Saturday, July 28, 2007

So You Want to Write a Book

Years ago, I heard a Very Famous Author, one of my favorites, speak at a conference. She said she was once at a Very Flossy Party, where she struck up a conversation with a Very Important Brain Surgeon. When he asked what she did, she said she was an author (by then, she'd written a bunch of best sellers). His response was, "Oh, I'm going to write a book someday, too, when I have time." She fired back, "I'm going to take up brain surgery when I have time."

I applauded her remark because I've heard the same thing so often. There is apparently a belief out there that anyone can write a book if he or she has time to do it. Well, the truth is that most people who write books don't have the time to do it (until they, too, become Very Famous Authors and don't have to clean their own houses anymore). They write for a couple of hours a day while they also take care of their children and go to their day jobs. They get up at ungodly times to write before they begin the morning commute. They write in their cars while they wait for the kids at lacrosse practice or scribble a few lines at the laundromat. They write during their lunch hours. They write on envelopes or in little notebooks.

Writing isn't a matter of having time and a perfect writing environment; it's a matter of having something to say and the discipline to get it down in whatever bits and pieces of time you have. And then spending months rewriting and polishing. And then having your book rejected. It's work, not a hobby. I often tell clients that writing a book is like digging a ditch with a teaspoon. It's exhausting, frustrating, and sometimes exhilarating.

It also takes a modicum of talent and the willingness to get out there and meet agents and editors and other writers and to learn something about both the art and business of publishing.

So when you meet a writer at a cocktail party, remember this: He probably can't do your job--but you probably can't do his either.

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