Skill matters — but heart matters more when it comes to your book’s message
A few days ago, I was asked about my life philosophy at a business event. This didn’t happen as we were just passing cards during a 30-second intro — it was part of an exercise on the topic of building consensus by learning to understand where others are coming from.
Participants were given a list of about 80 values (e.g., cooperation, creativity, excellence, involvement, loyalty, freedom, public service, stability, sophistication, and wisdom) and asked to choose the 10 they felt best represented themselves. We were then asked to narrow that list down to our Top 5 and rank them in order of importance. The exercise consisted of pairing off with others, showing them our Top 5 list, and having the other person ask us to explain what one of those terms meant to us, personally. My top 5 included personal development, freedom, influencing others, affection, and helping society. The gal who chose to ask me about my value of helping society also asked about my life philosophy.
My answer to her was, essentially, that I really, truly, and from the bottom of my heart want to change the world and make it a better place for all of us. But I cannot do that on my own. In my opinion, no single book or single messenger could undertake such a massive goal. But I can — and do — effect change by helping other people write the best books they can and then get those books into the hands of readers. I don’t write all the books or share all the messages myself; I help many messengers raise their voices and exert their influence in their particular fields.
I wouldn’t have given this much more thought, except that a related question arose in one of my LinkedIn groups today. The headline read: Are you an elitist? Or do you believe everyone should write?
Wow! I’d actually like to meet the person who said that everyone should not write. Now, I’m something of a perfectionist, so I get the absolute frustration with the plethora of crap books out there. I’ve said before and I’ll say again: The good news is that writing a book is easier than it’s ever been; the bad news, also, is that writing a book is easier than it’s ever been. Not everyone is a born writer. Not everyone has any skill whatsoever at putting sentences on a page in a way that makes sense, allows proper white space, incorporates correct grammar, or spells even passably. But the lack of those technical skills does not automatically diminish the message.
I was inherently blessed with a decent command of grammar and language and communication. I’ve often come across other writers who find writing difficult. I saw the banner of a colleague’s Facebook page today with the Ernest Hemingway quote: “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter — and bleed.” I’ve never referenced that quote because it’s not a feeling with which I am familiar or one I want to perpetuate.
Writing, editing, layout, design, and marketing are easy for me. I know that is not the case for all — or most — writers and would-be authors. But because it’s easy for me, I can help others who struggle with those parts! The thing I absolutely cannot do is give you a message or a passion or an urge to make a difference with your words. Feel you can’t write your way out of a paper bag — but you have an idea that could save, transform, or uplift the lives of many? What if you’d met that person who felt that since you’re not a natural writer, you should pack it in and give up the thought of writing a book or speaking in public or sharing your message with the world?
Maybe … perhaps … possibly you have met that person, and he or she so discouraged you that you’ve still got a tiny little voice inside you telling you that you have something important to say, but it’s buried under all the crap you’ve allowed others to heap on you. Maybe it was a parent or a shitty school teacher who had no business in a classroom. Maybe it was an unsupportive sibling or spouse who told you your writing would never come to anything. Maybe it was an envious colleague who wanted to see you fail so they could feel better about themselves. Doesn’t matter who it was — or what they said. What matters is that you ignore their messaging, dismantle the self-sabotage you’ve allowed to take hold, and begin to listen more intently to your own voice — the one with the important message.
I can’t change the world by myself. I don’t know enough about the environment, immigration, prison reform, healthcare, education, relationships, spirituality, or any of the other myriad places I know we need to foster change. I know what I’d like to see happen, and I know there are many out there who are already making a big difference. But there are many, also, who are not yet making any difference at all because they’re fearful that they don’t know enough, aren’t polished enough, don’t have enough skill as writers. I’m here to help you stomp out such nonsense, once and for all.
Please don’t get bogged down in the technical details. Making a book is EASY — I promise. Writing it may take a bit of effort, but even that doesn’t have to be as difficult as you may have talked yourself into believing it is. The one part only you can do is have a message, a mission, and the will to share it with the world.
Are you ready to take a step forward? To begin to help me change the world? You can do it — I know you can.
Here’s to proving all the naysayers wrong!
PHOENIX-AREA AUTHORS: If you or someone you know is an author in Phoenix, please consider participating in the Summer Author Event on August 16. This multi-author book signing and meet-and-greet will put you in front of hundreds of readers in a casual environment where you can sell and sign books. There are three levels of participation. The first 100 attendees will receive goody bags – and for just $25, you can put a promo for your book into the goody bags! Learn more or register at SummerAuthorEvent.com.
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