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Wellbeing / Business psychology

The biggest obstacle to writing a book, and how to defeat it

Has writing a book always been on your to do list, but something keeps holding you back? Perhaps your biggest barrier isn’t what you think …

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Everyone loves get rich quick schemes.

How many times have you downloaded a resource, signed up to a course or started working with a coach because you hoped they could short-cut your path to success?

When it comes to writing a book, think about what you’ve read already:

  • 7 common writing mistakes
  • 10 tips to write 1,000 words a day
  • How to write a book in a weekend

These are just some of the pieces of advice floating around on writing a book.

I love tactics and strategies – some of them are great and can streamline our journeys to achieving what we want.

"It feels more comfortable to read another shiny tip or trick and share it on Facebook than to actually take action."

However, most people don’t actually implement all of the free advice out there.

Why? Because it feels more comfortable to read another shiny tip or trick and share it on Facebook than to actually take action.

While strategies and tactics are valuable, they won’t make a difference until we deal with the internal chatter that’s holding us back from writing a book.

The danger of your rational inner voice

Believe me, I get this – I put off writing a book for months after I initially came up with the idea.

Every time I sat down to write, a little voice stopped me.

This isn’t the negative inner voice we usually think of when it comes to what’s holding us back. This voice wasn’t putting me down or telling me that I wasn’t good enough. It wasn’t doling out emotional blackmail that I’d been holding onto since my childhood.

Want more articles like this? Check out the business psychology section.

Instead, it was very logical and had a very rational argument for why I couldn’t write a book just yet.

This rational inner voice stops so many entrepreneurs from making big leaps in their businesses.

It’s the voice that says you can’t:

  • Dismiss the underperforming staff member, because you’re responsible for her financial stability.
  • Launch a new product, because you don’t have the time with your existing client work.
  • Invest in some new equipment, because you can’t pay for it in cash.

As you can see, all of these messages are very logical on the surface. This is what makes them so dangerous. After all, if your chatter was saying that you couldn’t start a health and wellness business because you’re a meerkat and live at the zoo, you’d laugh and toss that thought aside. Because this chatter is logical, we tend to accept it without argument or question.

And this is what holds so many entrepreneurs back.

If you questioned that thought about the underperforming staff member, then you could consider other options. Perhaps there’s another role for which they’d be more suited, or perhaps you know another business owner who is looking for someone just like them.

The thought about the product launch? Perhaps it’s possible to scale down your client work in the short-term, or to bring in some extra help to manage the existing work and the launch.

What about that equipment? Well, perhaps the manufacturer has a payment plan or you can get a loan, which you would then pay back through your increased revenue as a result of the new equipment.

When we don’t question this chatter, we don’t consider our other options, and this stops us from taking the next step in all areas of our lives.

In my case, my chatter said that because I’m an editor, my book had to be a great one. As you can see, this is very logical – the book is a representation of my business, my business helps entrepreneurs write awesome books, so my book should be awesome (or, at the very least, good) to be an accurate representation of the services I provide.

Yet the pressure that my book had to be great was crippling. Why? Because I was putting off writing until I felt like I could write something great. And my definition of ‘great’ was slightly unrealistic. It was based on the prize-winning modern literature and classics that I’d read over the years. So, ultimately, if I couldn’t write something worthy of a Nobel Prize, I felt like I shouldn’t write anything at all.

What’s holding you back from writing a book?

There are so many fears and anxieties that stop us from doing the one thing we know will make a big difference to our businesses:

  • ‘I don’t have enough time to write a book.’
  • ‘What will they think of me?’
  • ‘I don’t have a book idea.’
  • ‘I don’t know enough to write a book.’
  • ‘I’ll do it when I have more experience…’
  • ‘I’m not a writer.’
  • ‘Writing is hard!’
  • ‘Who am I to write a book?’

How do you feel when you read those fears? Which ones are true for you?

Now think about the tricks and tactics you’ve read about writing a book. Can you see how, if all of this baggage is lurking in your mind, none of those tactics would make a difference?

The key isn’t gathering information, it’s figuring out why you haven’t already started.

Overcoming that rational inner voice

So how can you move forward? First, you need to acknowledge the fears and beliefs that are holding you back, then you need to counter them.

In my case, I went to a networking event where the speaker spoke about two things. The first was that the obstacle is the way – the fact that when something is challenging or scary, that’s a sign that it is exactly what you need to grow. The second was chatter – this inner voice that stops us from doing these things for what seem like very rational reasons.

That night, I realise I needed to write my book. Because it was challenging and scary, it was clearly exactly what I needed to grow.

Yet my internal chatter – the pressure to achieve greatness – was still there.

What did I do? I started to question it. I agreed with what that little voice said – my book did need to be a good one. However, it didn’t need to be worthy of the Nobel Prize. It needed to be engaging, well-written and to give my readers value.

So I chose a new word. I decided that my first draft needed to be ‘decent’, and then I could refine and improve it.

The result? I wrote a book that I genuinely believe is a good one. Yes, the first draft did need work. Yes, I had some challenging feedback from my editor that led me to cut 9,000 words from the first draft and add another 7,000. And yes, it took me longer than I would have liked. But because I was able to take that pressure off the first draft, I was able to write something and, as I like to tell my editing clients, once you have something you have something you can improve.

What is your inner chatter saying, and how can you counter it?

Chatter: ‘What will they think of me?’

Counter: ‘No one needs to read my book if I’m not happy with it. When I’ve written the first draft, I can send it to an editor or a friend I trust for some honest feedback. Then I can improve it until I’m confident enough to go to print.’

Chatter: ‘I don’t have a book idea.’

Counter: ‘Since I’m writing a book for my business, I could talk to my clients about what they’re struggling with for inspiration. I could then write a book that helps solve their problems.’

Chatter: ‘I’m not a writer.’

Counter: ‘There are plenty of people who write books today who aren’t writers. In fact, there are plenty of books written by people in my industry. All I need is my knowledge – an editor can fix the language.’

The key is finding a counter that works for you. Simply:

  1. Write down your inner chatter around writing a book.
  2. See if you can logically counter that chatter. Your solution doesn’t need to be watertight – it just needs to be enough to get you started.

What inner chatter is holding you back from taking the next big step in your business? And how can you counter it?

Jacqui Pretty

is the Founder and Head Editor of Grammar Factory, a writing, editing and coaching company that helps entrepreneurs write awesome books.

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