My wife wants to write a book to help people take better photos. She recently asked me how she should start the process. Her thoughts were based around how to organize it, how long the chapters should be, what she should actually write about, etc. I think that many people who have a notion about writing a book start with this approach and run out of steam as they get bogged down in the process. Here is how I replied to her query:
- find a notepad that fits in your pocket and a pen and carry it with you at all times. Write down anything that pops into your mind, at any time, that is even remotely connected to the subject of your book. Make absolutely no judgments. Don’t organize or force your thoughts into any direction. Don’t disregard any of the things that come to you. Your only job is to write them down.
- Be prepared to jot down your ideas at the strangest of times – like the middle of the night. The truth is – I started writing this blog at 4:30 AM on a Saturday. I would much rather be sleeping but after waking to attend to other functions, ahem, I couldn’t go back to sleep because these random thoughts about this blog were roaming around in my mind. Writing them down, in the notepad that is on the bedside table not only preserves the idea but it allows me to relax and go back to sleep.
- In the picture above you will notice that she has a computer on her desk as well as a notepad. Set the computer aside because it usually sets in motion the need to organize, create groupings, categorize, in short, our computers are based on storing ideas in some sort of logical process – think Evernote, Notepad, etc. Process and organization stifle creativity. There is some sort of connection between the physical act of pen on paper and our creative juices. I can’t explain it but it just works better to use a notepad at this early stage, in the creation phase.
- Free form creativity is the key at this point in the exercise. Let your mind wander all over the place because there is nothing right or wrong about the thoughts that pop in unless you don’t write them down. In my experience, a lot of energy is used in trying to remember something that occurred to me in the shower or while driving the car or some other time where I was otherwise occupied. That “energy” seems to take up space and when I write down the idea or thought, it frees up space for more ideas to follow.
So, this is the starting point, gather your ideas whether they are in a notepad, on cocktail napkins, consist of magazine articles, whether or not they are even connected to the purpose or main idea of your book. Don’t judge them or try to connect them at this point, simply compose and save them. You will do all of that stuff later. If you want more ideas or need more process or need to know what to do next, you will find help here.