[Originally published on entrepreneur.com]
You know you have a book in you, and you know you should write it. It’ll help you gain authority and visibility, it will get you in front of the right people and drive clients and business to you.
But you just can’t seem to get it done. In all other things in your life, you’re a diligent hard worker. What is it about writing a book that makes it seem impossible?
For some people it’s just that they don’t know the process, or they can’t find the time. But there are a lot of ways to learn how to write a book, and many ways to find more time. If it were JUST about access to information, your book would get done.
It’s not just information. It’s fear. There is something about writing or publishing a book that has triggered a deep fear, and that is creating the true obstacle to you starting or finishing your book.
I’ve seen or experienced just about every book fear there is (because I’ve written 5 books myself, and I have a company that helps people turn their ideas into books). These are the three main fears, and how you can easily get past them:
Fear #1: “I don’t know if I have a book in me.”
This is a very reasonable fear. If you’re unsure if you can do something, it’s completely healthy and normal to be afraid of it. For example, if I don’t know if I can swim, I’m a little afraid of jumping in the water. And that makes sense–it’s keeps me safe.
That’s the key thing to understand with this fear; it’s just about uncertainty. If you can remove the uncertainty, then the fear will go away. So how do you do that? How can you know if you have a book in you?
There’s a pretty good test to help you understand this (it’s exactly what we do with our authors):
Do people ask you for advice?
Do people pay you for the knowledge or wisdom or information in your head?
What knowledge or wisdom or information do you have that other people find valuable?
The answers to those question are your book.
Not knowing if you have a book in you is usually about being so close to something, you can’t even see that other people value what you know. That’s very common actually. In my company, we see people who aren’t sure if they have one book in them, and after a ten minute conversation they realize they have two or three books.
They’re just so close to the subject, they’ve forgotten that other people don’t know what they know.
Fear #2: “I don’t know if anyone will care about my book.”
The first thing to do is re-examine the questions above–if people are asking you or paying you for advice, they’re also going to buy your book.
Another way to check if you have a book in you is to go look on Amazon about your topic. If there’s other books about what you want to write about, that is a GREAT sign that you’ll have an audience for your book. Other books mean there’s a marker.
For example, if you were going to write a book about how to sell quilts to frat bros, there’s nothing online about this (really, I just checked). That’s almost certainly because isn’t a huge market for quilts among frat bros.
Remember though: it doesn’t have to be a huge market to mean that people really care. If you’re writing a book about how a surgeon can navigate their career, there’s not a massive market for it, but there are tens of thousands of surgeons and new ones every year. That book will sell very well and very important, but to a relatively small market of people.
What makes this fear complicated is that what people often really mean, underneath it all, is “I don’t know if anyone will care about me.”
That’s because many people see their books as them, as a part of their identity. If the book is popular, then they are popular. If the book doesn’t sell, then they see themselves as unpopular.
This is a very dangerous way to look at a book. And it’s not how 99.9% of readers think.
They key thing to remember is that no one cares about ANYONE’S book. People only care about books that get them something they want.
Just ask yourself, “Does anyone have the problem my book helps them with? Does anyone need this knowledge or idea in my head?”
If this is true, then people will care definitely care about your book, because it helps them.
Fear #3: “I don’t want to look stupid.”
The third fear is probably the most common one. There can be a few different things going on here.
I think fear one and two are somewhat integrated in this. If you don’t know if you have a book in you, or don’t know if your book is going to be interesting to anyone else, that can combine to make you afraid of looking stupid. If you conquer one and two, for most people, the fears of three will dissipate.
But not always. We’ve seen clients who know they have a book in them, and know there’s an audience for their book–but are still afraid to put out their book, and the only reason they can give is they’re afraid to “look stupid.”
What’s going on here?
I think for many people (not all), this is Imposter Syndrome.
Imposter Syndrome is where someone, even very accomplished people with many credentials, are deeply afraid that they might suck. That their ideas and their wisdom aren’t so great, and that a book will expose them as frauds.
This is not saying that they are frauds. Far from it. People with Imposter Syndrome feel this way despite clear evidence of their competence, and almost no matter what you tell them, they remain convinced they don’t deserve their success, and they aren’t as smart or capable as everyone thinks they are.
I’m not going to pretend I am can teach you how to get over Imposter Syndrome (if anything, I have the opposite problem–I think I’m way better than I am). But I can show you a way to reframe your relationship to your book that’s worked for many authors:
Understand that your book isn’t about you.
If your book isn’t about you, then it’s about sharing your knowledge and wisdom with people who really want it. That means it’s no longer a judgement of you–good or bad. It’s only judged on whether it helped other people or not. That’s objective and external from you.
You can still think you’re stupid and a fraud, but if other people want to read your “stupidity” then you should not be afraid to write it, because your book is not about you, it’s about them.
To accomplish this reframe, you MUST address fear #2 with clear evidence that people want your book. But once you do that–once you accumulate proof that people want to read your thoughts–then you should be able to get past this fear, at least for your book.