If there’s anything a writer hates to hear, it’s this:
“Oh, you’re a writer? I have a great idea for a book!”
Nobody means any harm about this, of course. But the implication is clear — anybody can write anything if they try hard enough. After all, you only have to sit down and write a whole bunch of words, right? Right?!
How hard could it be? According to surveys, somewhere in the range of 200 million people think they could write a book.
If you’ve ever said those words “I thought about writing a book,” I forgive you (sort of). I also write this post in hopes of giving you a guide to why you WON’T ever write a book.
I also write this post in hopes of giving you a guide to why you WON’T ever write a book.
1. You’ll never find the time
I love that expression — “Find the time.”
Like some day you’ll look under a rock and suddenly discover an extra hour a day the rest of us don’t have.
You will never find the time to write your book because time doesn’t just happen — it is managed, controlled, directed. The biggest reason non-writers never become writers is simply because their lives are already in motion, following a certain path.
Every single person on the planet can write a book. Everyone has a unique story to tell or expertise to share.
Sadly, most will never do so because they won’t make the time.
2. Even if you do get momentum, you won’t finish
Let me tell you how writing goes for most people who “think about” writing a book:
- Step 1 — You are flushed with a great idea for your book. Now is the time!
- Step 2 — You sit down the next morning and promptly write Chapter One. You’re on fire!
- Step 3 — You write half of Chapter Two the next day and stall out. No worries, it’s just an off day.
- Step 4 — You plunk out a few more sentences.
- Step 5 — You Google how many words are in a book. The answer is 50,000… You have 1,374.
- Step 6 — You give up.
Here’s the good news — you probably DO have a great idea for a book.
Here’s the bad news — an idea is only the beginning.
Psychology Today recently reported creativity itself is not an exclusively mental process. Meaning, when you only “think about” writing a book, you can’t get very far. Part of the creative process IS hitting the block. Even if you do get as far as you “thought about,” you don’t know what to do next.
Instead of rushing into a first draft of a book, I almost always write an outline for what I want the whole book to look like. This helps me flush out blocks before I’m 20,000 words deep and one change will require hours of work to achieve continuity.
This way, when you get stuck on Chapter 2, you can go write Chapter 14. When you slow down there, you can hop back to Chapter 5.
3. You don’t care enough
True writers believe in their ideas so much, the are willing to forsake months of human interaction in hopes of communicating the idea through writing. They are willing to find case studies, drown themselves in research, interview experts, consolidate all that information, and THEN stare at a screen and push buttons for thousands of hours, figure out a digestible structure for the book, agonize over the exact right metaphor, and then somehow try and read that work as a reader so they can make the proper edits.
Of course you can make money writing. It’s been done before.
But you won’t make as much as your “real job” at first. You probably won’t land an advance on your first book. You might not have the reader base to sell more than 132 copies on your first pre-launch.
Without the money, you don’t have motivation elsewhere.
So you do nothing.
4. You will realize writing is actually hard.
One of my favorite episodes in the sitcom Frasier is where Kelsey Grammer’s character and his brother Niles attempt to write a book together.
It makes a lot of sense. They’d each written dozens of papers to obtain PhDs in school. Niles is a respected psychologist in his field. Frasier, of course, has dozens of case studies to fall upon thanks to his successful radio show.
Throughout the episode, the two fall into every writer’s cliche: fiddling with font choices, promising unreasonable pages to a publisher, fighting for hours over the first line, and eventually, of course, panicking, missing the deadline, and inevitably failing to finish anything.
I love what literary agent Kate McKean says in her article on why you won’t write a book:
“Remember writing papers in school? Remember trying to eke out 1,000 words or three pages or whatever seemingly arbitrary number a teacher set? Remember making the font bigger and the margins wider? You can’t do that to a book.”
Just like coaching, football, or psychiatry, writing is a skill. You have to have a basic knowledge of language. Then, you have to figure out how to get enough words on paper. Then, you need to be able to edit your words together in an interesting way.
Sure, you can do it, but not without practice.
5. You won’t be able to see the gold through the mud
With a master painter, the beginning of every canvas looks like random brush strokes.
The end of it looks like brilliance.
If you’re going to write a book, you have to see through the mud to reach gold.
Share this post with a writer who needs motivation!