• Lana Wildman

Permission you didn't know you needed to write a book

Do you need permission to write a book?

Of course not! you sputter, confused. No one needs permission to write a book!

No, not with book-writing resources in such abundance—time and information, pens and paper and word processing programs, book coaches and editors and publishers. No one needs permission to write a book.

But ask yourself again. Does your heart need permission to write a book?

What doubts and hesitations are you wrestling with? While part of you does want to write a book, what are the shadows whispering when you ponder the possibilities?

Whether you think you need it or not, you hereby have permission to

Not finish

You can’t finish it anyway, not soon, not if it’s to be done well.

Don’t start with the end in the front of your mind, because there’s so much middle ground that needs to be covered. There is a lot of writing and rewriting and editing and more rewriting involved. The end comes later. Not when you start.

As you begin, don’t cling to some vision of completed perfection. Trust me, you will despair at some point, and want to quit. But if you remain flexible, you’ll probably get what you want.

You have permission to not finish (right now). Starting is hard enough. Climb one mountain at a time.

Start without knowing exactly how your ideas will tie together

As it turns out, the books that want to be written will write themselves. All they need is to be started.

Your concept, ideas and stories and phrases are seeds. The garden you plant them in is an outline, paragraphs lined up one after another, more paragraphs, and more ideas tucked in here and there. Start, then step back when things get hard or nonsensical. Take your ideas and difficulties to a friend who knows you and what you’re about, and who knows how to see both the trees and the forest. Ask questions along the lines of “Is this really the audience I’m writing to? Is this really what this book is about? Does this section maybe need to go somewhere else or into another book altogether?”

The material will oblige you by giving you subtle hints or a single stunning realization. The flexibility mentioned above will come in handy here.

You have permission to just start and see where your material wants to go. You can’t course correct until you’re in motion.

Write a book without being able to write a book

You may be plagued by the urgency that you have a message that needs to go out into the world, but you resist because you truly lack skill or time. Even for that, there is always help to be had.

A developmental editor will be able to look at all your pieces and see how they will fit, what may be missing, what wants to go in another place in your outline. She will be able to tell you that perhaps you are writing to this audience instead of that, so that when you begin to rework the presentation, perplexing issues resolve themselves and everything flows much more agreeably.

(You see? The book writes itself.)

A skilled ghostwriter will be able to translate your voice into the words, capturing your passion and the personality that makes you the one most qualified to tell the story and make this particular mark on the world.

Toward the end, test readers can help you clarify and refine from a reader’s point of view. Your line editor will be able to iron out wrinkles in your logic and sooth hiccups in your flow. The proofreader will deal with the spelling, punctuation, syntax—all those annoying rules that were the bane of your middle school English class.

You have permission to write a book even if you don’t feel qualified. Seek others who can make it happen.

What other questions does your heart wrestle with when you think about writing a book? What other permission do you need?

Writing a book is hard enough when you’re ready to get started. Give yourself every advantage possible by not waiting until all your concerns disappear before you begin.

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