How to write a book (or how to do pretty much anything)
A young woman approached the folding table with a Starbucks paper cup in one hand and a smile on her face.
“Hello,” she said.
“Hi,” I said.
“Is that your book?” Pointing to copies of “Bedtime Stories for the Living” stacked on the edge of the table.
“Yes,” I replied.
I was recently invited to a local book store for a Local Author Expo. It’s a bit weird watching a stranger casually thumb through your book, a book that is both personal and vulnerable. You’re a “patient etherized upon the table”* and the doctor and her colleagues in white coats and shiny shoes are examining your defenseless body and taking notes.
Cindy, who was sitting beside me spoke, “It’s a really good book. You should buy it.”
The young woman smiled, “You know I always wanted to write a book but…I mean, how do you do it?”
I laughed and shook my head. I wanted to say something profound. Something that would further validate my invitation to the Local Author Expo.
I shifted in my seat. “I don’t know. It took me a few years to write that book. Maybe… I guess…I think the trick to writing a book is not to focus on writing a book.”
She tilted her head and thought, “Yeah, as weird as it sounds, that makes sense.” She laughed, took a long Starbucks sip, looked at me and said, “Thanks.”
And in that moment, in a bookstore, sitting behind a folding table stacked with my book and decorated with a silver stand holding a sheet of paper with my name on it, I convinced myself I knew what I was talking about.
A few hours later I returned home and just as opened my laptop to begin writing this letter to you, Maggie May pawed at the front door.
“Hang on Mags,” I barked, instead.
I quickly typed a few misspelled ideas.
She pawed, whimpered, and pawed again.
I closed the laptop, pushed myself off the couch, zipped up my winter coat, pulled down my winter hat, hooked her leash, and ventured out in the raw, damp December afternoon.
One of the few advantages of having a movement disorder is that I’m forced to focus on, literally, every step I take. I have to move–like a turtle–slow and steady. More often than not, my falls are often result of me–like when Maggie spots a racing rabbit–not focusing. When I’m more impulsive, more hurried, more distracted than my brain allows.
We trace the neighborhood, Maggie pees, I don’t fall, I return home, and return to writing this letter, a response to your letter, where you told me your goal for 2023 and you asked if I had any advice.
Having a goal is great. It gives us direction and motivation. But I’ve learned that a goal is achieved only by the sum of focused, measured actions. Weight is lost one pound at a time. Marathons are ran one step at a time. Books are written one word at a time.
There’s a reason why turtles are reptiles of resolve. It’s not sexy (turtles rarely are) but the “slow and steady” approach is how we achieve our goals. In a lesson as old as Aesop, from walking the neighborhood to writing a book, finish lines are crossed by simply persisting in the ever present now.
The young woman looks up from “Bedtime Stories for the Living” and asks, “Are you writing another book?”
“Cool. How’s it going?”
My eyebrows raise and I sigh, “Slow.”
She smiles, “But hopefully steady.”
*This is a line from one of my favorite poems, “The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock” by TS Eliot. The allusion was inspired by a text message recently received from a former student from long ago who told me, to this day, they are still perplexed and haunted by this poem. A winded and complicated and mind-bending poem about the torture psyche of a lonely middle-aged man my little-heart attempted to teach between pep rallies and prom.
December Book Promos:
Are looking for inspiration? Are you searching for a better version of yourself?
This month I joined literary forces for some best-selling authors to promote our books in, Become Inspired. Become You.
Memoirs, Biographies, Self-help books…oh my!
This month I joined literary forces with some best-selling authors to promote our books in the inspiring December Nonfiction Collection.
You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take…
A few months ago, with low expectations, I took a shot and entered “Bedtime Stories for the Living” in the highly regarded, highly competitive international book contest presented by Readers’ Favorite. Readers’ Favorite is an established force in the publishing industry. They have worked withPenguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Harper Collins, and have received the “Best Websites for Authors” and “Honoring Excellence” awards from the Association of Independent Authors.
Anyway, just before I was about to take a midday nap, I was informed that this suburban dad had won…
First Prize, the Gold Medal, in the Non-Fiction/Parenting genre!
Quote of the Week:
If you would like to share something with others (a photo, a poem, a song, a quote, etc.) that tosses some positive vibes into the world, please send your suggestions to me at email@example.com. Thanks!
Are you a reader? Looking for your next good book to read or listen to? Check out my new page “Jay’s Book Shelf” for some book recommendations.
Here’s what I’m currently reading: The Light We Carry by Michelle Obama
If you like this post, you may also like:
Overcoming Monday Morning
How to Climb Today’s Mountain
Your Voice is the Most Powerful Thing You Own
Jay Armstrong is a speaker and an award-winning author. Despite being diagnosed with a rare neurological disease, that impairs his movement, balance, eyesight, and speech–Jay presses on. The leader of the Philadelphia Ataxia Support Group, he hopes to help you find joy, peace, and meaning in life. For Jay, a good day consists of 5 things:
4. Hearing his three children laugh
5. Hugging his wife
(Bonus points for a dinner with his parents or a drink with his friends)
Jay hasn’t had a bad day in quite a long time.
You can also visit Jay at jayarmstrongwrites.com