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How Fear and the "Too Busy" Mentality Almost Ruined My Book

Writing a book is hard work. I’ve missed many outings, family get-togethers, and my daughter’s birth because of Scared Speechless. Just kidding about that last one, but the rest is certainly true.

What made writing this book so difficult wasn’t a lack of passion, neither was it a lack of content. It was the fact that, for whatever reason, I was afraid of getting it all wrong. I figured…Roy…most people die without ever writing a book. This is an incredible opportunity, it MUST be perfect! So throughout the writing process, I didn’t feel comfortable progressing to the next phase, the next chapter, and ultimately, to publication. I pondered, second guessed and, often, found myself after spending five hours a day with only a half-page of work to show, trying to figure out what part of my mental development was to blame for my inability to write freely. As a result of my persistent struggles, I took a break from writing for four months to study the craft of writing.

I wanted to learn how to formulate stories, put ideas to paper, pace myself, and avoid writer’s block. After a few months of study, I was set. I spent a couple of days putting together a strict schedule to follow. With that, I had an arsenal of newly acquired knowledge and an action plan to face any issue that might come my way.

I was freakishly [MI1] motivated. Sometimes I felt so pumped that I’d whisper motivational stuff to myself in the mirror while making muffled crowd cheering noises. I’d imagine myself finishing a speech and tough guys tearing up as they applauded, famous orators doing the slow clap, and all the people I’ve let down standing there with tears in their eyes, mouthing “you did it.” This time, I was so ready....

Ready to start figuring out my writing style, that is! It didn’t matter that I had already developed my own style from twenty years of writing—I just felt the need to keep searching for that “perfect” voice. “You must have an artillery of hand-picked weapons before going to war!” a writer wearing a fedora I met outside of a used bookstore in Silverlake once advised me. “Wow, that’s a great metaphor! This guy is the real deal!” I thought.

Because of that chance meeting, I started skimming through the public speaking books I had read and re-read throughout my school years. I took advice in bits and pieces from each, then started sending writing samples to a few of my old English professors to steer me in the right direction. When I got the feedback, I knew I was ready to get underway.

Underway with crossing off all the items on this “Seven Things You Need to Know Before You Write Your Non-Fiction Book” checklist I found on the internet! Nobody recommended I do this, I just happened to stumble across it and needed to make sure I didn’t start without having all the pieces in place:

1.         Why would someone want to read your book?

Because they’re getting tired of nearly having a nervous breakdown every time they have to give a speech and want to hear how to stop nearly having nervous breakdowns from someone who had a nervous breakdown for the same reason.

2.         Who wants to read your book?

My parents and some of the people I helped with their public speaking issues. And after writing that sentence, I realize I’ve been doing a poor job of marketing my book (maybe I should postpone starting until I get an audience? Something to ponder).

3.         If you have enough content to fill a book

I definitely have enough content floating around in my brain to fill a book. Whether I’ll finish before being paralyzed by carpal tunnel is another issue.

4.         How you would describe the book’s content

Passion-filled. Sometimes when I think of something awesome or inspirational to include in my book, I get strangely emotional. Once, as I was driving in bumper-to-bumper traffic on my way to work, an older woman in the car next to me noticed me drenched in tears and gestured to me to roll my window down. Sitting in 5 MPH traffic, we went back and forth, me saying, “Really, I’m okay. They’re happy tears,” and her insisting I take down her number if I ever thought of doing something bad to myself.

5.         Why you’re the best person to write this book

I recently overcame my horrific fear of public speaking and I know exactly what is needed to overcome this fear. I have the power of hindsight and a mile-long scroll of things I know now that I wish I had known then.

6.         If this is the only book you will write on this topic

Maybe when my career as a public speaker kicks off, I’ll write a sequel called Scared Speechless Episode 2 and make it Star Wars themed.

7.         How you want to publish your book

I’ll set up meetings with five big publishers. Prior to starting the meetings, I’ll wink and sneak $100 into their butt pockets.

 

I survived the “Seven Things You Need to Know Before You Write Your Non-Fiction Book” test! Let’s do this! I had all the information, I was motivated, and I was ready for anything.

But I didn’t start. And this time, I couldn’t make up an excuse. I had taken a five-month break from writing to prepare myself to do what I had already done: start writing. Though I wouldn’t admit it at the time, I was afraid of getting started because I was afraid of not having an excuse if anything were to go wrong. I was scared that if I started my book and stopped fifty pages in, I would be deemed a failure—by me.

This happened several times throughout the writing process. It happened with designing the book cover. I couldn’t get it just right. “The yellow is 1% too dark…” “Let’s remove the wrinkle on my face…” “Let’s try a different font…” At the time, I thought I was just getting the best possible image. Reality is, I was postponing my chance at success.

Nevertheless, just as I did with the fear of public speaking; I eventually got my thoughts in order, built an action plan, and achieved my goal of publishing this, my book. I stopped overthinking, stopped telling myself I was too busy to add “work on book” to my daily schedule.” I stopped the bull shit excuses.

I was told about halfway through this writing journey that if it had crossed my mind that this book would be my ticket to stardom, that I’d finally be able to pay for the kitchen remodel my parents have been dreaming of or the new car I’ve been in desperate need of, I’d better brace myself for a rude awakening.

I’m fine with that. I wasn’t at first; I secretly hoped I’d be deemed the next Dale Carnegie off the bat. If nothing else, I may garner a sliver of immortality with this book. Something nice to pull out of the old memory box and show to my kids when they’re old enough to care. Isn’t that what we’re all after anyways?

But even if all evidence that this book ever existed is destroyed—say, in a public burning, due to my criminally hilarious sense of humor—my grandkids can’t look up from their screens long enough for me to say “look here children, your stinky ol’ gramps wrote this book when he was a young chap,” and this project earns me nothing more than a shiny nickel to throw in a fountain so I can wish for more nickels, I’m happy. I accomplished something big. And I fought doubt, fear, excuses, the “too busy” mentality, and distraction to get there. That’s pretty badass if you ask me

Stop Trying to Kill Your Fear!

If You Want to be Remarkable, Start Screwing Up