In 2012, I was a graduate student at the University of Cincinnati, attending with a full tuition assistantship working part-time at a scientific journal on campus. I was also running my business, which I had started three years earlier while living in the Dominican Republic, and had been working since the age of 14. While I had only completed a bachelor’s in writing at that point, I had spent my entire life studying writing—or at least since I fell in love with writing and books at the age of 7. Before starting graduate school as a nontraditional “older student” at the age of 26, I had edited a number of books and worked as a founding managing editor of a regional magazine. So that’s all to say that even at 26, I had developed expertise in the written word and especially in editing.
So I shouldn’t have been surprised when I was offered a small book deal to write a book on editing. But I was.
For me, the opportunity—in the form of an email—arrived encased in fear. I ran through all the negative self-talk: Who am I to write a book? Who is going to listen to a 26-year-old? What if the book isn’t any good? What if I accidentally leave a bunch of typos in a book on book editing? Will I get bad reviews? Will my career be over? Will the world implode?!
Will people figure out I actually don’t know anything about anything and never did? That I’m a total and complete fraud?
While yes, I am using a bit of writerly hyperbole, the truth is I absolutely did go down a fear spiral. Self-doubt plagued me. I was excited, of course, and grateful for the opportunity. But deep down, I was terrified of failure . . . and success.
But I said yes anyway. I had no idea I was about to embark on one of the most meaningful journeys of my life so far.
I’d long known that one of the greatest benefits of writing a book is the process of writing. Not only are you finally accomplishing what might be a lifelong goal, but writing a book forces a level of introspection, clarity, and alignment you can only accomplish through deep, prolonged, thoughtful work. I’d seen my editing clients go through incredible transformations as they stepped into their purpose through writing their book. Writing my first book (and later, many others) did the same for me.
Reflection, Clarification, and Purpose
The process of writing forced me to reflect and clarify. I learned how to think deeply about my work (back then, book and magazine editing) and translate what I knew to serve others. I journeyed from professional to expert internally, and once the book was out, others began to see me as an expert too.
Today, as I guide aspiring authors on their own journeys through my accelerated author program, I get to witness their transformations. What I find incredible is that even the most seasoned industry thought leader, high-powered executive, or deeply confident individual undergoes some form of transformation while writing their books. That is, if they fully engage. Because you can write a book, or you can become an author. The latter requires you to be all in during the writing process, to commit to sifting through the mental muck and mud and emerge on the other side of this great project with a profound sense of accomplishment.
Before my book even came out in 2013, I had stepped into my expertise in a new way. I understood my value as an expert because I had done the hard work of writing it down in a cohesive, clear way to help others. While I hadn’t yet stepped into “thought leadership” back then, I became a more confident, aligned person who could speak with clarity about who I am, what I do, and the value I offer the world.
Then the book came out. A post I wrote went viral within my industries. The media! The interview requests! The opportunities! It was overwhelming and wonderful and all the things a first launch should be. I underwent another transformation—this time externally. The world began to see me as the expert I was, and, I realized, maybe even a thought leader in my industry.
I began to see the world ahead of me as full of possibilities. And, importantly, I recognized that I had the power to shape my future. If I could write a book, I thought, I could do anything. Maybe I could even create my future.
Introspection, Vision, and . . . Thailand and Portugal
I had my daughter a few months before the book came out, and becoming a mom was a journey of its own. Suddenly I was on fire with a new motivation: to support my family and to show my daughter what’s possible for her. My son was born in 2015, and suddenly I was not only a mom of two amazing kids but also extraordinarily busy. By then, I had ghostwritten, coached, edited, or otherwise impacted dozens of books, and had been teaching my writing strategies in live workshops and at conferences. I continued to study the craft of book writing and test productivity strategies to tap into flow and get better quality work done in less time—because I had to. I had just become a mom of two, after all!
I drew on the introspective approach of writing my first book and applied deep thinking to my life and business in the form of a crystal clear life vision. I knew what I wanted: freedom. I wanted freedom of location, to live abroad again (my husband and I lived in the Dominican Republic and Vietnam pre-kids). I wanted freedom of finances, to not have to worry about cash flow or hospital bills or the future. I wanted freedom of choice, to select projects and clients I was excited about that were aligned with my values. I wanted freedom of schedule, to be able to work with my natural body and brain rhythms so I could tap into my best work without draining my battery. And most importantly, I wanted freedom of availability, to be able to be there when my kids needed me.
With a clear vision, I then got to work building out a strategy and systems to make it happen. That meant continuing to write books, teach, speak, and run a location-independent business. And dream of what lay ahead for our family.
The location independence I dreamed of wasn’t just about being able to live anywhere. It meant actually moving somewhere abroad for at least two years. In 2018, the same year Growing Influence, the book I coauthored with Ron Price, came out, my family and I moved to Thailand. Writing and publishing that book helped me make the journey internally from expert to thought leader. (Of note, I don’t love the term “thought leader,” but I think of it as a form of both internal and external thought leadership. At that time, I had done the introspective work within myself to clarify my ideas in a way that resonates with others.)
Thailand didn’t go as planned, but that was OK, because we had freedom of choice. We could choose to leave and choose where to go next. In 2019, we moved to Portugal. Today, my family and I are living the life we envisioned for ourselves many years ago.
Since my first book, I’ve gone on to impact hundreds of books, whether through coaching, ghostwriting, speaking, or training. Every author and book I work with reinforces my belief in the transformative process of writing a book. Because it is powerful. It will transform you.
I’ve heard the joke: “I don’t want to write a book—I want to have written a book.” That’s cute, but it misses the point entirely. The writing process, if you do it right, is meaningful, moving, and transformative. For your business and for your life. If you want to write a book, I suggest that you first anchor to the why behind your book—your big vision—so you can write the book that helps you get there. I want you to look back on the journey of writing with gratitude and pride, knowing you wrote the best book possible. And I want that book to get you closer to your “Portugal”—whatever that may be to you.
Here’s to making your big vision a reality!
What is your big vision? What steps are you taking to make it a reality? Share with me in the comments. I love hearing from you!
Thank you for sharing this! I can’t agree with you more. There is so much growth that takes place during the writing process.
Moreover, it is quite interesting when you talk about your move abroad, and how it encompassed around your writing. When I wrote my first book, back around 2014 or so, I too wrote my book while living “abroad” in Ontario Canada (I am originally from Texas).
At that time, I wasn’t able to work, so it gave me a lot of time to reflect, as well as write.
Thanks again for sharing this post!
Thank you for reading and sharing your insights, William! It sounds amazing to have space to reflect and write. I haven’t experienced that yet, but it’s something I look forward to someday. Again, thank you!