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E4: Writing a Book - The Learning Curve (16-20)

Getting stuck and saying no...

I'm assuming you've heard of writer's block. Well, during the first draft, I managed to avoid it.

However, during the editing process, it hit me square across the face. Today we dig getting through it, hitting the wall, and saying "no".

Learnings 16-20

16. You will get stuck: I luckily did not have “writer’s block” during the initial draft. Since I had an outline developed, I could always sit down and establish writing flow. However I did have a three-day period during the editing process where I had no idea what to do. One morning, I sat and stared at my laptop at a Starbucks for almost an hour, hands wringing through my hair. I spoke with my publisher, who talked me through it. I spoke with the editor, who’s feedback essentially caused me to get stuck, but who’s advice unstuck me. It’s a dark period of time that I know most authors experience. I certainly did.

17. You will break - which is when my publisher knew it was ready: Picture re-write the first four chapters and send it back to your editor. The editor loves the revised chapter one, but needs edits to chapter two and three. You fix chapter two and three. The editor then tells you that chapter one needs to be rewritten again. Because of the fixes to chapters two and three, chapter one no longer sets them up properly. Imagine this scenario taking place almost weekly over a six week period. I finally broke. I called my publisher and said, “There is no light at the end of the tunnel. I’m editing into endless darkness.” My publisher told me that if I’m confident in where the book is, then it’s ready...and the fact that I broke confirmed it. He told me, “The editor works for you, you don’t work for the editor.”

18. To do it right, you have to focus: There have been a countless number of people I’ve talked to who have told me they’re going to write a book...and the overwhelming majority still haven’t. It takes focus and mojo. After writing my proposal, I was referred to three different publishers. As mentioned above, two were traditional publishers, whereas one was a “hybrid”. The two traditional publishers were very interested in partnering with me, but both said, “You have to quit your job to work with us.” In other words, this needed to be my full-time job. I wasn’t quite ready for that. The third was flexible. Once I really dug in to writing, I quickly realized the traditional publishers were right - I needed to make this my full time job. I quit my job as CRO of a fast growing Chicago tech company, and focused. In hindsight, this was the right decision for me...and I’m proud of the result.

19. Find your mojo: There’s a rhythm to writing. There are times in the day where the ideas flow, and times during the day when I struggled. I found the differences quickly. Every day, I would wake up, shower then head to a place to write. The majority of the time was a local Starbucks, but I liked to switch it up - multiple Starbucks around the area, sometimes I would head downtown and hit up a Specialties or similar place. Coffee shops were great for me. I would then head home, have lunch with the family, and at least a couple of times each week I would then head to the library to research, read and take notes.

20. I had to learn to say “no”: Given that focus, the first thing you have to resolve to is a realization that you have the financial runway to do this. My wife and I decided we did, so that was hurdle number one. Hurdle number two is recruiters. If you’re valuable enough to write a book worth reading, you’re likely also in demand on the job market. I had coffee with a prominent retained-search friend of mine, whose business is focused on finding and filling top level executive roles for organizations. He looked me in the eye and made me promise to him that I would say “no” to everything for at least six months. I agreed, but didn’t know the extent to which he meant it. Within days, companies who had found out that I left my CRO role were calling to see if I would join them. In one instance, an executive told me, “Todd, do this role, and your book will be even better when you do write it, as you’ll have even more amazing stories and experiences!” My response? “This isn’t a memoire. I need to write this right now. So the answer is an emphatic no!” It had to be. The book will only make you more valuable when you come out on the other side.

We're only through 20...and there are 50 more to go. Next up, doing your research, and then the harder-than-you-think process of securing endorsements! Yes - and we talk about Tyra Banks, too...

Lessons 21-25

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