Sometimes, people tell me they hate their book. Their work in progress.
On occasion, I say it myself, about a book I’m working on.
I get it; sometimes we have this visceral reaction to this thing we’re pouring so much of ourselves into, and we gotta let it out…
“Okay,” I say. “That’s okay.”
And then I ask: “What do you mean by hate?”
Because hate is such a strong word. We sling it around a lot without really thinking about what it means.
“I hate peanut butter. I hate earwigs. I hate experimental jazz.”
But do I? Really?
No, not really. It takes a lot of energy to hate something, or someone. So what do I really feel about those things?
Peanut butter glues my mouth shut and sucks all the moisture out of it and the texture makes me want to claw my own skin off. I don’t hate it, though—I have no problem with other people eating it, although I’d prefer if Joe didn’t try to kiss me right after he’s eaten peanut butter on toast.
Earwigs creep me the f- out. Seriously, WHY. And the name—EARwig. Absolutely not. But do I hate them? Want to eradicate them from the planet? No, of course not. (Apparently they make very caring parents, for insects.) I just want them gone from my immediate vicinity.
Experimental jazz? Not my thang. It gives me a headache. But I don’t hate it; actually, I think it’s a neat idea because it gives rise to all kinds of other music, so it’s kinda cool. It’s literally playing with instruments and voices and just going wild. I just don’t want to listen to it, and my brain doesn’t do well when it’s playing.
(Horseflies, however—I actually do hate them. I expend energy on it. And I would wipe ‘em out in a heartbeat. They have literally no plus points, the awful little buggers.)
Back to books though. When I say I hate my book, I don’t mean that. Not really.
For me, sometimes, I mean it’s HARD. Not the writing of it—writing a book is hard and anyone who tells you differently is almost certainly being economical with the truth or misremembering. Like childbirth, I’m told, where you forget the pain.
I mean looking at the writing, in progress, can be hard. It can be painful.
Because my book idea is beautiful. In my head, my book is perfect—such a thing of wonder that I feel all the feels, and I know already how proud I’ll be when it’s a real thing in the world.
But when I try to pin it down on paper, it crumbles and rots and bears little resemblance to the perfect idea in my head. This is the shitty first draft, and that’s okay. It’s a good thing because it’s where every piece of art starts. But it can also be horrible to look at, and that’s not easy.
What do you mean by “hate”?
So if you’re writing something and feeling some kind of way—like maybe you hate it, or strongly dislike it, or want to possibly set fire to it, imagine I’m sitting next to you and gently asking, “But what do you mean by that?”
“What are you feeling resistance to?” See if you can pin down the problem, because “I hate my book” is vague; but “I can’t pin down my idea and seem to keep wandering off course” is much more specific—and highly solvable.
What would it feel like if I said, “You don't have to write this book”?
Because you don’t, you know. You’re choosing to write, and if you really don’t want to write this book, you don’t have to. Sometimes we forget that, and we need someone to remind us—it’s okay to change our minds. We haven’t failed anyone. We haven’t failed ourselves.
That question can remind us why we started writing this book in the first place, get us back on track, and renew our enthusiasm.
Or, it can give us real clarity on the the reality that we don’t actually want to write this book at all—and instead we want to write this one. Or perhaps we don’t want to write any book right now, and that’s okay too.
It’s okay to walk away from a book—but really walk away from it, properly. Because leaving a book unfinished but never truly walking away from it is a special brand of torture I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
Except a horsefly.
This is part of what a book coach does, by the way: we listen, we read, we watch—and we ask questions to help you figure out where you’re stuck, and why, and how to get going again… or how to walk away.
We give people space to say unsayable stuff like, “I hate my book! I want to quit!” and then help them figure out what’s going on underneath.
Figure out what’s going on underneath
Most people write better when they write in company, with someone who cares about you, your book, and your space in the world. They write with more clarity and fire with someone paying close attention and making space for them to do their best work, someone who learns how they work best without trying to push them into a shape that doesn’t suit them—and that’s worth far more than the financial investment.
That’s what the right book coach can do if you choose to work with one.
But here’s an idea you can embrace for free right now: be more intentional about your writing. Figure out why you’re writing. For whom, and how your book can help them. Work out where your book fits into the world, and how you can get it in front of the right people.
And understand, truly understand: writing a book is hard. It takes a long time and on occasion it can feel like dragging ourselves through treacle. Even for those of us who write every single day. And that's okay, because doing hard things is wondrous… but there’s no need or sense in struggling on alone and desperate.
You can figure all this out yourself, for sure—but do you have time for that? Sometimes you need someone on the outside because it’s really tough to read the label from inside the bottle.
If you don’t have time for all that by yourself, perhaps I can help.
My Book Breakthrough Jams are designed to get you out of a jam—and get your book started. Whether you’re right at the beginning—in which case we’ll send you away with a full outline and plan and knowing exactly what to do each time you sit down to write…
Or you’re stuck somewhere in the middle…
We’ll get you moving. And more than that, you’ll be confident in your ability to do this, and in love with the idea of getting your book done.
I have three spaces left in September (and a waiting list for October) and you can find out all about it right here.
Psst: did you know you can book a 90 minute Book Breakthrough Jam session with me to get your book started? If you’re stuck and would like my help to get going on your book again, click the button below and book a slot.
Notes in the Margin
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