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.

On Being Sixty, or Wherever You Are

21,900 days completed. Sixty is a tidy number. It’s respectable as ages go. You can’t argue with sixty. Sixty is no longer funny. To anyone else. I’m the only one who seems to be laughing.

I’m laughing because I’m delighted and proud, and that’s what I do when I’m nervous. Not nervous as in afraid, but nervous as in excited: What’s going to happen next? I’ve never climbed this high into a tree before! When I speak people listen; I finally know how to do things! Whee!

I’m excited – exhilarated even. It may be okay to take some things for granted now. I have a body. Nobody much cares what it looks like. But I can still count on it, and it can still deliver: movement, expression, pleasure. And my girlfriend still cares that it’s attached to me. That nice.

I am solidly in the window of time between when people worry that I won’t ever find my way and when people worry that it’s time to start taking care of me. I’m enjoying the roominess of not being worried over. In fact, no one much cares. This is freeing. I suppose I am at the top of some lifespan arch that hasn’t started its great downward curve.

Or maybe it has. Whenever I do one of those memory lapse/brain short-circuit things, I cringe a little more now, because this could be it. Granted people many years younger do the same things, but – I’m sixty.

Okay, so I’m a little nervous about what happens next. I’m far from finished. It’s nice that no one cares about my body, but I still want them to care what I think and want to get to know me. I still have lots to give and a desire to serve, and I want to see others coming behind me fly past and keep going. I’m still building a career, except now I’m having fun with it, I suspect because I know who I am and who I am not, and nothing else need define or validate me.

So, yeah, I am laughing at the idea of me being sixty. I’m just getting started, I’ve been at this a while, and I’m alive. I’ve finally begun to appreciate that that’s not a given and not eternal. I confess I used to think, since I experienced death so early in life, that I was somehow distancing myself from “all that” by growing older. The worst was over; nothing like that could ever happen again.

It has finally broken through to my conscious awareness that anything can happen that would change everything in an instant. Like, for real. And this realization has unlocked an ability in me to deeply appreciate things that I previously passed over, because they weren’t that important in the grand scheme. Now I see the grand scheme in the smallest of details. My awe at the creation is just beginning to awaken.

And while I seem to be more capable of appreciating life, I also admit that sixty seems to have intensified my dislikes. I don’t have time for things that offend my sensibilities and ethics.  I seem to be reveling in my freedom to reject things. After years of wanting to see both sides and keep an open mind, I no longer want to keep so open a mind that I have no opinions, that the door of my heart is continually letting in bad air and letting out precious resources of discernment and principles. I want things, dammit. And I want other things to just disappear.

So, whatever you’re doing that is petty, mean-spirited and wrong, it is not okay with me. But I do still love you. At sixty, I can say this without being disingenuous. Somehow, my heart space has gotten more spacious.

If anything, I’ve become less tolerant on a global scale and more tolerant on a personal level. Which leads me to a concept I’m toying with going forward: What if the global doesn’t exist? Or to put it more precisely, what if what we’ve thought of as global isn’t really it?

Globalization has taken cultures, landscapes and ways of life and turned them into strip joints, strip mines and strip malls. Social media has turned every image into a meme that we can interact with or not, as if we were participants in a psychology research project that never seems to end, that we pay to be allowed to keep living in. That we do live in.

Remember when we all knew someone who had to run home to their computer to “pick” their “cherries” in FarmVille or risk “losing” the whole “crop?” Now, of course, they don’t have to run home. Their computer is in their pocket. That’s progress!

I know, I know, the Internet is great and social media can be a force for good. I embrace this. But does it make us better citizens? Does it make us better neighbors? Do we even know our neighbors? Do we go to the town council meetings? What if town meeting is the new global?

And more to the point: Has the Internet made us more likely to take someone into our homes?

At sixty, I would take someone into my home. I used to worry about privacy and comfort a lot more than I do now. Now, I’m happy with a toothbrush, a pillow and a change of socks. (I’m finally learning the camping wisdom that changing out of sweaty clothes makes you warmer than staying in your damp woolens.) I like to think all of this means I’m both more practical and more useful to others.

And there are a few other things I know at this point:

I know that it’s a better idea to throw something away that you don’t need now than it is to hang onto it in case you need it later. I went through getting rid of books some time ago (no doubt after a move), and lately I’ve been wanting some of those books back. Guess what! They’re readily available all over the place. Welcome back, Hero With a Thousand Faces and The Courage To Create.

I know that I sometimes see things a long way off from when they actually happen, and when no one else can see it, that doesn’t make me crazy. I’ve now lived long enough to see some of those things come to pass and heard myself say more than once, “Didn’t I say that was going to happen?”

And if you don’t see it when I do, that doesn’t make you crazy either. I don’t need your validation or agreement, which lets us both off the hook. But knowing I have this ability, I’m now more likely to listen to your wisdom, because none of us can know it all, but together we can probably know a lot.

I know that certain thoughts stop energy, growth and movement in their tracks, and certain others open them up and get them flowing again. I think this is how we create our reality, and I know I will continue working toward mastering this for the rest of my life.

I know that relationships are more important than accomplishing tasks, and that having a plan is the best way to actually accomplish anything, including keeping relationships alive and current. I also know that intimacy involves being vulnerable, and that being vulnerable isn’t going to hurt me.

Now, you and I have heard older folks say this our whole lives, and now I’m going to say it: I don’t feel sixty. I feel like myself. But here’s the rest: If you want to see me as older, accomplished, wise, quirky, spritely, or great for my age, unaccomplished, insubstantial, and even if you want to stereotype me based on my (increasingly) grey hair or when I let it slip that I remember (clearly) 1968, that’s okay with me. I’ve worked my whole life to get here. All I wanted when I was little was to be an adult. (How’s that for stunted aspirations?)

I’ve achieved it. And now that I’ve built a sixty-year foundation, I can’t wait to see what I’m going to do with what I’ve been given, what I’ve learned, and who I’ve become. But just in case I don’t have a lot of time left at this crazy Earth trip, I’m going to keep on knowing what I know, loving whom I love, laughing, feeling, growing and nurturing relationships, because of all the things I’ve learned, I know that there is no tomorrow great enough to make it worth putting off what is right for today.

That I, of all people, arrive at this moment in my life balanced somewhat comfortably – you might even say dancing – between what is and what might be is nothing short of a miracle, and all the proof I need that something infinitely benevolent is afoot.

Oh, and whatever it is is laughing.