by Alissa Lukara
Your mindset is as important to writing your book as a great idea, your desire to write it, your talent and knowledge of craft. Why?
Because it can support or sabotage your writing journey.
Left to its own devices, your mind will pitch hardballs at you at various times during the “write your book” game. Each ball serves up a reason why you can’t or shouldn’t or no longer need to write the book you’ve dreamed of writing.
A supportive mindset can prepare you to duck, dodge and jump over and around those balls. A negative one can lay you flat.
Here are five key aspects of the successful writer’s mindset. All were critical and necessary on own journey to write, complete and publish my memoir.
Commitment to write your book. Your belief in your book’s idea and in your writing ability, while important, is not enough. You need to make the commitment to write your book. State it. Write the commitment down. Tell someone you trust. Then do it.
You must first believe in yourself (even the tiniest bit is all you need to start) and your own capacity to write your book enough to commit to it. Otherwise, the road from “want” to “action” in writing a book can be long, treacherous and filled with pothole-laden detours.
The years I carried the desire to write my memoir, I had confidence I could write well and hoped I wrote well enough to write a publishable memoir. But once I made the true commitment, my life changed.
I had a healing (read this blog post on the miracle that occurred when I said yes to writing my memoir).
I wrote the book and found a publisher.
Yes, I experienced some stumbling blocks along the way. Yes, I had to learn the craft of writing a memoir. Yes, it took years, a bunch more years than I thought it would. Yes, I still had doubts.
But I never doubted that I was supposed to write the memoir, that doing so was a life and soul calling, a commitment I needed to honor on my life path.
Persistence to write until you finish. Albert Einstein said that “Genius is 1% talent and 99% percent hard work.” Writing a book, genius or not, is like that, too. You have to be willing to persist until you are done. You have to persist until you tell the story you need to tell.
When I met Dorothy Allison, the author of Bastard Out of Carolina, and asked her how she got the courage to write her novel, she said, “It wasn’t courage. It was stubbornness.”
Stubbornness is a form of persistence. It’s that aspect of you that will not let all the stuff of life and work and writing challenges stop you from writing your book.
Consistency supports persistence. What helps you persist is consistency. Consistency means you persist in showing up in a consistent way.
Here’s the deal. Writing a memoir, writing any book, can be an explosion of joy. It’s also a ton of work and obstacles. There’s no getting around that.
That’s why so much of writing a book is showing up. Not just in the persistence sense. But also in being consistent. You need to show up regularly.
And if you can, you can be aided by showing up around the same time of day to write. I wrote my memoir in the mornings before I did my livelihood work, most often in two hour periods from 6:30 to 8:30 a.m.
Most weeks, I wrote five to six mornings per week. Sometimes, I’d give myself all Saturday morning to write. When I got close to finishing, I took six weeks off from my other writing and wrote eight hours a day.
Here are two crucial internal writing supports you build when you show up with consistency.
- You signal to your creative cells that you are serious about this thing called writing a book. That tells them it’s safe to come out and replicate. You are not going to jerk them around by showing up to nurture and feed them one day, then disappearing for weeks and months and days on end to let them starve and wither. (But hey, creative cells are forgiving.)
- Consistency also staves off fear. Writing a memoir in particular is likely to push internal buttons along the way as you lay out your beautiful and flawed vulnerable self on the page. The more consistent you are, the safer you feel as you take the risks to write and reveal. The safer you feel, the more you will open your heart and let your words soar as soon as you sit down to write.
Desire to be of Service. To my mind, the adage, “Write for yourself” only takes a writer so far, especially if you are a memoir writer with a message of transformation. Yes, I wrote my memoir for myself, to further my healing, to follow through on the commitment to myself that I made. I wrote in service to myself, knowing I needed to write the book, to gain the learning of life wisdom and craft that writing a memoir brought me.
That said, “Write for yourself” was not enough motivation for me during those times the writing was especially challenging. Then, I switched to “Think of all the people this book might help. Write it for them.”
Think of all the people your memoir or novel or nonfiction book might _____________. You fill in the blank for what motivates you to write – help, inspire, entertain, change, teach, offer hope, open to new perspectives. You know.
The desire to be of service with my memoir was an even greater motivator for me than any personal gain. I wanted to offer a “light-line” to people going through life challenges, to have the book be like a beacon of light at the end of a tunnel showing how at least one person transformed adversity and chose love.
Willingness to Take a Risk. Putting yourself out there, your talent, your subject matter, the vulnerable, messy pieces of your own life and your own interpretation and perspective on life events requires a willingness to risk. You risk rejection, failure, success, reputation, criticism, visibility, and what to some might feel like a risk of life and limb.
Writing a book can unleash mega-fears and doubts. It can also lead to fabulous opportunities, most of which you could never imagine when you are in the midst of writing your book.
Your job as a writer. Take the risk to write your book. And take care of yourself in the process. Get the help you need to do it.
Put all these elements of mindset together – your commitment, persistence, consistency, desire to be of service and willingness to risk – and you create a ground of support for your writing. That grounding fuels inspiration. It signals to the universe your true intention to write so the universe can respond by sending you the support you need to achieve your dream.
Writing a book, a memoir, may be a lofty matter of the imagination, of heart, of spirit, of ideas. But remember always that mindset matters, too. Nurture yours and it will enhance your creative pursuits. Ignore it and beware those hardballs to the head of a mindset gone awry. They might hinder or stall your writing for good. Your choice.
What do you think about the writer’s mindset? I love to hear how mindset has supported or hindered your writing process. Please post comments here and if you like this article, please “like it” and share on FB and Twitter.
My gift to you for commenting and sharing. Every person who comments below will be entered in a drawing for each time you comment on a post in this memoir series. The drawing will be held at the end of this series. What you can win: The winner can send me up to 10 double spaced pages of writing for feedback via email (Offer good for 60 days after winning it).
Want to read more of this memoir series? Click on Memoir Writing in the category section in the sidebar to access all the articles.
Alissa Lukara is as passionate about supporting you to write and share your stories as she is to write her own. Want support to begin — and complete — your memoir or autobiographical novel? Dive in and register here for Alissa Lukara’s online memoir writing course, Write for Real: Writing Memoirs to Heal, Inspire and Transform. Or dip in a toe and register here for a free teleseminar on memoir writing this Tuesday, August 13. Alissa Lukara, the author of the poetic memoir, Riding Grace: A Triumph of the Soul, supports you to write, publish and market your memoir, novel or creative nonfiction book through online writing workshops and retreats, writing coaching, developmental editing and speaking.