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What's it Really Like to Write a Book?

Maybe you are considering writing a book. Maybe your friends and colleagues are telling you to write a book. But something is preventing you from diving in. Maybe you are just too busy right now. Maybe you will be less busy later?

The truth is as a women leader, you are already stretched thin. Just like my woman-author-hero friend Sue Hawkes. She couldn’t just hit the pause button on her life while she wrote her book. She has a thriving business, a hectic travel schedule and a family vying for her time.

Sue recently completed work on her third and most important book entitled Chasing Perfection. In this book, Sue tackles how to stop chasing the illusion of perfection and eliminate the barriers to your full leadership potential. The book is available on Amazon.

So how did she get it done? I asked her that very question and a few more that you will find interesting if you are thinking about adding book author to your list of accomplishments.

Q: How did you decide to write a book?

I'd love to say it was a grandiose plan, but it really wasn't. We were doing our strategic planning for our company because we run our company on the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS). We were discussing the three-year picture, and I said, "Write a book." It was just there. I did not have an idea at that time. Nothing like "Here's what it will be about. Here's why." I wasn't particularly compelled. I just thought, there will be a book in that picture, and that's where I left it. A year later, it was still just an idea on the plan.

It was probably, I don't know, two or three months after that, when I began realizing what I wanted to write a book about. It's a consolidation of all the things I've done in putting myself in that vulnerable spot. As a result, there's a lot of my own stories, because my world is largely about confidentiality. I can't share about clients, but I can share my own.

I would say it was intuition; it felt right. It emerged from a series of ideas and things I was doing in my work. I write a column called "Inspiring Women" for Minnesota Business, and that played a big part. I was interviewing all these women and thinking "Wow, there are so many threads." I've been facilitating WPO for 15 years, and there were all the threads there. Then I looked at my entrepreneurial teams and saw more threads there. All of a sudden it came together, and I thought, "Their story is my story." So it wasn't a moment. It was a series of events that evolved and inspired me, and it began to flow. It was not any one thing.

Q: How did you get started?

That’s such a good question. My first thought was about this initial paralyzation that I experienced. I’m thinking "Okay. Now I'm going to start. I've got the idea." Then what? It was an "and then what" with a big gap. I began with a brain dump. I just put a bunch of things on paper, and then started working with it. But it felt like ‘garbage out.’ I looked at all of the ideas I wrote thinking this doesn't go together. I was rather unsure about the whole thing.

I went on vacation about a month later. My mind was quiet. We were in a peaceful place. We were in Mexico. I wasn't constrained by anything. All of a sudden, the chapter titles started to flow. I thought maybe if I can just write the chapter titles, that will give me a structure for where to put all this brain dump stuff.

I had to run away from it and go somewhere to completely disconnect and be in a quiet place. Then the ideas intuitively, organically showed up. I formed a crystal clear picture of all of the chapter titles. They flowed out one morning and I ended up with ten chapters.

Q: Do you have any tips for fitting it into an already crazy schedule?

I don't know if I have tips I'd recommend, but fit it in with a can opener. For me, it was weekends and evenings, and time on airplanes. My social life was not as robust.

I like to say, affectionately, "This is the summer in Minnesota that wasn't." It was the perfect weather. I got on my bike probably five times total, where usually I would bike every weekend. You make that choice, and it is a lot of work. I would tell people no matter how you go about it, writing eats up free time. You've got to give somewhere. You either say that's what I'm signing up for or you don't.

There’s more to this story Sue’s story about her book writing journey is truly insightful. I appreciate how candid she was about sharing her experiences. But this is only part of her story. She answered several more questions including:

  • What was your goal in writing a book?

  • What specific method or resources did you use?

  • How did your topic evolve over the course of your writing?

  • Describe the investment it required

  • Overall, was it easier or harder than you expected?

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