The Book Writing Rollercoaster
I’m joyfully working in WorkJoy HQ when my phone pings. A slack message: the first ever batch of my first ever book, WorkJoy: A toolkit for a better working life, is due to arrive at my house next week. Excited much? I might actually explode. I love real books. Holding them in my hands and having a sniff (just me?) is purest joy. The idea that it’ll be my book, my words, that I hold (and yes, sniff) next week is, quite frankly, mind boggling. I also feel petrified. I can no longer fiddle, edit or change any of those 50,000 words. They’re going to be there, in print, for anyone to read from 10th January 2023 until probably, maybe, forever.
Turns out that the book writing process is one hell of an emotional rollercoaster. Pendulums swinging from productive to procrastination (sometimes within the same hour) and from jumping around the office levels of pride to wanting to hide under the duvet level of self-doubt! Riding the rollercoaster without shouting ‘I want to get off’ has been my 2022 challenge.
The book started life all the way back in 2020. I had a little kernel of an idea I was calling WorkJoy and when Covid hit and lockdown started, I thought, ‘Maybe this is the ideal time to write that book I’ve been thinking about for years’. Like the good student I am, I signed up to a book proposal writing course recommended by my friend (and fellow author) Cath Bishop. The course helped me pull ideas together and create a first stab at the table of contents. It was a great experience and it taught me loads about the whole book writing and publishing process. I’m a nerd and I loved getting feedback on my work and being able to make it better.
Then the book went into hibernation, because I wanted to test out my ideas and gather more research. It kick-started a long-talked about project to start a podcast and the WorkJoy Jam was born. Talking to a diverse range of people about WorkJoy, where they get it and how we can get more of it, has been an incredible source of both insight and energy, and Season Six will be out in 2023. I also created my signature coaching programme, The WorkJoy Way: a group and 1:1 programme that enables people to locate and amplify their levels of joy at work, using experiments, group collaboration and bucket loads of support (and challenge) from me as coach. Then there’s Club WorkJoy, an incredible community of people working together to support and enable more joy at work. From creating the brand (with the help of amazing designers) and recording each podcast episode, to every single coaching session, it’s been exciting, insightful and incredibly rewarding. Much to my surprise, I even enjoyed getting the tech stuff sorted for the Club WorkJoy platform. There was a lot of learning (my happy place) and some challenges to navigate, yet overall, it’s been an incredible experience. After a year of building the infrastructure and WorkJoy brand, at the end of 2021, I got the, Are you ever going to write the book though Beth? call. I said YES! And, because I need a deadline to function, I also said I’d have the first draft complete by my 40th Birthday in April 2022.
Fridays became book writing day. I went back to my original book proposal; I collated all the research and insight and I started writing. I found the writing process less painful than I expected. I’d heard war stories of the dreaded writers block, of throwing away whole chapters of work and of it being a lonely process. I found that my ideas kept flowing, even when the words did not. The challenge with giving myself Fridays to write is that I was squishing all my work-work into four-day weeks and leaving the writing-work until the last day of the week, when my energy was lacking. To start with, I was very self-critical if I didn’t get started writing until 10am. Then I realised giving myself a little longer to get going on a Friday meant I went into hyper focus mode for a few hours and got LOADS down on paper. Well, most weeks…Sure, there were some days in which I just had to reorganise my office rather than write! I was lucky to have a squad of people cheering me on, so I never felt alone, but I did feel a huge sense of responsibility to both do it justice and to get it right. Through the first draft process, there were lots of moving parts. Some chapters were missing and got added to the list. At one point, three planned chapters merged to create one. Being flexible and allowing it to evolve, and not sticking steadfast to the original plan, felt like the right thing to do.
Then I hit a wall. I’d got the first draft done. There were too many words. I knew it wasn’t ready for public consumption, but I also knew that if I fiddled any more with it, I’d break it, not make it better. It was massively frustrating and I felt AWFUL – I had serious BookGloom! This is where my wonderful crew of BETA readers came in to save the day. They breathed fresh life into it, offering perspective, advice, feedback and suggestions. Along with a professional development editor, they enabled me to re-work, re-order, re-focus and, probably even more importantly, re-energise myself. With renewed verve, I set about making it better. Now making things better is totally in my wheelhouse. Book-Gloom swiftly turned to Book-Joy and I was back on it! The rollercoaster then took me way out of my comfort zone and I had to step into the editing process. For those of you who know me, you’ll be aware there are a LOT of words in me and I tried really hard to put ALL of them into the book. I was ably assisted by one of my squad, who helped me to take it from overly verbose to perhaps just a few hundred too many words. Just like that, I moved from dodgy first draft to sensible second and even (dare I say it) fabulous final?
Once the final draft was complete, after a big sigh of relief, it flew out of my hands for a while and nto those of the typesetters who turned it from a Word document into a print-ready PDF. I had a few weeks of breathing space and then I had to get into the detailed work. Even my super specs weren’t strong enough for this part of the process! Adding in page numbers, formatting the illustrations, making each page make sense. There was a lot of back and forth about whether the icons were big enough and if a sentence should be on the next page for better flow. I find this level of reading really hard on screen – always have. My printer was working double time to print (double sided and always recycled) each version. I’ve always been grateful that I don’t have too many perfectionist tendencies. I’m more of a throw yourself in at the deep end and learn how to swim person. I’m happy to dabble, experiment, and learn by doing, getting it wrong and trying again. But when I received the final proofs of my book, I was petrified that there would be errors I missed. Now I’m not good at proofreading (especially my own words); it’s way out of my comfort zone. I knew the professionals were all over it, but it was my responsibility to sign off and say ‘ready to print’ and that felt like a lot of pressure. After a brief spell of rising perfectionism and a very strong talking to (by me, to me) I decided to accept that there will be a typo, or a missing bullet point in this book, because we’re all human, aren’t we? When the book comes out on 10th Jan and you’re the first person to tell me you’ve spotted a mistake, I shall offer you an eagle eyes prize!
…and now we’re here. In a few weeks the book will be ‘real’. It’ll be online and in print. It will be something. I’m nearing the top of the upwards climb on the rollercoaster. I can hear each click and know that soon, the brakes will release and I’ll be in free fall! Part of me that knows that when I see the hard copy, I’ll be immensely proud. I need to allow myself more than a moment to soak that in. Then, the next part of the rollercoaster starts. Getting it into the hands of people who will benefit, getting feedback from people who’ve read it, and meeting new people who want to know more. I’ll go from ‘soon to be author’ to ‘author’. That’s an additional label for me, and one I’m nervous and excited about, because it’s all new.
Then who knows what will happen next, maybe this is the first in a trilogy…