My book, The Big Scale Back, launched this week on Tuesday, October 25th! I vividly remember being an 11-year-old child, swinging in the chair in the backyard with a Jean Little book in my lap, dreaming of one day writing a book.
Since that day, the dream rattled around in the back of my mind – always getting pushed aside for more pressing, urgent and “sensible” things. Until, one day, I took that first step: I went on a weekend writing retreat with Firefly Creative Writing and, from there, the writing habit (and joy of writing) came back to me. Here I am, now, seven years later…a published author. It reminds me of that saying: we overestimate what we can accomplish in one year, and underestimate what we can accomplish in five to ten years.
Writing a book (and creativity in general) is a wild ride
The last seven years of writing have been a wild ride, that’s for sure. So, I thought I’d share five things that I learned about going after a big creative dream…
(1) It’s all about action (even teeny, tiny action) done consistently. Thinking and talking about writing, and buying writer’s journals and great pens, didn’t get the book written. Shocking, I know (and I spent a lot of time doing all of those things). It was only when I sat down and actually put words on paper, or on the screen, that things progressed. I had to show up for my writing and my book, even on the days when I felt creatively empty. Just showing up usually yielded something – a phrase, an idea, a chapter heading. And it was taking this consistent action every week, every month, every year, that got it done.
(2) Creativity needs space. While it required consistency, creativity didn’t take well to demands (at least, my creative force didn’t). Demanding that it show up at prescribed times, in forced moments, or for artificially imposed deadlines didn’t work nearly as well as giving myself space to daydream on weekend mornings before I picked up a pen or sat at my computer (my partner refers to it as “writer’s pose”), or taking a walk in nature. It was in those spacious moments that inspiration would drop down to me in unexpected, and powerful, ways.
(3) The extreme highs and lows are just that: extremes. Be ready to experience all the feelings. There were days practically perfect paragraphs danced from my mind to the page, and then others when I questioned whether I would ever write a sentence worth reading again. Euphoria, and extreme doubt. Both showed up, but, it was the more moderate moments that were more common (and got the bulk of the book written): low grade, and surmountable, frustration as well as gentle inspiration in the morning as I sipped my coffee. Know that it is all part of the process.
(4) Trust the timing. I thought this book would be complete and published much sooner than it was. I had moments where I deeply judged myself for how long it was taking me to complete it. “Other authors can finish books in under a year!” I would grumble to myself, What’s wrong with me? Would be the follow up sentiment. First, I had to remind myself that I wasn’t other authors. I had my own professional and personal circumstances that led to a slow and steady book writing pace. It’s only now, in hindsight, that I see why the timing had to be what it was. I was still living parts of the story – and I needed to find resolution before I could finish the book. And that, I think, made the book significantly richer than it would have been had I pushed myself to finish it earlier.
(5) Find your true supporters, keep them close, and turn to them for help. That expression, it takes a village, circled through my mind so many times over the past seven years. Whether it was talking to other writers, pep talks from close friends, marketing advice from trusted experts, or my partner just reminding me to eat when I was in the zone, I needed people who were rooting for my success, and had my best interests in mind. Identifying those people, and reaching out to them when I needed them, was key.
What big dream has been rattling around in you? One that has maybe been pushed aside for more urgent, pressing or “sensible” things? What if you started taking a (teeny, tiny) action step in the direction of that dream?
Here’s to those of you who are dreamers, and teeny-tiny action takers… I’m rooting for you!
The Big Scale Back: Success and Balance By Your Own Design launched on October 25th, 2022 and was a #1 Amazon bestseller across numerous categories, including Business Mentorship & Coaching and Management & Leadership. Visit stephaniewoodward.com to learn more about the book and to get your copy.