In December 2021, it all sounded so straightforward. Combine 60+ existing newsletters into a little book and self-publish it in English and German. Little did I know what it would really take to put these two books together. But finally, both are published. So I thought it would be a good time to step back and reflect on what I learned along the tough journey. Here are my top seven insights:
1. Listen to the inner voice and know the WHY
At the start, I just had this thought … more of a vague feeling … about what I wanted to write, and so my inner voice told me to create little thumbnails (LINK) as shown below. From there, a flow emerged. And so, in January 2022, the writing journey began, guided by my inner voice. I made good progress, and gradually it became clear why I was writing. It made me reflect on my own journey. At times this felt therapeutic, making me very grateful for the support I received and how my life has changed. It became clear that my WHY was not to write a New York Times best seller. My WHY was to document my walk through life, capturing its learnings and thanking the many good people who have supported me. Becoming clear about the WHY was a huge help later in the process. More on that below.
2. Set aside enough time and be prepared that it will probably take at least 50% more time than you have allotted!
When I started out at the end of 2021, my ambitious goal was to have the two books ready for Christmas 2022. Little did I know how unrealistic that was. Even though the foundation of the 60 newsletters was there, it was unbelievable how much I underestimated the effort involved in writing, editing, re-editing, image preparation, book design, typesetting, cover development, proof reading, marketing, and publication. Following Tim Ferriss’ advice, I used the first 1.5 – 2 hours of every morning to work on it. I also wrote most weekends, all this while running a coaching practice, working / traveling as a consultant, studying Psychotherapy, and renewing my coaching license. The effort took its toll, as you will see below! I just should have allowed myself more time. The schedule shows you the reality of how long things took.
3. Get experts involved … early
The one thing I should have done differently was to involve certain experts earlier. In March of this year, I thought we were done and well on track for Christmas. This was the time when my friend Detlef took a detailed and critical look at the book. His 250+ comments were not easy to digest, but fully justified, helpful and most importantly, they resulted in a complete rework of part three. This gave the book a new face. Yes, scrapping nearly 40,000 words was tough, but absolutely essential. I wish I had involved Detlef earlier. It would have saved a lot of time and effort in translation and editing. But in hindsight, it still worked out and I am glad to have found a strong team of experts at just the right time. I think this was mainly due to learning 4.
4. Keep paddling!
Starting to re-write part three in March felt like a huge burden. But I somehow accepted the challenge and kept writing every day bit by bit. And so, gradually I put page by page together! It was tough. I was talking recently to my former P&G mentor, Mike, about this difficult period and how I made it through. He smiled and mischievously said: “Well, you did the most important thing!” I asked him what he meant, and he simply laughed: “YOU KEPT PADDLING!” His point was that, as long as we keep “paddling” consistently every day, bit by bit, doors will open and things will happen. Paddling for me meant writing a few lines every day and I think this consistency also helped that support show up when I needed it. So, beside Sebastian, Christian and Detlef, other experts like Karen Sawrey (Cover Design), Andrea Päch (Book design & Layout), Jörg Metze (Illustrations), David Hailand and Stefan Kahlau (Proofreading) miraculously showed up at the right time. All that just because I kept paddling.
5. Leave the ego at the door
I experienced that writing can be a very personal endeavour, and receiving feedback can be tough to digest. But in hindsight, I am very happy I had a small Philosophical-Poets-Team with Detlef, Sebastian and Christian, who kept me on track. Even though I had to swallow my pride regularly. Be it the completion of the cover (for which I submitted probably 20-30 different proposals, which were rejected), the crafting of the introduction, the publication messages, or many other aspects of the process, the feedback and guidance this highly diverse team gave me was crucial. It made it absolutely worthwhile to keep my ego at the door. Thanks guys!!!
6. Make time for reflection and recharge
Writing around 240,000 words across two books and languages (see below) was a massive undertaking. Assuming, that a standard novel has about 80,000 words, I technically I wrote three :-). Especially reworking the third part was a big challenge. With time pressure creeping in, I started writing sometimes at 5am, because I still had my “day-job” to go to. And over time, I skipped my morning meditations. Instead, I would go straight to the desk to start writing. This was probably the biggest mistake I made. Towards the end of the project, I began to feel overwhelmed by the time pressure, workload, and complexity of juggling everything. It was only during some reflective time in a Welsh forest that I realised what happened and that dropping my morning meditations had made me pay dearly. I think daily reflection and taking the time to recharge are absolutely essential to any large-scale project such as this.
7. Don’t be scared!
As I neared completion, a new challenge emerged. I found myself hesitating to take that final step and release the book into the world. Conversations with Anne and others illuminated a deep-seated fear. It might sound trivial, but I grappled with thoughts of how the book would be received and what would happen if there were no interest or even negative feedback. Writing a personal book exposes one’s vulnerabilities … profoundly so. Looking back, what guided me through this “last mile” was my WHY. What I did was put the pursuit of perfection aside. That gave me the freedom to acknowledge my journey and realize these two books were now part of it, however they might be received. Acknowledging my fear, I proceeded anyway and released it into the world.
With the books out and about, I would like to thank again all the people who have helped me along my journey. And I would like wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a very Happy and Healthy New Year. And, in case you still looking for a nice last-minute gift for a friend, family or yourself, here are two really good ones … :-):