I asked Lisa Tener to share with my readers some of her best tips for taking on the challenge of self-doubt–which is one of the most normal states of being for a writer no matter how experienced! She writes here about how-to books but this applies to memoir and novel writing too!
By Lisa Tener
Do you wonder whether you’re enough of an expert to write a self-help or how-to book?
Or if you have anything fresh or interesting enough to add to what’s already out there?
Or do you just worry that you’re not a good enough writer?
Most aspiring authors struggle with self doubt when it comes to writing a book. Published authors may seem like some kind of superhuman with special powers. “I’m not that.”
Amy O’Brien, author of the award winning self-help book, Stuck with Mr. Wrong, once confessed that she’d always had this itch to write a book but somehow didn’t think she was capable of it. She imagined that published authors were a different breed of person. That it was a group she didn’t have “the right stuff” to belong to.
Once Amy wrote and published her first book and realized she could do it, she went on to write and publish another, Star in Your Own Life Story. Like many authors, Amy started where you may be right now, in nagging self doubt.
In my experience, there are three kinds of self doubt as an author, indicated by the questions I asked you at the beginning of this post:
- You worry that you lack the expertise in your field.
- You wonder whether you can write something fresh or compelling enough that anyone will want to read it.
- You question your writing abilities and skills.
You don’t have to divest yourself of every bit of self-doubt in order to write your book. In fact, a little skepticism can be healthy and keep you on your toes, striving for excellence. What you do need is to write anyway and feel good about it.
Think you can do that? Here are 5 tools to help you:
5 ways to Overcome Self Doubt and Write Your How-to Book
- View Writing a Book as an Experiment: Can you feel the pressure lift off your shoulders when you tell yourself you’re just going to see if you can do this? Just test the waters?
- Be Playful: If you’re coming at the project from the point of view of perfectionism, you’ll interfere with your ability to get into a state of flow. Instead, take a playful attitude, try different things, see what works and what doesn’t. You don’t have to write something perfect from the get-go.
- Share Stories: Humans love to read stories. When told well, stories draw us in and make a subject come alive. Pepper your book with stories that do just that. The stories that make up your experiences of your subject are part of your expertise. And no one can tell your stories—it’s one of the fresh things you bring to the table. Don’t worry if you’re not a great storyteller either. That’s what a good writing teacher, coach or editor is for—he or she can help you turn a memory into a powerful and compelling story or anecdote that illustrates what you are aiming to teach.
- Bring In Experts: If you question your own expertise and want to do more than tell your stories, you can also garner input from experts. You may want to research their contributions to the field and include a story about their research or a quotation from a book or article or video. Or you may prefer to ask them to contribute to the book—with a quotation for a sidebar or even a full interview.
- Find a Knowledgeable Guide: When you learned to drive, you probably took driver’s ed or someone in your family taught you to drive a car. If you are like most people, you didn’t just know how to do this. Someone taught you. Accountants take classes to become accountants and they learn from people with extensive knowledge. Self-help and how-to authors are lucky. It usually doesn’t take nearly as much training to write a book. But it sure does help to learn from someone who’s done it. You may decide you want one-on-one coaching to guide you through the process step-by-step, or a course which combines one-on-one with supportive community with other learners, or you may want an editor to help you become a better writer and, in particular, polish each chapter as you go. You may even do more than one of these. Your guide will help you know where to start, save time, make the most of your experiences and skills, teach you to become a better writer, help you learn to self-edit, and save much time in the process. With guidance you can write a better book than without.
Is that self doubt still there? No problem. Just put it to the side and incorporate the above 5 tips and you will soon be on your way to writing, despite any lingering self doubt. More than that, these tips will help you enjoy the process and not let the doubt stifle or stop you. Over time, as you write more, you’ll also gain confidence, until you know—absolutely—from deep inside—that you are becoming an author and you “got this.”
Looking to get started on a self-help or how-to book? Join me and Samantha Bennett for a free call to get the guidance you need to “Jump Start Your Book.”
Lisa Tener is the recipient of the Silver Stevie Award for Mentor/Coach of the Year 2014. You can also read Lisa’s book writing blog or find her articles on writing and publishing on the Huffington Post. Follow Lisa on Twitter.