Give Yourself Permission to Write a Book

Start writing your book today (just for the joy of it)

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A survey conducted in the USA in the early 2000s revealed that just over 80% of the population wants to write a book. That’s a lot of people, over 200 million taking into account the current US population! Without being able to commission our own poll of the Canadian populace, it’s probably fair to say that a significant number of Canadians also want to write books, probably the majority of people.

If you click through the link above, you’ll come to an article in the New York Times by Joseph Epstein, quoting the 80%+ statistic, and then going on to discourage people from jumping into a book writing project. “Save the typing, save the trees, save the high tax on your own vanity,” he says. “Don’t write that book, my advice is, don’t even think about it. Keep it inside you, where it belongs.”

Drawing on the same statistic, the writer Jeff Goins (author of the wonderful book The Art of Work) similarly dismisses the creative and expressive drive that dwells within so many as an act of vanity. If writing a book won’t be commercially successful or won’t immediately grant the writer fame, it is futile and probably people just shouldn’t bother. You need to have an agent, a marketing platform, and a drive to sell! Echoing Epstein, the underlying message is basically “don’t bother.”

Unfortunately, the vast majority of people seem to take Epstein’s and Goins’ advice and never actualize their desire to write that book. Less than 1% of people will ever write a book (taking into account the number of books published annually divided by population).

Check out our video recap below:

Write Your Book Anyways

But Epstein and Goins are seeing things through the wrong lens. It’s not vanity that compels so many to want to write a book, nor is it the necessity of commercial success and fame. People want to write books because telling stories is a basic human function. We story our lives and our lives are stories.

Sure, given the pervasive commercialization of pretty much all aspects of contemporary life, there’s bound to be some ego in the desire to write. Most every writer, setting out, imagines their name on the best seller list or the inevitable interview with Oprah. But that’s not all there is to it.

Stories Are Significant and Valuable On Their Own

Stories are significant even if they never reach a mass audience or make the writer rich and famous. And in truth it is important that we do tell our stories, in some shape or form, as a way of simply being human.

At the same time, there’s nothing wrong with setting out to write a book to try and make money or to promote a business or a product. There are lots of successful fiction writers. There are lots of books published that help businesspeople achieve their goals. There are lots of books that reach massive audiences and make a difference in the lives of millions. There’s nothing wrong with having these kinds of goals or of setting the bar high.

Start Writing Your Book Now: Defy the Odds

The flip side of the coin is that not everyone who wants to write a book has such goals. And sometimes the lofty goals can be part of the problem for people who want to write books. Our advice is simple: start your book project with the sole intention of expressing yourself and offering your story to the world. Let that be your basic modus operandi for writing. Imagine how beautiful the world would be if 80% of people did write their book. Imagine if we valued stories and expression as basic to the human experience, rather than just in utilitarian commercial terms. Just imagine the kind of world that would be, then get your book project going and do your part to help make it a reality. What kind of book have you always dreamed of writing? Let us know in the comments! 🙂  
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6 thoughts on “Give Yourself Permission to Write a Book

  1. I have been working on the same book for a really long time. I have been encouraged to finish it by a couple of successful writers and by my writing group members. But recently I’ve realized I’m terrified of finishing it and – possibly – publishing it because that means I’d have to go out there and market it, exposing ME. On the other hand, it would be a great accomplishment to have something published, if that happened. Any advice on how I can get past my fear?

    1. Hi Anne. Thanks for your comment. I understand absolutely your concerns about finishing your book and putting it out in the world. It can be daunting! With respect to advice, we’ve got another post you may find helpful, focused on Reflective Practice for Writers. The gist of it is that writers should consider setting up a practice of purposefully thinking about and working through exactly the kinds of challenges you are facing. Doing so in a regimented way can be super helpful. We also have a course called Creative Cross-Training that has a few sections on what we call “Writing Zen.” These zen writing lessons focus on aspects of mindfulness and reflective practice you may also find useful. Reach out to us if you’d like to talk more about your writing project and ideas to get over the finishing line 🙂

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