On Risking and Dreaming: 9 Things I Have Learned from Writing a Book

"What do you do?"  is a highly typical straight-out-of-the-gates question when we meet new people, right?  Easy for some to answer, but as a stay-at-home Mom I always flounder a little when crafting my response.  

I usually bobble just a tad and weigh my potential response because, in my opinion, I have a couple of choices:  I can fly under the radar and say, "Well, I don't work 'outside the home' but I volunteer at church and school and shuttle my kids all over God's green earth!  Ha. Ha. Ha." 

That answer seems to resonate with just about everyone.  But in all honesty, it's not the sum total of "what I do." 

The other, more vulnerable, heart-beating-out-of-my-chest kind of answer is one that includes the former with one slight addition,  "I write a blog with a couple of my best buddies and -- I'm actually publishing a book!"

That last one tends to stop them in their tracks. "Oh!  A book?" they say under raised eyebrows. "Tell me about that..."

Gulp.  Once I admit I'm publishing a book, the investigative floodgates swing wide open. The time spent on this journey over the last year-and-a-half or so has led me to evaluate the decision to undergo such an endeavor and truly uncover the real reasons WHY I do WHAT I do.  

(You can read about some of my book writing journey on my original "Team Nilsen" blog -- here, here, & here).

All told, writing a book has been as exciting as it has felt like pulling my fingernails off one at a time. The manuscript in it's most edited draft sits with a self-publishing company right now.  A proofreader is currently crossing t's, dotting i's, and graciously cleaning up any egregious grammatical errors.  If all goes well, I could launch this puppy sometime this summer!  Rest assured I'll be letting you know of every opportunity you'd ever want (or not!) about how you too can can be the proud owner of  "A Beautiful Exchange: Living the Story You Were Made For" when it comes out.

But for now, I reflect on the lessons I've learned so far (because I KNOW there will be many more along the way):

My very fancy office space...

My very fancy office space...

1. Moms have dreams too. Most of my hours are spent loving, raising, hugging, nurturing and -- let's be honest -- losing my cool with my four sweet cherubs.  But underneath it all, embracing motherhood has been kind of a rocky journey for me (which actually makes for some pretty intense writing in my book).  I feel more "myself" when I take the time to pursue my own dreams/passions in the midst of it all.  Going after this dream of writing a book has given me new excitement for life and, by extension, appreciate my kids more in this season of active mothering. It has prompted me to cheer them on in their passions even more because I am loving living mine.

2. If you want something badly enough or believe in it strongly enough, sometimes you're the one that needs to make it happen.  Don't get me wrong -- I whole-heartedly believe in the "anointed call of God."  Sometimes it feels like God just snaps His fingers and everything falls into place, but more often than not, He gives us creative license and responsibility to follow through on the passions he wove deep into our DNA.  The writing of this book grew out of a profound desire to share the testimony of God's goodness with a greater audience.  I don't have a "huge platform" on social media. No one is "asking me" to write this book (outside of a handful of good friends and family), but I knew I NEEDED to write it nevertheless. The first bold move was to actually take a step in that direction whether or not is was popular or made any logical sense.  I knew God was asking me to trust Him on this one so, by faith, I typed one word after another after another...

3. A whole book equals a whole lotta words.  Apparently around 80% of people say they'd like to write a book.  Only about 20% ever do. Now I know why. Take a deep breath before diving in. A whole book is a lot of water to tread. That's about all I have to say about that.  I'm "worded" out.

4. Vulnerability is a necessary "evil". Writing a book about your own story (warts and all) is a super vulnerable undertaking. When you ask others to critique and examine your writing (which is, by all accounts, an extension of your heart) it feels risky.  In this book, I've laid my heart on the table for people to do with it what they will. Some will hold and cherish it while others may stomp on it. I have no control over other people's reactions, so I've had to look to God as the ultimate definer of my primary identity -- which is to say, I am His child, telling His story.  Baring my soul for all to see is a little frightening, but it makes for (hopefully!) some much better writing.  Let the chips fall where they may.

5. Reading/editing your own words for the umpteen millionth time is -- how do you say -- BRUTAL. Words are slippery creatures and they often take on a life of their own as they morph and blur on the page.  Something may "sing" in my head but presents completely ludicrous on paper.  Crafting sentences and ideas that "make sense" to someone else, not to mention the cherry-on-top of being encouraging, inspiring or calling someone to action is seriously tricky business.  After a while you simply CANNOT think of another way to say the thing. It. Just. Is. So. There.  At times I felt like a second-grader all over again.  And then, and then, and then... (Apparently that gets a little boring).

6. I need to practice what I preach. It's one thing to TELL my kids they can do anything they set their mind to and a whole other thing to SHOW them. At the ripe old age of forty and some change, I'm actually showing them...

7. Asking for help can only make it better.  Sometimes it's just easier to adopt a toddler mentality and figure I'll "do it myself."  But honestly, that's just asking for a whole world of hurt.  This is my story and no one can tell it like I can, but asking other people for honest critique sure can help me tell it better.  It is highly humbling to throw your written work on the table for someone else to slash/burn, but in the end it really does produce a better crop.

8. At some point, the book is baked.  I think most writers or artists of any kind can relate to the idea of severely beating your work to death. Tinkering and word-smithing becomes a comfortable way of life.  It's easier to hide behind the "it's-almost-ready-just-a-little-more" approach and super scary to let the thing sink or swim as is.  There is a certain anxiety in releasing my work to the public at large, but at the end of the day, sometimes you just have to birth the "baby" and let it fly.

9. Never underestimate the power of a champion. Though I hate to admit it, I think Better Midler was right!  Having someone who is the "wind beneath your wings" is a vital part of taking a risk and actually seeing something through.  The idea of writing a book scared the every living daylights out of me, but my AMAZING husband and supportive kids have backed me 110%.  Their encouragement and interest has kept me moving forward even when I wanted to throw in the towel and just sign up for another committee.   I only pray I can be this kind of champion for them and anyone else God may bring my way. 

What kinds of risks have you taken lately towards a particular dream?  And what have you learned?  I would love to learn from you as well!

Christina's Take:

Risks I've taken lately: talked to my boss about expanding my professional horizons.  

What I've learned: we don't lose ANYTHING by hiding our dreams, never pursuing them. 

Megan - such good wisdom for anyone about really persevering to the thing they dream about. I am most struck by your writing about the need to be vulnerable. So hard! So good! It's truly part of rich, true life. None of this milk toast, lukewarm, hedge-your-bets business.  

Thanks for stepping out and being willing to write about this worthwhile but risky-to-the-heart endeavor.

Holly's Take:

My heart literally started beating faster and faster as I read this.  Nobody is asking me to write a book either, but I feel the push, the pull, the enormous task before me.  My thoughts are always wandering towards book titles, chapter topics and book signings . . . just kidding about that last one.  If fact, I've barely just started the process - I'm so excited!!!!!

I've seen you sacrifice time spent in other arenas to make this book happen.  I admire that discipline.  I love how you craft your words, like in the entire number 5 section of this post.  

I, also, resonate with teaching your kids to risk and to try something, simply because you feel like it, (provided it is legal and a wise a choice).  Those kinds of lessons, most likely go much deeper than the little lectures we give them about brushing their teeth twice a day.