Confession: I have wanted to write a book for as long as I can remember.
This ambition embarrasses me – for its ridiculousness, its vagueness, its total lack of a roadmap, its audacity. For the sheer weight of it. For its unlikeliness – people are reading less and less, the world is already overflowing with books barely being read. For its foolishness. (A friend said once, “Writing books is like being a prospector. You could dedicate your whole life to it, and never strike gold.”)
In short, it is an ambition that spins me into an existential tailslide. I am envious of everyone I meet or hear about who has written a novel, who has an agent, who is putting together a book proposal. If I ever dare to confess, yes, I’d like to write a book, I am undone by the follow-up response, “What kind of book? What would it be about?” Right, yes, I should probably know that. That probably should come first.
But it won’t go away.
Finally, I had an idea that interested me enough to sustain my attention for more than a few days. I had been married for 15 years, and I thought, “Monogamy isn’t so bad. I can do monogamy. I’ve been a total idea-slut, writing articles and copy and scripts, jumping from topic to topic… but I think I’m ready to try idea-monogamy.”
I knew nothing about writing books, but I wasn’t starting in complete ignorance. I knew an idea, alone, would not be enough to carry me through to completion. I knew that reading Steven Pressfield and stockpiling ‘advice from famous writers‘ on my desktop, would not be enough. I knew that a new laptop, special software or a fancy pen would not work.
I knew that the best way to light a sweat-inducing fire under my ass was to make a deadline, loaded with sense of accountability to someone I didn’t want to let down. Not some invisible future reader, who is perfectly able to attain self-actualisation without me, but someone who is expecting me to show up, like my running buddy when I was first out of college. It would be better if they weren’t already my friends, if they didn’t already have a fixed sense of who I was and how I should be.
So, I, (gulp), asked for help.
As someone kinda whizzy with words, I’m used to being the one who gives help. “Hey, can you help me write this cover letter?” “Could you write a bio for me?” “Would you mind whipping up a press release for us?”
No problemo! Consider the words whipped! And shipped! Easy-peasy.
Time to turn the tables around.
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of creativity, innovation and change.” ~ Brene Brown
I asked two people if they would form a writing support group with me. I was not looking for critiquing, discussion, or a nerdy social night out. I needed an accountability circle. I needed marathon training buddies.
I asked them to stand guard over my secret desire to write, and to protect it from my self.
I asked them to fold their arms across their chests and say, every other week, as sternly and kindly as they could, “You owe us a chapter.” And when I threw a couple of pages at them, I asked that they say, “Good. Now keep going.”
They were near-strangers to me. And yet, they said yes.
And there are no words for the gratitude that that has sparked, burning quietly beneath the fire-under-my-ass.
If you ask for help, it comes
But not in any way you’d ever know.