9 Valuable Lessons Learned From Writing & Publishing A Book

learned from writing and publishing a book
Photo by Christine Adel for Shani Jay

What have I learned from writing and publishing a book?

A tonne.

I’ve learned so much about writing, creating, editing, publishing, and I’ve learned about myself, too.

What gets me excited to wake up each morning, what inspires me most, and what my biggest challenges and limitations are.

What success looks and feels like to me, what helps me get into the creative zone, and what I want my legacy to be.

The thing about writing a book is, it will undoubtedly change you, and it will shape you.

You will start this process as one person and complete it as someone else. You will evolve and expand and be required to take many soul stretches along the way.

And if you’re willing to see it through to the end, you will be surprised.

Surprised by what you accomplish, the barriers you break through, and the other people you help and heal and change in the process.

This is what I’ve learned from writing and publishing a book

1. It will require you to get comfortable being deeply uncomfortable

The process of writing anything – a blog post, an article, a short story, or even a book – forces you out of your comfort zone and towards your self-imposed limits. The ones that say things like:

I don’t want to.

What if I fail?

You’re not good enough.

You can’t do this.

This was a terrible idea. 

Writing is an act of creativity. And the thing about creativity is, it’s uncertain. You don’t ever know what the outcome will be when you begin, and you have little to no idea what’s going to happen along the way.

That uncertainty causes most of us to feel uncomfortable. And this is what you’ll experience any time you dare to walk to the edge, and do something you’ve never done before.

It’s uncomfortable and uncertain, yes. But it’s also thrilling and magical and hopeful, too.

2. Writing a book is not the hard part

To a certain extent, writing a book is challenging.

You’ve got to consistently show up each day and keep writing – through your own doubts and fear. And you’ve got to find the motivation and discipline to keep going until it’s finished.

But the real challenge begins once you’ve finished writing your book, and it’s time to birth it into the world.

Because it requires deep courage to publish something you’ve created, knowing that it will exist out there forever. That’s a scary thought, and one that I had to become accepting of.

3. Writing from your heart is the greatest gift you have to give

People want their heroes to bare their scars because people have scars. We all do.

We resonate with people who we can empathise with and understand; the ones who make us feel like we’re not alone in whatever it is we’re going through. Whether it’s pain, frustration, grief, anger, elation, jealousy, passion or depression.

This is why writing from your heart – being authentic – is the greatest super power you have as a writer.

My first book Bloom was filled with essays and poems that were created from a deeply personal place. I wrote about my own battles with my body and appearance, learning to love myself, falling in love, being rejected, and recognising that I deserved a whole lot more than I used to believe.

It was difficult to revisit those memories and experiences, and live them all over again as I wrote. But this is what made that book so powerful and inspiring to the women who read it.

4. It’s vital you keep your creative well nourished

I sat down to write my fourth book in 2019, and it felt like I was forcing it. Nothing was flowing easily like it had before. And there were so many times I would sit down at my laptop to write, and stare blankly at the screen for hours. Then I would judge myself for not having anything to show for my time.

Creativity is an energy, which means it is infinite and will never run out. But our resources as human beings do run out, and need replenishing often.

When you find yourself creatively blocked, it’s usually because you’ve been over-creating, and not giving yourself time to rest and re-fill your well.

Sometimes, taking a break is what you need to kick-start your writing again. Think about what nourishes and inspires you, and do more of that.

For me, it’s listening to new music, going to a live gig, watching inspirational TV shows and documentaries, cooking a new recipe, re-decorating my space, putting together a fun outfit, heading to the beach, being in water, doing some yoga, meditating, or reading a magazine I love.

5. Waiting until you feel ready is a mistake

What I’ve learned from writing and publishing a book is you will never feel ready to do it. You’ll always think you need more experience, more knowledge, or more time to get started.

I wrote and published my first book when I was 26. And almost four years later, I look back and can see how much I’ve changed and grown since then – both personally and professionally as a writer.

If I wrote a book now, it would undoubtedly be different. And I’m sure my voice and actual writing skills would be stronger, because I’ve had a lot of time to practice!

But by that logic, you would just keep on endlessly waiting and waiting. And you’d never create anything.

Just start today. Wherever you are, and whatever your life looks like. Don’t wait. You are ready.

6. Be willing to invest in yourself & your work

I chose to self-publish my second and third books, which meant I was responsible for the costs of the entire project. That included the editing, formatting, and cover design.

And because I had just quit my job and was only making a small amount of money freelancing, I was on a shoestring budget.

But I still chose to invest in myself and my work. I spent $1000 of my savings on an online course that showed me how to write and self publish a book. I didn’t go for the cheapest editor I could find. And I spent money on ads to market my book once it was published.

Later, I also invested in professional photos of me and my books for my website, and coaching to help me grow my business. And all of these investments helped me grow, too.

Each time you choose to invest in yourself will help transform your mindset from one of scarcity, to one rooted in abundance. And you’re choosing to back yourself, which is vital, because nobody else will do that for you.

7. Perfect is a myth

Nothing you ever do in this life will be perfect.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive to create good and great things, because you absolutely should.

What I mean is, don’t get caught up in stressing and altering and waiting for perfect. Because it won’t happen. There will always be something you can change, or more you can do, and there will always be imperfections that are noticeable to you as the creator.

So the sooner you take that on board, and get excited to create imperfect things, the happier and freer you will be as a writer.

8. I am not responsible for how the world responds to my writing

One of the most valuable things I’ve learned from writing and publishing a book is that I am only responsible for my part. That’s the part of showing up each day, writing, and putting my creation out into the world.

What happens next, is out of my hands. And I can choose to waste precious time and energy worrying about this, or I can choose to release the need to control what cannot be controlled.

There have been women who have loved my books, and women who have thrown them in the trash. And I am not responsible for either of those reactions.

All I can do is show up, and write the best book I possibly can.

9. Everything matters. And none of it matters

Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.
Mahatma Gandhi

I love this quote because it’s a beautiful reminder that although what we do matters, it also really doesn’t. This is one of the many dualities of our human experience.

Writing a book has taught me that it’s important that I pour my heart out onto the page, and continue to write and publish books – because this is one of the things my soul came here in this lifetime to do. And nobody else will be able to write the books that I came here to write.

Equally, I have to remove myself from the belief that my work matters, if I want to stay sane and maintain a free spirited sense of joy and play in my work and my life. I have to know that the world won’t end if I don’t finish this book I’m working on, or it doesn’t sell as well as I’d hoped.

It’s everything, and it’s nothing. It is neither, and it is both. This is the paradox of life.

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