The first steps…
Where do I start? This, I believe, is the biggest question, laden with the colours, shapes and shadows that suddenly burst into the foreground of my imagination – this one question, holding all questions, that renders my mind instantly, paradoxically blank! Fused by my sudden sense of feeling overwhelmed, momentarily paralysed, the kaleidoscopic scene of option and possibility plays before my minds-eye. Then it comes to me: in the spirit of paradox, this is also the simplest, easiest question to answer… just do it! Yet, stripped back in the expression of this uncluttered assertion another and probably the most significant question is laid bare. Suddenly unveiled, free of the cloaking haze created by racing thoughts or confused hesitancy, procrastination or even ‘good intention’, stark in uncompromising rawness, the REAL question is, ‘do I absolutely, really want to do it? Do I feel passionate, committed? Do I believe in what I want to do with all my heart, with a level of conviction sufficient to fuel my tenacity during ‘stormy weather’ as no journey is ever filled with perpetual sunshine?
Juxtaposed, I stood at a crossroads. The opportunity before me may not ever visit again, putting it off until ‘later’ not an option – “if I don’t do it now, I never will”; there is never an absolutely ‘perfect moment’ (falsely fuelling procrastination, deceptively easing the choice to delay), there are always both reasons to do and not to do. My mind and sensibility fused, the answer not purely logical but passionate too. And so it was, balance tipped, I took my leap of faith. But this was not a blind leap of faith. I carefully evaluated my situation, reviewed and planned my financial position to ensure sufficient funds. I had accumulated years of experiential and academic knowledge (even so, the journey of research and writing the book itself revealed a rich enlightening and deepening learning curve).
Do I absolutely, really want to do it? Do I feel passionate, committed? Do I believe in what I want to do with all my heart, with a level of conviction sufficient to fuel my tenacity during ‘stormy weather’ as no journey is ever filled with perpetual sunshine?
I reviewed the books of other authors writing about similar topics, investigated their publishers, other publishers and even considered self-publishing (again, the choices seemed overwhelming). In the end I drew up a list of possible publishers based on their compatibility with my subject genre. But first I had to have something tangible, a product to gain their interest beyond an idea or imaginative concept. Looking at the array of other books and authors, I again felt momentarily (as I still do sometimes) swamped and overwhelmed – there are so many good authors and interesting books scribed – belief in my own identity and the value of what I may contribute seemed effortlessly overshadowed. But then I stood back and looked, observing the picture objectively. Considering my own journey, I realised that everything contributes, is significant to my learning and understanding (good, bad, positive, negative, mistakes, successes). Life teaches me that learning is a perpetual process no matter the context. Through this lens I saw that all knowledge and information forms a web, each aspect a delicate thread connecting, contributing and shaping an intricate mutualistic network. Each thread significant in its own right but equally existent by virtue of attaching points; subsequently built on and developed from.
Through this lens I saw that all knowledge and information forms a web, each aspect a delicate thread connecting, contributing and shaping an intricate mutualistic network. Each thread significant in its own right but equally existent by virtue of attaching points; subsequently built on and developed from.
My book, my view, perception, understanding, even language, forms another perspective, evolving from my experiential journey, my intellectual understanding, encounters with those I have met along my path, the messages they impart (teachers, experts, other authors, the magazine or journal articles read, conversations and deliberation with my peers or the perfect stranger I share a conversation with sat next to me in a cafe or on a train); spun together, a thread in the web.
Who am I writing for?
Who is my audience? Who am I aiming or pitching my information toward? My original decision to write was inspired by my clients and students (their enthusiastic, positive response to essential oils, their desire to learn and ‘grow’ their knowledge and understanding), and my own intrigued fascination as I observed the influence essential oils procure. I work with a range of people in various contexts: as a therapist providing stress reducing treatments, to facilitation of the learning of others (lay person, carer, therapist, healthcare professional).
My objective in writing the Aromantique books is to create a foundation of knowledge for a broad range of potential readers – layperson, student and healthcare professional – to provide a sound base from which to pivot, to develop and build a personal repertoire. With this objective in mind, I formulated a plan: a ‘map’ of the book, the topics and subject areas and a sense of how to present the information. I also integrated a time frame into my planning to maximize my ‘ window of opportunity’. In order to plan my budget and organize my process I set myself realistic limits, targets and goals within this framework.
Who is my audience? Who am I aiming or pitching my information toward? My original decision to write was inspired by my clients and students and their enthusiasm and positive response to essential oils and their desire to know more; also by my own intrigued fascination.
I continued to provide treatments and deliver workshops, but my main priority during this period was writing (hence my need to assure I had, or had access to, sufficient funds before I started). I needed to produce
at least two or three chapters to provide an example of the book content and style and, of course, my writing skills. Even though I have already tested my writing ability through publication in related journals (the critique received from editors enlightening, invaluable, supporting and bolstering to my confidence), I am also aware that it is necessary to be mindful of the contextual audience; every writer has their own style of creative expression, but facts require delivery in universally understood (as much as possible) dialogue. We all have good and not so good writing habits, and perform better on some days and not so well on others; objective positive criticism, support and feedback aids awareness and helps to ‘level the field’.
The process of writing…
I love writing or, rather, I love words, their ‘colour’, meaning, the pictures and images they create. But, in spite of my comprehension, imagination and verbal fluidity, writing does not come easily to me. Words and images abound in my imagination, my minds-eye, but get distorted in translation from thought to page. I did not realise I was dyslexic until I was in my forties; I had simply assumed until then that I was not ‘very bright’ academically, especially as I spent a lot of my early years at school in remedial groups because my spelling and writing were ‘behind’: I consequently absorbed a sense of being ‘stupid’ or ‘not very clever’ which affected my self confidence, although I did excel with almost exhausting effort toward the end of my schooling.
We all have good and not so good writing habits, and perform better on some days and not so well on others; objective positive criticism, support and feedback aids awareness and helps to ‘level the field’.
Aware I have to work alongside my dyslexic trait I compensate by integrating extra time that allows me space; working in ‘bursts’ and stepping away when my brain is saturated. Words pour forth, scatter on the page and I have to re-read, correct and re-correct the order of my words and flow of language, my spelling and grammar erratic; words omitted or repeated twice, letters missed from the beginning, end or middle and often in the wrong order. I write by virtue of my ‘word processor’; my handwriting, although quite neat initially, quickly deteriorates into illegible scrawl after a few sentences that even I cannot decipher. The effort required to work through this trait exhausts my brain and sometimes I quite literally cannot keep my eyes open and have to sleep, even just for five minutes. In this context, to write a book at all is at one and the same time inspired ambition and a huge challenge. I knew that if I were to complete the book envisaged in my minds-eye, I would have to afford myself time and priority to focus solely on this project, knowing it would drain (but not deplete) me, would take all my effort, energy and concentration to achieve. This trait does not impede my awareness, imagination or ability to comprehend or communicate, and while translation into coherent sentences is often problematic, it is not impossible: I love writing.
Finding a publisher…
Once the first chapters were complete, reviewing my list I resumed my search for a suitable publisher. In view of my dyslexic trait, self-publication did not seem a wise choice. Scrolling the internet and reviewing the options and requirements of various publishing companies, I again felt overwhelmed. They were all very similar in their requisite of prospective authors (the information they required, the non-committed assertion that a response could take several months and then with only a slight possibility of acceptance), with no other information about the author’s position. When I telephoned to enquire ‘what happens when a manuscript is accepted for publication’, the only answer I received was ‘it depends’, or ‘I will put you through to so-and-so who will answer your query’, and I found myself endlessly dangling ‘on hold’.
So, I decided to review my publishers list from a different perspective, my perspective: what did I want from a publisher, how would a publishing company represent me, my values and ethos, or value my work and effort? Who could I trust, who would nurture and guide my effort, give constructive support and feedback, give me a sense of value and respect?
I discovered that many renowned companies have been taken over by one or two very large corporate organisations who generally only accept manuscripts forwarded by an agent. None of the information I gleaned or responses I received filled me with any confidence. I could not risk sending my precious manuscript to a publisher who would not respond for at least four months, or even longer; especially given, by their own admission, the high possibility of rejection. Neither could I risk, for obvious reasons, sending my manuscript to several publishers at the same time to see who would accept my work. The time, effort, sacrifice and cost could not be justified through such an approach.
So, I decided to review my publishers list from a different perspective, my perspective: what did I want from a publisher, how would a publishing company represent me, my values and ethos, or value my work and effort? Who could I trust, who would nurture and guide my effort, give constructive support and feedback, give me a sense of value and respect? The list whittled down dramatically and I decided to begin again.
I recently approached a publishing house who accept manuscripts directly from authors, a well established company with a proven track record for delivering well presented books in my genre and many others. I already have some of their books on my shelf, written by other authors in my field, so I have a sense of ‘quality assurance’.
The readers experience of a book is as significant as its academic creative content. Good publishers respect their readers as well as their authors and produce books that people want to ‘own’, add to their collection, read and keep to re-read and lend to friends and family.
Getting a book published is not an ‘overnight’ process; patience and tenacity, clearly, are significant requisites. And, while self motivation and a willingness to proactively promote your own work are a ‘must’, a certain degree of humbleness is also required to manage the ‘reality checks’ along the way. Publishing is not a journey anyone can make entirely alone and synchronising the right support is as significant as writing the book in the first place (among other things, even for those who self publish, finding a good ‘proof- reader’ is an absolute must, everyone has ‘blind spots’).
My leap of faith has brought many challenges but also many pleasant surprises and, as my publishing journey continues to unfold, I am sure there will be many interesting and exciting encounters, learning curves, revelations and developments yet to transpire.
Meanwhile, far from being over, my journey continues as I wait to hear from the publisher … turning the next page, how will the story unfold…
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