That question is a show stopper. That doubt keeps us from putting words on paper and publishing them. But I love the question, too; anyone who worries about it brings integrity and humility to their book that, I guarantee, will make it a beautiful, ‘sticky’ book.
To step up to the task of writing and sharing our wisdom with the world, we must find an answer to this question.
We all know people who are more worthy than us to write a book. They are our teachers, mentors, friends and colleagues. It’s intimidating to know that these excellent people have chosen – for whatever reason – not to commit their ideas to paper.
To write a book, such comparisons are human and indispensable. They are your friend. A big slab of your book will compare the similarities and distinctions between your ideas and those of your guides and inspirations. Embrace these comparisons. Here’s how.
Honour your gurus
As a business journalist, I spent 20 years writing about subjects in which I am not an expert. For years, I wrote about accountants. I was regularly asked if I trained in economics, (No, I went to art school!). Just quoting other people made me look like an authority!
A journalist’s expertise is finding subject matter experts and quoting them. That is a useful mindset for thought leaders who want to write a sticky book (or blog). Channel your inner journalist. Look for books, people and research you can quote. Include arguments both for and against your views. Make sure you attribute everyone and every source you cite. When you include your gurus, honour them. Tell the reader why you respect them, how they influenced and changed you. Refer your readers to their books, and podcasts and training. Be abundant in your praise.
Explain your authority with simplicity
I smile a little (inside) when my clients tell me they feel unworthy of writing a book. I stand awe of their knowledge and their experience, which extends over years, sometimes decades. You know your topic and can prove it. Whilst data and degrees will support your arguments, your real authority comes through your stories, anecdotes, examples and metaphors. Your readers need you to show them, not to tell them. Delete phrases like ‘I think’ or ‘I believe’. Instead, write expressions such as ‘in my experience’ or ‘when I talk to clients about this’ or ‘only the other day, I experienced this for myself’.
Let your authority shine through the stories you tell.
Admit the ‘exquisite risk’
I get a bit nervous before any presentation, even to a small audience. The podcasts of the Buddhist meditation teacher, Tara Brach, are a powerful tonic that helps me control my nerves. She quoted the poet and author Mark Nepo recently, who expresses the idea of vulnerability with the scrumptious phase: the exquisite risk.
How vividly the word exquisite encompasses all the feelings we have as we write: excitement, fear, aliveness, thrills. Exquisite means delicate, attractive, flawless, discerning, moving. What a word!
Writing a book is taking an exquisite risk. Admit your vulnerability to your reader. Tell the story in your book of your fears as you commit to taking this risk and putting your ideas out into the world. Don’t indulge. Just mention in passing any moments of trepidation that torture you. Genuine humility creates a connection with your readers. They will relate to it, and like you for it.
Who are you NOT to write your book
Today, the power of the press is ours to wield. It’s cheaper than ever before. In my community, the Stickies, our goal is to share wisdom, (not thinly-disguised sales copy). And if you have knowledge to share, who are you NOT to share it. Let others be the judge of its value. Your job is to answer every question that stands between you and publishing it.
PS: Want more? You might like: How not to waste your writing time
You might also like
How to win the attention of BRW deputy editor, Caitlin Fitzsimmons
There were a hundred or more email pitches sitting in Caitlin Fitzsimmons’ inbox this morning – and she’s going to read them.
As the associate editor Read more
The hidden hand behind my writing
Behind everything I write is a hidden hand – that of my editor, Jaclyn McRae. Everything I write, I send to Jac before I unleash it on the world. Why? Read more