed a little.) What happens when we’re adults and we create something someone else doesn’t like is they ignore it and move on.

If you create something you don’t like, you move on. And if there’s anyone left in your life who’s criticizing you on a regular basis, besides the gremlin that’s criticizing you (and me) right now, distance yourself quickly.

And p.s., it’s really good to know if your biggest critic is you, because that’s so normal. But still ignore it and move on. See of Fear of Failure and Setting Unrealistic Expectations, above.

What to do: Create anyway.

Thinking you should know how to do everything from the outset

Now didn’t I just say you could have an idea of something you wanted to accomplish? And didn’t I say that you could use that as a measure of success instead of whether you went viral because of it? What I didn’t tell you is, you won’t automatically know how to do what you’re setting out to do. This is why it’s a benchmark and a goal. It’s going to force you to grow. Yay! This is not a reason not to start. Stopping yourself here is a form a perfectionism.

What to do: Stay present and as each problem is encountered, do your best to solve it. Research how others do it. Experiment. Realize that it may take you hundreds of tries before you master something. The journey of a thousand miles consists of with one tentative, innocent, misguided and wrong step after another. Wrong isn’t the end of the world. And once you’ve mastered whatever, you will feel as if you’ve actually been to the end of the world, and you’ll want to go back again, as soon as possible.

Thinking it should turn out as you pictured it

Making goals and configuring your idea of success are great ways to get yourself off the starting mark, but by the same token, being too rigid about the outcome can make you judge yourself a failure, a disincentive to continue or try again.

Creativity is a process of making something where there are no instructions–and nobody cares. (Did I mention that?) Give yourself permission to follow the process, be alive in the moment and surrender to the dictates of something wiser than–gasp!–your logical mind. Get to enjoy not knowing, flying by the seat of your pants and all those other things that got you into trouble in school. In the creative process, there are no bad grades, only people who don’t show up.

In the creative process, there are no bad grades, only people who don’t show up. Click To Tweet

What to do: If you want to get over yourself and start being happy already, download my book, Happily Creative: How To Become a Happy Creative in Just 30 Days! It’s a 30 Day Plan that includes dealing with perfectionism, fear of failure, lack of ideas, the time-space continuum and guides you through the revolutionary process of putting a stake in the ground of your life and saying “YES!” to creating everyday for the next 30 days. Now THAT’S badass.

Yes, I want to be a a happily creative badass!

50 Book Idea Joggers for Your Inspirational Masterpiece

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Dear you,

Today’s post will be a short one. I’m in the midst of a writing and drumming weekend, getting organized for the final stretch of winter, and just wanted to get this out to you for your Sunday vacation from the frenzied pitch of social media and politics.

And do take a break, drink some water, and think about how you can make the world a better place. Essentially, these boil down to two: Ramp up the self-care so you are strong, resilient, rested, clear and grounded. And, bring your ever-loving gift out into the world, because we need it. (Hint: It’s not as hard as resisting it has been, and it’s not complicated.)

I offer today’s post in response to an email I received from a writer who isn’t clear on a topic for a book she wants to try her hand at. I thought it would be fun to share this list of 50 ideas to get your brain going, in case you, too, are toying with nonfiction book ideas.

If you’re thinking of writing a book – an inspirational book, a book that shares your life and your life’s message –

Maybe you’re only thinking of writing this book because every other person, once they get to know you, says, “You should write a book!” Maybe secretly you agree with them, but really don’t know where to begin.

Maybe you want to write a book because you’ve always wanted to write a book. It’s bucket list material.

Maybe you’ve written other things, and now you want to write something for the soul, from the soul.

Whether you’re a practitioner, a Mom, a retired nurse, or just a general gad-about looking for your next thing, you can write a rockin’ good book.

– The first step is a topic. Topics come from everywhere. They float in behind dreams and are overheard in the grocery store over fish, or apples. Keep your inner ear tuned and an idea will come to you. Meanwhile, take a look at this list of 50 ideas, for starters.

Download the pdf here.

50 Book Idea Joggers

From Your Current Work with Clients

What advice do you routinely give your clients?

What self-care and follow-up routines or activities do you routinely recommend?

What homework do you give?

What kinds of things do you have people do to prepare for their first meeting with you?

How can people get the most out of working with you?

What are the fundamental concepts/beliefs/systems/knowledge that inform the work you do that you’d like clients to know about when they start out with you?

How about the ones you don’t need clients to know about but which nonetheless greatly inform your work?

What unique processes, methods or systems have you developed that have gotten results for your clients?

What do you do differently than your colleagues who are doing similar work, and how did you evolve those ways, and why are they different, unique, better and worth sharing?

What can you teach others to do that would help them get better results in their work or personal life?

From Your Life experience

How did you get to be who you are today?

What challenges have you faced and overcome?

What were the low points?

What successes and triumphs have you had?

Who have been your allies? Your enemies?

What have your internal enemies and allies been?

What lessons have you learned?

What mistakes would you avoid this time around?

What advice would you give someone following in your footsteps?

What do you wish you’d known then that you know now?

What mistaken ideas took you down detours and how did that help you ultimately?

What’s the most surprising thing about where you are today, compared to where you started out?

Have you ever had unseen help? Describe what happened.

What do you think you’ve travelled this particular path?

What purpose did your suffering and struggle serve ultimately?

What do other people think you should write about and are they on target?

What strengths have you developed as a result of your hero’s journey?

What old concepts have you left behind?

If you could sum up your greatest wisdom, learning or way of living/working as a result of your healing journey in a few words, what would they be?

Who have your challengers been?

Who have your allies been?

Tell about the time you almost gave up and the breakthrough that followed

What are some pitfalls you can warn others who are on a similar path about?

What are some of the weirdest choices you’ve made, and where did they take you?

A Contemporary Issue or Problem That You Can Help Solve

What’s your unique take on the root cause(s) of this problem?

What’s your unique take on solutions(s) to the problem?

What can individual people do to address or solve this?

What societal changes need to happen to address or solve this?

What legal or governing changes need to happen to address or solve this?

What mindset shifts would help address or solve this?

What common pitfalls in thinking, policy or individual behavior need to be avoided in order to implement your solutions?

What are some examples of how someone would put your ideas into action?

What have others tried and failed at in addressing this problem, and why have they failed? What fundamental did they miss?

Topics That You are Crazy-Nerdy Interested and Expert In

What things do you spend a lot of time thinking about and as a result know more than the average person?

What are you crazy-nerdy interested in?

What off-the-wall things do you know more about than most people?

What are some things you’ve done that no one else has done, why, and how would it benefit anyone to know about them?

What are your secret or guilty pleasures, including physical, sexual, intellectual, trivia and strictly fluff?

What would you have on your desert island and why?

Talk about your super powers and how you got them.

Bonus Idea

What’s the one self-help, how-to, inspirational, investigative or personal growth book that’s not out there that you would read in a heartbeat?

Till next time, keep breathing and be good to yourself. Your gift is SO needed!

With love,

PhyllisSig

© 2017 Phyllis Capanna. All Rights Reserved.