Are you already the author you want to be? Or is there something, some little thing, holding you back? If you aren’t already the author you want to be, you’re unlikely to get there with the help of a simple “just do it” piece of advice. It’s probably more complicated than that.
I’ve had four different last names. Yup, it’s odd. I assumed my first husband’s surname when I was 21. I added to that the surname of my third husband when I was 39. In the midst of my third divorce, I knew I had to do something about my name.
I wrote about it all in a piece published in Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper in 2010.
It was hard to put it all out there, to shine a bright light on my little name issue and what it meant, known only by me and those who had known me long enough to have once called me by a different name. But the process of sharing helped me make sense of it. And yes, some people thought — and still think — that I’m crazy.
Thankfully, I know that what other people think is none of my business.
What other people think is none of my business #decidewhoyouare #indieauthor #daretodream #doitanyway
Deciding Who I Was
Sorting out my name was about deciding who I was. Was I going to own my painful history? Was I going to embrace all of my dreams, some realized, some dashed, some still in the work-in-progress column? Was I good enough as I was, without adding or camouflaging?
You bet I was. But it took me years to figure that out. And it wasn’t easy.
The Author You Want to Be
What does this have to do with you and your desire to write and publish a book, to become a published author?
You may have heard that somewhere between 80 and 90 percent of all people want to write a book.
You may also have heard that 97 percent of people who start writing a book never finish it.
Which camp are you in?
It’s all about deciding who you are. Are you going to embrace your dream of being a published author and solve whatever is standing in your way? Or are you just going to continue to wish it?
Sometimes letting these unrequited desires fester inside will contribute to stress, illness, and low self-worth. Who wants that?
Seeing Yourself As the Author You Want to Be
It’s also about seeing yourself as you will be once you finish the book.
The one thing people who write, finish, and publish their books have in common is that before they started the book, they visualized themselves as though they had already finished the book.
What's Stopping You?
Is it procrastination? Disorganization? A perfection issue? Fear? Not knowing how? Let’s look at each of these.
Writing a book, like many worthwhile endeavours, takes time and commitment. If you always put off the task of writing until the perfect time, or until you have everything else crossed off your to-do list, you’ll join the 97 percenters and never, ever get your book done. The book has to become a priority. The priority. It has to be the first thing you do every day, not the thing you might get to later.
Are you plagued by a series of unfinished chores? Have trouble keeping what’s on your to-do list straight? Are you worried you are just too disorganized to be able to gather your thoughts and words to finish a book? Is your wall covered in sticky notes that made so much sense when you put them up there, but don’t speak to you now?
While there are excellent tools to help you cope with disorganization, like focusing on one thing at a time, I’d ask you to consider if the issue really is disorganization. Maybe it’s something different.
I come from a family well-acquainted with Attention Deficit Disorder, or ADD. Those blazing-fast ideas, the connections between this thing and that thing that appear clear as a bell in yellow and orange glowing lines in your head, the starting of one task but getting distracted by something else…. yes. All those things can look like disorganization. But maybe they’re actually caused by something else. Maybe it’s a creativity overload.
When my son was first diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder) I read a bunch of books, and found out that what his teachers were labelling a problem was actually something worth celebrating in others.
Innovation and invention require creativity, and often that comes accompanied by ADD. According to Quora, that font of all wisdom, famous inventors and authors who were known to have ADD include Alexander Graham Bell, the Wright Brothers, Albert Einstein, Van Gogh, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allen Poe….. and more.
The point is, whether you’re disorganized or have ADD or something different, in order to become the author you want to be you must find a way through it. Or, find a way to make it work for you. For example, pull one sticky note off the wall each day and write for 15 minutes about the topic of the note. The next day, pick another.
Now this one really is a big problem. Apart from the fact that it is a totally unattainable position, perfectionism is just plain going to get in your way. You’ll never get a first draft of any manuscript done if you’re worrying about every word, paragraph and page being perfect. In fact, we have a blog about exactly that.
Perfectionism is also going to keep you from connecting with your readers. No one enjoys being preached at by someone who believes they are perfect, that everything they have done is perfect. Connections are made through authenticity, being real about flaws and through sharing mistakes and lessons learned.
Ah, fear. Fear is a big block that gets in the way of all sorts of things for all sorts of people. If you suspect that fear is at the root of the block between you and the author you want to be, ask yourself these two questions.
1. Am I afraid I will never get the book done?
2. Am I afraid of what will happen when I DO get the book done?
Fear of success is a real, honest-to-goodness thing. Just ask the perpetual overweight girl with a sexual assault in her past, terrified of the attention a slimmer version of herself might garner from the opposite sex. It’s a real issue.
Be honest with yourself, and let yourself see what’s at the real root of your fear. Only then can you do something about it.
Not Knowing How
Not knowing how to write and publish a book can manifest in one or all of the above blocks.
Maybe you procrastinate because you don’t know how to write and publish your book.
Maybe you’re so disorganized you can’t get through the item on the to-do list that has you asking for help.
Your perfectionist self can’t abide the thought of stooping so low as to admit you need help.
Or your fear of discovering you actually have nothing worthy to say prevents you from reaching out to get someone to help you with what you don’t know.
Writing and publishing and marketing a book is hard. It’s so much easier when you partner with someone who knows how to do it. Someone who can coach you through the structuring and writing of a great manuscript. Someone who can then guide your efforts through all the details of editing and proofreading and layout and design and keywords and sales copy and marketing and promotion.
Independent or self-publishing does not mean you have to do everything yourself. It means you are in control: in control of the team you gather around you and your book, in control of your achievements, in control of your results and your success.
Deciding Who You Are
It’s all about deciding who you are. Are you an author? Or will you let yourself disappear into the fog as one of the millions of people who want to be an author?
Was I going to do all those things I always wanted, like write and publish a book and work in the publishing industry, helping other people achieve their dreams and goals of publishing their book?
You bet I was. And I did. And I do.
So that name thing. It came to a head when I was heading for marriage number four. (Hands down, the best one!) As I finally decided to take back my maiden name, Wagner, my fiancee had a suggestion I couldn’t refuse.
“Why don’t we each take one another’s last name? Then it won’t be only you making the change.” Ah, that’s one reason I love him so much.
On the day of the wedding, I signed the papers changing my surname back to Wagner, and then I immediately signed more papers adding my new spouse's name: Stafford. And John signed the papers adding my Wagner to his Stafford…. which is why we are now both Wagner-Stafford.
So, finally, at age 50, I realized that who I was, and who I wanted to be, was the person I had been all along.