Start with Surrender
A first-time author's not-so-expert advice
Ever since I was a little girl, I knew one day I would write a book.
I had no idea what it would be about and lived many days wondering what in the world I would write about.
Then, when I was 26, I experienced a horrible tragedy. I endured a level of, what felt like, unending suffering that I wouldn’t wish on even my worst enemy. My worst nightmare had come through. My best friend and husband had died and left me alone with our 9-month-old baby girl. I wondered what the world would be like if I wasn’t in it.
I didn’t think anyone could fix me. I was an absolute mess. So I gave up, in a very real sense. I decided to stop trying to fix it myself. And I surrendered.
And that’s when everything changed.
It started in my heart but almost instantly I began making outward changes. Changes that suddenly made so much sense. The decisions that had felt so cloudy days before became clear. I ended an unhealthy relationship. I moved myself and my daughter back across the country. I started trying harder to take care of my health. I started reading the Bible and praying each morning. I stopped wasting so many days consuming endless media… and drinking so much wine.
After getting settled into a rental in the Seattle area, not too far from my family and where I grew up… I found myself with ample free time stuck at home (because my then-toddler daughter was such a good sleeper). I’d been working for myself for a couple of years by this point, doing contract writing and content creating for small businesses and, while my work was paying the bills, it wasn’t exactly my cup of tea. I didn’t want to write for companies just to make them money. I wanted to write words that mattered.
I had an incredible story to share, one of redemption, one of hope. And I wanted to share it with anyone who would listen. I thought to myself, NOW is the perfect time to write a book. I’ve got the time. I’ve got the story. This is gonna be good…
So, just after my daughter’s breaths grew long heavy with sleep, I would sneak her into bed, brew a cup of tea, and sit down at my keyboard with a goal to type at least 500 words each night. It sounded good. A great plan. But…
It never worked. It felt forced. And I never got more than a couple of sentences on the page. Most nights, not more than a couple of words. Not kidding.
It was incredibly frustrating starting at a blank page when I was itching to share. I had hope I knew others needed. And I wanted to spread it to those who had lost theirs. I wanted to extend a light and a hand to those who were barely floating like I had been… in very real risk of drowning in the deep.
But after a few weeks of attempting to write each and every night, I couldn’t do it anymore. I decided to listen to the Voice in my heart that kept whispering “Wait.” So I pushed the elusive “future book” out of my mind, deleted the drafts, and didn’t think about it again seriously for years.
Instead, I told my story like a crazy person might (ha!), speaking freely to anyone who would listen. Longtime friends, moms I met in the grocery store, whenever I could I offered as much of my story and hope as possible while my toddler ran maniacally around my feet. I was “in the middle of the mess” but I felt unspeakable joy and just wanted to share it with whoever I could. Some of that desire came out in social media & blog posts but most of it just came out in day-to-day life.
I didn’t think of a book again. That is… Until almost three years later. Three years later when I was standing in a church. Next to my second husband (who was, by then, the adoptive dad to my little girl), 6 months pregnant with a biological baby of our own.
Swaying next to my second chapter as the chorus of one of my favorite worship songs played, my heart felt full. I felt content. My life was so busy, but I felt like I was right where I was supposed to be - juggling the weight of my bursting business schedule and growing belly all at once. Never mind that adding in another thing would have felt like a horrible idea… That was when I heard it. I audibly heard God say, over the speakers blaring during worship, "It's time."
And, I knew exactly what He was talking about.
I sat down the very next day and began to write. And I couldn’t stop. For almost every spare minute of the next three months, I kept going. But it honestly didn’t even feel like me, or my own strength. It felt much bigger than that.
The entire manuscript for my book poured out of me, seemingly of its own accord. I had enough words for 2 books in just 3 months.
At the time of writing it all out… I had no plan, no publisher, and no outline. It just came. And I didn’t honestly even know if it would be a book, in the traditional sense. I figured it might even just be an account that I was supposed to pass on to our oldest daughter, a timeline of sorts. A way for her to know her story and where she came from, how she ended up with two daddies who love her.
Later on, months after the manuscript was complete, an agent and a publisher found me. We seemed to stumble into each other and the rest was history. They even had an editing team to boot and did a great job helping me make the book a reasonable length (thank God)! ;)
I have a strong inclination I’ll write another book someday. I don’t know when or how and I certainly don’t expect to do it anytime soon. (That second hubby of mine and I went on to have two more babies together and being a present mother to our four children feels like one of the greatest callings of my life.) In fact, I’m back to telling unsuspecting moms at the local parks all about my hope as now-multiple toddlers tug on my legs. ;)
But I do know that when the time is right, I can trust that God will make sure I know. I think He’s the greatest publishing team there ever was anyway. ;)
I don’t think this is what the internet probably suggests you do if you google “how to write a book.” In fact, it’s probably quite the opposite.
But when people ask me, “Where do I start with writing a book?” I feel like I have to answer from my (limited) personal experience & say:
“Pray a lot, do what you feel called to do and then let it go.
What’s meant to happen will.”
And, actually, that sounds a lot like the motto I’ve tried to apply to most aspects of my life these days. And the one I might offer you if you were to ask me for advice on almost anything. It's incredible the freedom you find when you truly give everything you have, everything you are, and every dream you’ve ever dreamed up to your Creator.
Bigger dreams and better things (book ones or otherwise) lie just ahead.
All you have to do is take a deep breath and trust.