A client of mine who wants to become a published author recently asked me, "How did you get published and how long did it take you to write your first book? And then your second?" The answer in terms of years is different than the answer in terms of actual time spent writing. I started writing my first book, Face Reading in Chinese Medicine, in 1980 right after my father died. It was published in 2003. In that time, I held a variety of "real jobs" before I started teaching and seeing clients. I also got married, had two children and then later got divorced and then remarried. I also moved many times. Needles to say, I wrote when I could, which back then wasn't often. And believe it or not, many of the people that were closest to me thought I was wasting my time as the chances of getting published were miniscule. But I persevered and I kept writing a little bit more and a little bit more.
Of course, I got much more serious about writing when It got picked up by a publisher in 2001. Then I had real deadlines and I dedicated myself to writing much more because someone out there was waiting for the results of my labors. I was asked to write a second edition in 2010 and wrote for the next year. It came out in 2012 and again, it was much easier to write because someone wanted to publish what I was writing.
I have now been writing another book that I've been working on for two years. It's not under contract so it's up to me to write it when I am not teaching and traveling. I write a lot more now because I love to write. It's made me realize what really matters when you decide to dedicate yourself to something. What matters is Persistence!
Persistence, according to the Oxford Dictionary is, "The firm or obstinate continuance in a course of action in spite of difficulty or opposition." That's what gets a book written. That's what gets many things done when the odds are against you. And, apparently I have a lot of it or somehow developed it. It might be because I have a lot of innate stubbornness Or perhaps I was also helped by the people around me who didn't believe I could do what I set out to do. This creates a kind of a defiance that can charge your course of action - the "I'll Show You" kind of reaction. But somehow I think that is not enough to sustain you.
So what underlies Persistence? I believe that it is Faith. Faith in yourself and Faith in what you've chosen to do, despite the naysayers, fear callers and dream killers out there trying to protect you or stop you from doing what you are meant to do.
I was once told by someone close to me that, "million of people out there want to get there books published. What makes you think that you are so special?" I didn't think I was so special. I still don't. I just had and still have a compulsion to write about what I know and I hoped that other people out there might find it interesting and helpful. I might add that I love books and I love reading, which are also signs of an interest in the written word.
What helped me write most was actually teaching what I was writing about. It made me realize what I knew. I especially loved the hard questions from students as it made me so aware of what I needed to add to my book. I was encouraged to teach by Dr. Leonard Felder. I took a weekend workshop on writing non-fiction at UCLA and he told me, "Make myself an expert in the eyes of a publisher. Go teach some classes." So I did. I was terrified and then found myself enjoying it. I taught a lot before I finished writing my first book. I started to believe that I really had something that people wanted to read about and that gave me a lot more faith in my book and led to my persistent dedication to writing.
Lest I forget to mention the other difficulties or opposition in getting my book published, please note that my book got rejected several times and then it was once sold and then the contract was cancelled in a month's time. I had to be persistent in pitching it to publishers So again, I had to have unwavering Faith that this was something that I was supposed to do, so I kept doing it.
Studies have shown that people often quit right before they succeed and I almost did that too. I'm so glad I didn't. There is a period of time right before things break open where you can't see and the light in the darkness has to be your own faith in yourself and your dreams. I persisted and therefore I achieved. So, my best advice is to keep persisting....