Don't Ever Let Up On Your Big Life Goals (Or, How I Decided to Start Writing a Book)
It's been a while since I last posted here.
(I’ve missed you!)
The reason for my absence is that I’ve been working on a secret project that I'm excited to share with you today.
All my writing juices recently have been channeled toward completing a book proposal. I’m writing a memoir of how I quit my job in 2013 to take a year off – and the incredible adventure and self-discovery that came of this leap of faith.
This project is still in its very early days. Perhaps it’s premature to say anything about it publicly. Artists are often protective of their new works for many good reasons, but I’ve already learned so much from starting this project that I had to tell you about it.
The project – and its challenges
I’ve long wanted to write a book. It’s easily my longest running dream, and the one that I have worked the hardest at over the course of my life.
What I’ve learned over the years – principally from many false starts in my 20s – is that writing a book is really hard. It takes a really long time. It’s solitary work, and it’s often unrewarded in either pay or attention. To successfully finish a book, you have to be insanely passionate about your topic, be incredibly disciplined and determined, and know how to court inspiration. (For more on the latter, I highly recommend Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic.)
As I came to appreciate exactly how difficult this goal was, I shelved it for a while. I was leery of jumping in again too fast and then not succeeding.
When I quit my job at age 34 to take a year off and ended up having an amazing adventure, meeting the love of my life and eventually moving to Spain – many people told me, “What a great story! You should write about it!” (Especially my mother.)
I appreciated everyone’s enthusiasm, but still, I knew what was involved. A long haul.
Why it’s been important
Writing a book was among the list of life goals that I set for myself when I first worked with a life coach seven years ago.
That’s when I realized that I had a lot to do and experience in this life, and that if I really wanted that to happen I needed to start right away.
My approach to my life started changed dramatically at that point. Periodically I would take a step back from my life and ask myself if I was still on track. I’d ask: Is there anything more I can do right now to move forward with any of these goals?
That’s what got me to take the leap of leaving my career to take time off to travel. I saw that if only I was brave enough, I could finally fulfill this goal. I had the inspiration, time, money, and freedom.
Always a lover of efficiency, I took advantage of my year off to knock out a few other life goals: regain my fluency in Spanish, learn enough wilderness skills to go solo backpacking, and return to Chile to visit friends and family.
The Universe also stepped in and presented me with even more opportunities to realize some of my biggest life goals – by introducing me to my now-husband and giving me a chance to start my own online business.
One thing I’ve learned these last seven years is that consistently and intentionally going after my dreams has made my life so much more meaningful and rich, even outright magical at times. I’ll never go back to living my life day-by-day simply hoping that the things I want will happen someday.
I’ll always take action. I’ll always keep the long view in mind.
Reading the signs
So this last summer, when the dust had finally settled on my most recent big life endeavors of moving to Spain and starting my business, I wondered what I could start working on next.
There were a few things on my list that I didn’t have control over or I didn’t see the right opportunity yet. These I’d have to wait on the Universe for again. But I was starting to see a few signs around me that maybe, just maybe, it was time to get serious about writing my book.
One of those signs was the realization that my move to rural Spain truly had given me the time and space for my creativity to flourish.
When I live in the city, I fill my time with concerts, readings, and social gatherings – some of which are wonderful, and some of which just make me busy and scattered. Now that I live in the country, I have much more time and energy to put towards longer-term projects. I’d never had such a perfect set up for writing a book, or such a clear idea of what I wanted to write. This was big.
Another sign was when one of my favorite travel bloggers, Kim Dinan of So Many Places, wrote about finishing up her travel memoir, The Yellow Envelope, in the last months of her first pregnancy. Here’s someone going after two of her big dreams at one time, I thought. How inspiring!
Kim included a candid account of exactly how she found an agent and publisher and how long it took her to write her book in total. My curiosity piqued, I picked up the book she recommended, How to Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larsen.
A book proposal is essentially a business plan for your book. Its purpose is to convince publishers why your book will sell, to whom, and why you’re the person to write it. A successful proposal will land a book contract.
When I started reading the chapter on how I’d have to pitch my qualifications and promote the book, I immediately started feeling overwhelmed. I tossed the book aside in discouragement. I just didn’t think I had it in me.
Still, I wrote Kim a quick email to tell her that I appreciated her recent blogs and found them inspiring. I was feeling called to get started on my own memoir, I said, so the practical advice was helpful.
When Kim wrote back she mentioned she now offered consulting sessions to a limited number of writers wanting help with their own proposals. If I wanted to learn more, we could set up a short call.
A book still felt like too massive of a project, but I thought, What’s the harm of a 15-minute call?
The help of one person brought my goal within reach
Kim’s enthusiasm and matter-of-fact approach won me over immediately. She proposed four sessions, which would also act as deadlines for the various elements of the proposal. Hearing her break down the project into parts, and knowing that she had done it herself and could give me insider advice, suddenly brought the project back into my grasp.
I hired her, we set my first deadline, and I got to work.
The change that came over me, through the simple act of recruiting someone to help me, was incredible. I dived into the project headlong. I greedily stole as much time as I could to work on it. I didn’t falter even when I arrived at the promotion section that had initially stalled me out.
On Monday, Kim gave me her critique of my proposal. I have some edits to make – all manageable – and then I’ll get started with the next step of sending it to agents. Woo-hoo! Our call once again infused me with the energy to keep going.
The publishing world is competitive and fickle. There’s no saying how my proposal will do out there. Whether I attract initial interest or not, I know I’ll finish my book and keep trying to publish it. I’ve seen that the only thing that really separates published writers vs. unpublished writers is not talent, but persistence.
Three powerful reminders about living an inspired life
No doubt there will be many more lessons along this road. Already, it has offered these three powerful reminders on how to stay on track and live life to the fullest:
1. Regularly check and revise your list of what you’d most like to do and experience in this life.
2. When your heart really longs to go after one goal in particular but it’s also clear it’s not the right time or there are too many factors out of your control … pick one of your life goals that you can go after right now. Maybe it’s not that huge of a thing – like learning to scuba dive -- that doesn’t matter. Do it so you can cross it off your list! I’ve found that by taking proactive steps toward one of my life goals has an uncanny way of suddenly bringing the seemingly unreachable goals within my grasp.
Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.
– W.H. Murray, Scottish mountaineer and writer
3. If you ever get discouraged, recruit someone to help you. I should know this in my bones, after all, I’m a coach! Yet with my book proposal, I still needed to be reminded of this lesson. With the help of others – especially professionals like teachers or coaches – you’ll go further, faster. They can help you find shortcuts or give you needed perspective. Plus, instead of going it alone, you’ll feel supported, encouraged and empowered. This is such a solid investment. This is your life we’re talking about.
Here are my questions for you:
- Do you have a clear list of all your life goals? If not, get started here.
- What life goal on that list could you start taking steps toward right now?
I’ve found that there’s no greater high in life than following through on the things I’ve always wanted. It is transformative.
If you could use my help along the way, please just let me know.