This is how you do it: you sit down at the keyboard and you put one word after another until its done. It’s that easy, and that hard.”
― Neil Gaiman
I’ve never kept a journal.
I’ve never written a poem.
I can’t remember song lyrics.
Or even those dirty limericks that were written on the back of the brown vinyl seat on the school bus.
Basically, my experience with the written word has consisted of writing psych reports, my dissertation, and about 600 blog posts, many of which remain unpublished because they suck or would get me sued.
Despite this, I was all, “Sure, I can totally write a book!” when a publisher approached me last summer.
They wanted me to write a parenting book. You know, take my everyday work as a parent coach and former school psychologist in the public schools and bring it to the written page. My appeal, they felt, was my casual writing style combined with my real-life practical experience. The doctorate didn’t hurt either.
The thing is, I’ve almost never been able to sit down and write on command. I always have a little mental list of things I’d like to blog about, but I am completely unable to channel it in a productive, sequential way. I can’t be all, “Okay, Tara. You’re going to sit down and write about that conversation you just had with Sydney about dating”, or “Tonight I’m totally going to write about that single-parenting moment from yesterday.”
Instead, I usually sit in front of my computer, let my hands hover above the keyboard, and encourage my mind to poke at my emotions a bit until I feel inspired enough to write about something. If done right, the words typically flow out, hindered only by the crumbs that get caught in my keyboard as I snack on peanut M&Ms and vanilla wafers smeared with frosting.
I thought I could write my book that way. All disjointed and somewhat random, the topics often inspired by a recent session with a parent.
In fact, I think the first chapter I wrote discussed temper tantrums.
Well, that chapter is now Chapter 7.
I basically wrote my book in this order: Chapter 7, Chapter 3, Chapter 1, Chapter 4, Chapter 2, Chapters 5, 6, and 8, Chapter 9.
And sometimes the entire chapter would be written in my mind, so I’d jot down something like:
and go back to fiddling on Facebook or emailing a client. Because clearly, the chapter is nearly written, right?
Inevitably, about two days prior to my self-imposed deadline, I’d get all anxious and irritable because, “Ohmygod, can’t you see I’m writing a BOOK? Shhhhh, don’t talk to me, I’m WRITING.” This stress would fuel me through a late night or two until I turned in a chapter, emailing it in the the wee hours of the morning so I could be all, “Look what a hardcore writer I am. It’s the middle of the damn NIGHT” while secretly wondering if my editors called me Dr. Slacker or Dr. Doesn’t-Know-H0w-To-Use-Punctuation-After-Midnight” behind my back.
I constantly chanted, “This is so much easier than dissertation. This is so much easier than dissertation.” when I got overwhelmed by a blank page or had to actually outline something before I blabbed on about it confidently.
And it is, y’all. If you’ve written a dissertation successfully-ish, then you can TOTALLY write a book.
You might not get paid for it, but please understand that you can totally write it.
I don’t recommend you write it during the middle of divorce, however. Especially while you’re launching a new business, moving out of your house, re-entering the dating world, and basically restructuring all aspects of your life.
However, I realize how lucky I am—to have my blog read by thousands. To have it land across the computer screen of an editor. To get paid to write about what I’m good at.
I don’t take it for granted.
When I turn in yet another draft, I often think, “Please let this be good. Please let it help parents.”
But mostly I just think, “Please let me deserve this.”