What is the most important element to writing a book? The one thing you must have?
Is it talent? Knowledge? Marketing chutzpah? Dedicated writing habits?
All of these matter a great deal but they’re nothing without passion.
As my colleague and friend Jenna pointed out in a post on the Girl Friday blog not long ago, the writing process is a long one. And the publishing process—that of bringing the book you labored so hard to create to the world—makes it longer yet. Combined, it can feel relentless and endless: a process that almost certainly takes years, perhaps many of them.
Being a writer is a life’s work. It takes years of practice and study (also known as reading) to hone your craft. Being an author is another deal entirely: this is a the business end of books and many people who write books—memoirists with one extraordinary story to tell, subject matter experts, politicians—are not writers primarily. But one thing all authors must share is an abiding passion for their book.
The good news is that you’re not entirely alone in this: you can and should enlist many people to help you along on your journey. Right now for instance, between my agent, my editor, my in-house marketing and publicity team, my hired publicist, and various industry friends that are offering their support (god bless them), I have a veritable village working with me to bring my book to the world. And that is a beautiful thing. Part of the dream of landing a traditional publishing deal is that other people are investing in your book because they believe in it. Some things didn’t change so much post book deal—I still get up to write in the mornings, I still go to work, I’m still me—but this was one huge thing that did. As I said to a friend recently: after being the only one carrying the lonely torch of my writing aspirations all these years, suddenly having other people care about my book—not about me but about the book itself—is a revelation. In this way my writing life feel markedly different.
I continue to care more than all of them, and that’s exactly as it should be. Being a writer is tough stuff, it almost certainly involves quite a lot of rejection and disappointment before any kind of real success can be found. And life will always try to crowd writing out. I’m busy, you’re busy, we’re all busy. Can we just agree on that? America is too busy and too obsessed by being busy, so it’s not likely to change anytime soon. This is a topic for another day—but it’s a certainty that you will have many demands on your time other than writing. So what will bring you there? What will inspire you to wake up earlier than you need to? Devote hours of your weekend? The world is indifferent to whether you write or not, I promise you.
And this is the thing you can never outsource. Even if you’re one of those authors I mentioned—the non-writer authors—you still need to have a passionate drive to see your story told. The author is at the molten core of any book project: and if they lose steam at any point in the process that Jenna so elegantly laid out? That project is doomed.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how many experts you hire, how much fancy software you purchase, or impressive degrees you amass: You absolutely must feel the love.