They say raising a child takes a village. The same can be said for publishing a book.
Beyond the words you write on the page, there are designers, artists, publicists, editors, agents, sales reps, publishers and bookstore owners who help bring your stories to life.
But before a book appears in your hands, you must write it.
This sounds easy enough, but in practice it’s often a multiple-year endeavor fraught with moments of doubt, resistance and the ever-present feeling you’re traveling through a tunnel sans light at the end of it.
I’m intimately familiar with these emotional roadblocks, because until recently, I was not yet a published author, but simply a writer who wanted to write a book…some day.
From start to finish, it took almost five years for my first book to turn from wild idea into a printed, softcover title with my photo on the back flap and its very own ISBN number.
In my many years of waiting and writing, I learned there are two essential skills you need if you want to write a book. And it’s not a tool like a piece of software or a specific type of computer. It’s also not an agent (although they can be useful).
What you need is already inside of you.
It’s a duo of traits, cultivated over time, that might make the difference in whether or not you write the book you’re dreaming of.
1. The art of patience
One of the most difficult lessons to accept about the publishing industry is we can’t always control the timeline.
Publishers have schedules and budgets to consider, or it might take longer to sell your book than an agent originally thought.
Editorial meetings might be rescheduled due to illness or inclement weather (this happened to me on multiple occasions!), or a deadline might push publication back several months or even a year.
Since these details are largely outside your influence, the writer’s job is to try to ignore these external factors as much as possible and get on with the work.
This isn’t easy to do, especially when you’re waiting eagerly to find out whether an agent is interested in reading your proposal, or if your first choice publisher will offer a contract.
Perhaps you’re not yet thinking about these tasks, and you’re simply searching for the words, attempting to begin. Creativity has its own timeline, too.
Although we must be diligent about caring for it and providing ample opportunities for it to show itself, creativity might taper off, or a difficult season forces you to pause before continuing your writing.
Wherever you are, there will be something you cannot entirely control. This reality requires a letting go, completely releasing expectations and trusting wholeheartedly that everything will work out when it’s meant to.
2. The practice of persistence
Persistence, on the other hand, is one element in the writing journey you can control.
At its most basic level, persistence only requires that you do not give up.
First, you must believe you are a writer. You must believe writing is a calling, not a choice.
You must believe you will write your book. You must believe your words are meant to encourage and inspire others.
When you embrace these ideas, it will be much easier to persist, even on days when you doubt your ability to write another word.
Practically speaking, there are certain requirements, of course. You must pitch agents or reach out to editors. You need to follow up on a query, or resubmit a guest post to a new publication. Questions will need to be asked or answered.
You cannot simply sit on your hands and wait for the contract to fall into your lap.
Always, there is a push and pull.
Something doesn’t go the way you planned. A rejection. A snarky Twitter comment. A bad review. You might recoil for a few days, frustrated and maybe even a little bit sad. But then you release expectations and make the decision to keep writing, to do the work. Optimism returns. This process, most likely, will repeat several times.
No matter what external elements are necessary for a book to finally reach publication, it always starts with you. One word after another, strung together, sentence after sentence, day after day.
When combined, patience and persistence create a recipe for progress. A recipe for sanity, really.
If you are patient when you need to be, and if you also persist in following your heart and where your pen might lead, one day, you will publish a book.