Tag Archives: journal

Six Things to Consider Before Writing Your Personal Story

I recently had someone share a book idea with me. It was about him dealing with a tragedy. If you want to write your story about a personal struggle, here are some questions to ask:

Are you emotionally able to write? This man was in the middle of his struggle. He was on edge and barely hanging on. He could journal about it or make notes for later, but I doubt any good writing could take place now. Time is needed for healing before writing.

Why do you want to write? Writing can be a catharsis, but that doesn’t necessarily make it worthy of publication. Are you writing to heal, to understand, or to share with others?

What’s the main point? A book needs one theme and only one. His had several, with the only connection being they emanated from the ripples of his experience. He had enough themes for several books. Clarify and focus before writing.

Has your idea already been published? Do some serious online research to learn how many others have written about the same thing. If too many books have been published then there’s likely no room for one more. Conversely, if nothing’s been published, there’s probably a reason why: from a business standpoint there’s not enough interest in your topic. (Personally your book is significant, but publishers will approach it as a product they must be able to sell and turn a profit.)

Are you able to complete the work? Writing is easy; writing well is hard. It requires work and perseverance. It takes time to hone your skills and letting others see your work is a baring of your soul. Are you at a point where you can do that?

Are you able to follow through? Finishing your book is just the first step, not the last. You need to find a publisher or agent — and sell them on your idea. Rejection is common at this step. Next your book will be edited. Will you be able to have someone correct and change your words? Once it’s published, you will need to promote it. Publishers focus their marketing efforts on the big name authors who will sell a million copies, not people like you or me.

This may seem overwhelming and discouraging. That’s the point. Know what you are facing before starting. But if you do proceed, know that books are published every day, so why can’t you be one of them?

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

The Spirituality of Writing

A couple years ago I went on a 24-hour prayer retreat. This was a time of relative silence, with no Internet, no computer, no cell phone, and no television; there would be no technology to distract me. I did take a couple books to read, my Bible, my journal, and the expectation it would be an epic spiritual adventure. It was.

I walked and prayed and rested and read…and I journaled. Boy, did I journal. Some of it was between God and me, but most was to share. So when I returned (to coin a word, I “unretreated”) I transcribed pages of handwritten entries. It took hours.

Recently I went on another retreat. I went to the same place and left behind the same technologies — except for my laptop. If God prompted me to write, I wanted to be ready. He did — and I was.

Boy, did I write. And as I did it became a most spiritual experience, even though much of what I was writing was not overtly spiritual. I was creating and the creator was pleased.

That’s when I realized writing is a spiritual experience for me, but I had to go on a retreat to see it.

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!

The 10,000-Hour Rule

Malcolm Gladwell, in his 2008 book Outliers, advances the “10,000-Hour Rule.” He asserts that to be successful in any field, it is largely a result of putting in a requisite amount of time practicing a task and honing that skill. How much time? Ten thousand hours!

I have no idea how much time I’ve logged writing and what activities count, but I suspect I am still shy of the 10,000-hour mark.

I think I can count any type of writing I do, including blogging and keeping a journal. Revising and editing what I have written would surely apply, too. But I’m not sure about revising and editing someone else’s work — which I do quite a bit in my day job. Does attending a writing conference, lecture, or book reading count? Probably not. Lastly, as I’ve mentioned before, writers are advised to spend as much time reading as writing. Does reading count? Again, I think not, even though it does serve to aid in overall development.

This 10,000-hour rule likely explains why many novelists are not able to publish their first book, they are still amassing the requisite time, and their craft is not yet perfected enough to be marketable.

Though there is no way I can reconstruct a log of time spend writing, I do believe that I am nearing the 10,000-hour plateau, so I am encouraged.

Do you think you need 10,000 hours to excel as a writer? How much time have you amassed?

Peter DeHaan is an author, publisher, and editor. He gives back to the writing community through this blog. Get insider info from his monthly newsletter. Sign up today!