I will be an author by 2015.
A few years ago, I wrote that goal down. It started with a burble in my belly. I felt the book in my gut. A book wanted to come out of me. My gut kept saying over and over that it was time.
I was surprised by this goal. I spent much of my 20s in newsrooms surrounded by reporters/writers who wanted to write books. I never thought I was interested in writing a book. I later realized that was my lower self, who thought I couldn’t write one, or didn’t have anything interesting enough to say to be worthy of a book. I never set the goal.
By 2014, my gut informed me otherwise. But what book? And with what time? Back then, I was working 25 hours a week for my yoga teacher, Baron Baptiste, and I was teaching 10 classes a week at studios in Seattle, and writing my Fit for Life column for The Seattle Times. Writing a book was out of the question. I didn’t have any time.
I had to create time before I could even consider delving into the world of agents, publishers and writing more words than I had attempted, ever.
That burbling voice in my belly was insistent. By then, I had learned to pay more attention to my gut voice, and I was learning to do a better job at hearing what it said. I wrote the goal down.
Being in action on the voice, however, was the bigger challenge. I knew I had to do it, and I knew where the time had to come from — I had to quit my job with the Baptiste Institute. That job also was my steady paycheck and the source of my health care. The idea of leaving the job felt risky and quite frankly, foolish. I didn’t have a book deal, nor any inkling about how you went about getting one. The only thing I had on my side was a flexible life teaching yoga. I could make up some income by teaching more.
With this practical, if sketchy, plan, I gave notice, my teeth practically chattering from nerves as I did it.
I taught more, and in my now abundant time, I did some research on agents and joined online writers’ groups. I concluded getting book deals was difficult. I took a writing class at the Hugo House in Seattle on memoir writing, and thought that at the very least, I could write a couple of chapters and see if pitching an agent was possible.
I had many moments wondering what the hell I was doing. I stared at my screen, writing essays about my childhood, overwhelmed by the challenge of writing in a style new to me. I debated submitting essays to magazines to make some money. My lack of a plan felt like it had caught up to me.
Three months into daily doubt about this book writing thing, I got a message through my website. It was from the editor-in-chief at Mountaineers Books, a Seattle-based publisher. She was a reader of my fitness column in The Seattle Times, and wanted to know if I was interested in chatting about a potential yoga and outdoor sports book series.
I did some research, and concluded she was for real. Then, I thought, “Write a yoga book? Why would I do that?” (You can just slap me mentally now, I have done it a bunch of times since.) I was ready to write my memoir! I had grand writing plans!
Except, I didn’t. I took the meeting, still skeptical if I should write a yoga book. As I debated the merits of the idea, my now-husband Chris said, rather casually, “It’s funny, isn’t it? You said you wanted to write a book, and a book offer just showed up.”
Readers, sometimes, your goals have to clunk you on the head several times before you see what is in front of you. I had put in an order to the universe and my book had landed in my lap. Sure, it wasn’t a memoir. I also wasn’t ready to write a memoir. I needed to write my first book, to understand the details of putting together a table of contents, learn how to write 3,000 words at a time until you came out the other side with 60,000, learn how to manage photo shoots, learn to work with a team of collaborators, and to admire editors who could spot inconsistencies from Chapter 1 that showed up in Chapter 8.
I had to learn to write a book. I said yes.
Setting goals is like a hike. You follow the pathway in front of you, adhering to twists and turns, even when you are tempted to cut through and go straight up. You think the peak is right in front of you, and it turns out to be a false summit. You admire the view along the way. You rest. You eat snacks. Then finally, you make it. You look around. You enjoy the top.
It’s awesome. And then, you make plans to go on another hike.
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