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Don’t Die With Your Book Still in You

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Don't Die With Your Book Still in You

I recently travelled to Europe on a ski trip. On the way over and back, I read Paul Kalanithi’s riveting book, When Breath Become Air, which was posthumously published by Random House in January of 2016. The book was voted Goodreads’ Best Memoir & Autobiography and was on the New York Times bestseller list for a while.

It is a poignant story written by a neurosurgeon who develops Stage IV metastatic lung cancer and passes away shortly thereafter. His wife, Lucy, finishes the book.

My slogan is “Most people die with their book still in them.” Kalanithi’s courageous and herculean effort is a rare exception. How many people, when faced with a life threatening illness or a death sentence would bother to write about it? Very few, I am sure. Lucy was blessed to have married such a gritty human being.

Many people put off writing, saying “Someday I’ll write a book.” Well, frankly, some “day” turns into months, months into years and years into decades. And decades add up. With apologies to Everett Dirksen, “a decade here, a decade there, pretty soon you’re talking about your entire life.”

As someone I know once said about painting, “I’d rather be whipped than paint.” Is painting a room really that grueling? From where I sit, it is mostly the process of getting started that intimidates people.

In painting, it is the setup that takes time and borders on the mundane. You have to move furniture and use drop cloths. Then you have to remove wallplates, patch up holes and cracks. After that, you apply a primer coat. All this before you apply the actual paint. So, there’s a lot involved. However, physically it isn’t exactly cruel and unusual punishment.

The same goes for writing. Most of the effort involved in writing isn’t the work itself. The challenge is more that you have to convince yourself to create something out of nothing. There’s research that needs to be done. You have to read and make sense out of what source material is already out there. And you have to carve out the time for the actual work. It is imperative, however, that you understand the topic before actually putting pen to paper.

Many people find it daunting to write. They don’t know where to start. If this describes you, here are a few pointers:

  1. research the topic,
  2. gather source material,
  3. comprehend the content,
  4. “vomit” it out, and
  5. edit, edit, edit.
     

That’s pretty much it.

It can be overwhelming if you let it be. But if you break it down into its component parts, it is doable.

And, if you would rather have a professional – whether that be a painter or a writer – do it, that is always an option.

Your turn. You could start a blog, write an article or get take on a book. There are plenty of genres to consider. What do you read? Whatever content you consume on a regular basis could be source material for what you will ultimately write.

Start now. Before it’s too late.

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