Author Insights: 7 Lessons Learned From First-Time Non-Fiction Author of “The Horse Leads the Way” (+ an eBook Giveaway!)

And we're back! It's time for the next installment of our "Author Insights" series. In this series, I'm introducing you to writers who've taken their writing all the way to the finish line of publication, and they share their "lessons learned" with you. There's nothing quite like learning from a writer who has made to the other side.

Plus, if you leave a comment at the end of the post before Friday, April 14th at 5 p.m. Pacific Time, you'll be entered to win an ebook copy of the author's book in a random drawing. 

Meet Angela Dunning, author of The Horse Leads the Way

I'm so happy to introduce you to Angela Dunning. Angela was one of my earliest coaching clients. I loved working with her to help her get in touch with her core, essential self and discover her life purpose and calling to work with horses. She was an ideal client, putting in the effort and earning the results we arrived at... and it was a memorable, magical moment when we lit upon Equine Facilitated Learning (EFL) as her career direction. Since then, it's been a true delight for me to watch her career evolve and thrilling to see her publishing her book in her area of expertise. Honestly, words can't convey the excitement I feel seeing Angela bring our work to this level of fruition all these years later.

I asked Angela to share her insights about writing her book with us. 

Angela Dunning on 7 Lessons Learned While Writing The Horse Leads the Way

Angela DunningWriting my first ever book, a non-fiction handbook for my profession of equine facilitated practice, was one of the hardest and most challenging things I have ever done. I had no idea just what exactly was involved in creating and structuring an entire book. Having written articles and blog posts for many years now I found writing a book to be a whole different ballgame.

On top of this, the book’s focus was somewhat of a challenge for the industry it is aimed at, as I was attempting to question some current areas of practice and training, as well as hoping it would steer the profession back to a more horse-centered methodology. Gulp!

Many, many times I wanted to quit. It was too scary. Too hard. Too much work. And most of all, it took SO much longer than I had originally envisaged to really pummel and kneed the content into shape in a way that would be more palatable to the readers; not cause me too much trouble, and make it as easy and enjoyable a read as possible. On top of all of this, I had an unseen force pushing me on throughout. Maybe it was my Higher-Self/Soul, maybe it was also the horses themselves urging me on to express their concerns and needs, but something kept me going and would not let me quit. Whew…

So, here are my tips, having actually managed to successfully come out the other side of publication. I hope these tips will help and encourage other first-time writers, as I really felt this need myself as a first time writer. It was often a lonely and scary experience and hearing other writers’ experiences was both comforting and encouraging.

  1. Don’t underestimate how long the editing process takes. I found I did the initial main write in the first 6 months -- and this was a complete joy by the way! However, it then took a further 14 months of nothing but editing, restructuring, and proof-reading over and over again to complete the book.
  2. Avoid giving yourself arbitrary timescales for completion and publication. My biggest error all along was hoping it would be completed much sooner than it actually was. I had already begun talking openly in my networks about the book and its themes with some enticing social media marketing posts. But as the months wore on I had no energy to continue these as all my time and energy was taken up with the editing process. These arbitrary deadlines I kept giving myself in the end just caused me a ton of unnecessary stress and repeated disappointment. Now that I have a more realistic idea of how long it takes I wouldn’t even mention publication, book-launches and the like, until much nearer the end of the editing process.
  3. Find yourself a really good editor. Someone who can be completely impartial yet who can also understand your subject matter. Ideally this is someone who can see the bigger picture and help with structure, logic, and readability. If they also do an excellent job of proof-reading and technical editing, then great. If not, then find yourself a great proof-reader too. My advice would be to tackle the structure first, once you’ve got the bulk of your material written. Finalize the structure and flow, and only then move on to the proof-reading and final tidying-up phase.
  4. Don’t underestimate the amount of energy and commitment it takes to complete a book. It is a marathon and can be gut-wrenching a times. Many times you will want to quit, put it aside, do it another time. Having great support throughout this process is vital. You need friends and family to listen and empathize with you. And you also need really supportive cheer-leaders who you can go to when you feel low, and who will remind you why you are doing it and why your book is important.
  5. Treating the experience like it was my full-time job was vital, from the very beginning of sitting down to write the content right through to the grueling final months of editing and more editing. Making this commitment to myself and my life to finish the book was crucial. I let go of other assignments and greatly reduced my other commitments so that I could do this. For me personally, and for my mental wellbeing, this was essential to enable me to stay focused and committed to the end product and its purpose.
  6. Many people say this is like a birthing process. I absolutely agree with this analogy. The labor-pains I endured, which went on for MONTHS, were at times excruciating. Don’t underestimate just what it takes on all levels to write and publish a book. It takes self-care, nurturance of each part of the project, support from others, and ideally, a skilled publisher to hold your hand through those final, painstakingly slow weeks of design, further editing and layout before you even receive a hard-copy in your hands. The post-birth relief once it is finally out there though is immense and very much welcomed.
  7. Finally, I would also like to say that I have learned the post-publication period is a very important time for great self-care. Personally, I was exhausted and also a little down during this time. Suddenly I had nothing to focus on each day in such a concentrated way. There was an odd sense of emptiness permeating my days following publication. Coupled with a strange silence as the book made its way onto its readers’ bookshelves and into their hands. I had to now just sit back and wait for feedback and income.

    Being gentle with yourself in this period is vital. It is not all champagne corks and celebratory dinners, although these are great, of course. It is also a vital period for rest, recuperation, and time to reflect on the intense process you have just been through, and perhaps put your nearest and dearest through too. Be gentle, rest, and allow yourself to sink into the enormity of what you HAVE accomplished. It is not for the faint-hearted! Writing a book takes courage, faith, and guts. And it changes how you see yourself and also how others see you too. A lot is shifting occurs as a result of becoming an author in addition to the actual material you have produced and this takes time to adjust to and integrate.

About The Horse Leads the Way

The Horse Leads the Way by Angela DunningThe Horse Leads the Way undertakes a timely review of the rapidly growing profession of Equine Facilitated Practice (encompassing Learning, Coaching Therapy, and Psychotherapy but not therapeutic ridden interventions).

Part handbook, part personal story, the author blends embodied, grounded techniques and compassionate insights to gently guide this method back to its greatest teachers: the horses themselves. Using an approach which is firmly grounded in the view of the horses as sentient beings in their own right, Angela guides practitioners and training providers to employ methods which honor this right throughout all areas of their work. Not only does this protect and support their equine partners’ wellbeing and enjoyment of their work, but, she argues, it also brings maximum benefit to the participants as a natural consequence. It is hoped the book will mark an important turning in this blossoming industry’s future development.

The Horse Leads the Way is available on:

About Angela

Angela Dunning

Angela Dunning is a sensitive, intuitive horsewoman. She is also a healer, teacher, writer, community worker and consummate holder of sacred space. A graduate of Eponaquest® Worldwide and LEAP, she established her Equine Facilitated Learning (EFL) practice, Equine Reflections, in 2007. She delivers private sessions, talks, workshops, taster sessions, supervision, mentoring, and training. She specializes in supporting women through navigating their own personal growth, reconnecting to their bodies, and reclaiming their true essence. Angela lives in Herefordshire, England and delivers her work in the UK and abroad by invitation.

You can find Angela online at www.equinereflections.co.uk.

Enter to Win an eBook edition of The Horse Leads the Way

Angela has graciously offered to give away 3 ebook copies of her book to my readers. Leave a comment on the blog about one of your own writing lessons or something you learned from Angela's insights before Friday, April 14th at 5 p.m. Pacific Time and you'll be entered in the random drawing. 

 

* This is an affiliate link, which means my Called to Write business receives a small commission from any purchases you make using this link, and which I deeply appreciate.

Make 2015 your year to write, Part seven (and last day for 2014 rates!)

It's that time, writers -- we've come to the last installment of our Make 2015 Your Year to Write series. I hope you've found it both practical and inspiring.

Today, in many ways, is the most important one of the series, so kudos to you for sticking with me thus far.

Over the last six days, we've looked at where you've been with your writing life, what your challenges are, what you want from your writing life, and what you need and want in both the big picture and the coming year, it's time to talk about how to make it all happen.

And remember, if you have questions, thoughts, challenges, comments, or problems, I'm your coach for one more day! Just post them in the comments section on the blog and I'll be sure to address or answer them for you.  

Let's go for part seven!!

diamonds2

Make your writing happen

You've done an amazing piece of work this week. You know what your goals are. You know what you want from your writing career and your writing life. You know what your trouble spots are.

Now what?

This, my fine writing friends, this is where the rubber hits the road.

It's all well and good to name your goals, but you've got to have a plan to make them happen.

Let's talk about how you can do that.

How to meet your writing goals in 2015

Luckily we've avoided having you create pie-in-the-sky goals with our work together. And we've made sure they are actually in alignment with the big picture of what you want.

But even so, there's still so much working against you that you have to have several key ingredients in place to help you overcome the resistance, fear, doubt, and procrastination that will rear up repeatedly like that monster you only thought you killed at the end of Act Two.

Here are some of the most powerful means you can have at your disposal to help you keep on writing even in the face of such horrors. 

  • A life decision to actually write. If you are going to be a writer, if you're really serious about it, you need to make up your mind right now that you will write no matter what. No more being a dilettante. No more waffling. No more excuses. No more dreaming without doing.
  • A bone fide, for real, no B.S., daily writing habit. Wanting to write is grand. ACTUALLY writing is grander. When you write daily or near daily, you will BE a writer. Getting there is not so easy. There are so many things that get in the way, as we've seen. Doubts, excuses, fear, resistance, perfectionism, LIFE. It's tough. And most of us think that we just need to resolve to write, or be more disciplined, or schedule it. But those things aren't enough by themselves. What you really need is a habit. A solid daily writing habit that means that even if everything goes sideways on you, you'll still be thinking, "Okay, wow, I still gotta write today, when am I gonna do that?", followed by quickly moving mountains to make it so. You want a writing habit that is so immutable that there's never even a question of IF you are going to write, only rarely a question of WHEN, and in fact it's something you just DO, like brushing your teeth or putting clothes on before you go outside. Something you wouldn't even think of NOT doing.
  • An inner knowing on when to "call it" on craft training. Yes, sometimes we need a little more training to do our best work. But I also know far too many writers who just endlessly take classes. We also have to be writing. Don't be one of those writers who keeps getting more and more training instead of facing the blank page. Sure, a class here and there. But don't keep going back to college for another degree instead of doing the work.
  • A writing schedule. Putting writing on your calendar is a huge step toward making your writing happen. It's an acknowledgment of the fact that you'll have to make choices to write, choices that will mean giving up other things, and being okay with that. It's a visual reminder that you're committed to writing, and carving out time to do so. Keep in mind, however, that a schedule is only a tool. You still have to show up and do the writing.
  • Massive amounts of accountability. When you're serious about writing, you'll want to have accountability in place to help you make it happen. Unless you are enormously and entirely self-motivated and never go astray from your path, you need accountability -- as much of as needed for you to stay 100% on track on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis. My small group coaching program, the Writer's Circle, includes a daily accountability system for writers. Other kinds of accountability include writer's groups, mentors, deadlines, accountability parties, and writing buddies. Again, put as much of it in place as you need to write with a sense of purpose and intent. And then add a little more for good measure.
  • Support to get back on track if or when you fall off course. Writing is a lonely business. Get support for the dark days. We ALL face them, including me. Surround yourself with positive, supportive writers who will help you through the painful critiques, the negative reviews, and the days when you can't write a note to your kids about cleaning their rooms let alone face your novel.
  • Compassionate self-understanding. Writing is a tough gig. There will be days when you hate it. There will also be days that you LOVE it. But on the bad days, your inner critic is going to bat sh*t crazy on you and you cannot allow yourself to fall for it. It's a critically important skill to learn to combat your inner critic and keep on writing. This is something we do daily in the Writer's Circle.
  • Clear specific goals and projects. We've done a lot of work around goals this week, so I'm not going to add a lot here except to say this: Don't try to work on multiple projects at once unless you are a pro. If you're a newer writer, working on multiple projects at once is usually a death knell for all of them. Oftentimes writers will hop between projects when one gets too hard, but then struggle with discouragement over the lack of progress on any of them. My advice? Pick one and stick with it until it's done, even if it's hard and even if you hate it temporarily, at least to the point of a major milestone. If you finish a solid draft and move on to a new project to let the first one breathe, fine. But don't "layer" projects unless you are 100% capable of navigating between and finishing them.
  • A milestone plan for each and every project. I mentioned this yesterday too. Create a timeline for each writing project so you know where all the major milestones are and you know what you have to do to complete them. Don't just strike off in an "I'm just going to write every day" vague way. Know what you're trying to accomplish on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis so you can hit that yearly goal without binge-writing at the end or giving up in apathy and frustration part way through the year.

Hold these in mind as we go on to today's writing prompts:

1. What will you do to making your writing goals happen in 2015?

Think about what you will do to meet your writing goals. Be as specific as you can.

From Ginger, a Writer's Circle member:

"2015 for me is really about prolificacy. I’ve spent a lot of years sitting around plotting and planning and organizing and envisioning and figuring and sorting and assessing and weighing. That’s lovely and all, but there’s a point at which you must say to yourself, 'Well done. Now get to work.'

"For me, 2015 is going to be about multiple times a day writing, about learning to write in suboptimal circumstances, and finding creative ways around predictable blocks. Yes, I prefer to write in longer chunks – not necessarily hours at a stretch, which is too much for me, but more than 30 minutes. I would also prefer to live at Disney World. So this year I’m going to embrace small chunks. Five minutes here, 300 words there."

From my notebook:

"No more classes. Since I want to focus on my own writing and on my precious time with our new son, I need to keep the extracurricular activities to a minimum. This means having a clear plan and timeline for each of my projects, and a quiet, contained schedule within which to meet the necessary milestones. 2015 for me feels like a time to hunker down and focus on what's most important to me, rather than trying to do it all."

 

2. What actions will you take?

Then give some thought to any specific actions you need to take.

From Ginger:

"I haven’t completely decided yet – that’s part of what the Writer's Circle is for – but part of it is going to be about checklists. Little reminders. Maybe a timer on my phone saying 'write for three minutes' or 'write 100 words'.

"I suppose the biggest action I will take – and this is truly revolutionary for me – is trying different things. I will take small steps, rather than planning big steps."

From my notebook:

"I'm going to create a clear schedule laid out in a format I can easily follow and adjust -- on a large wall calendar. And I'll keep reminding myself not to sign up for any more classes until 2016. :)"

 

3. What kind of support will you put in place?

Now think about what kind of support (and accountability) you need to make it happen.

If you're the kind of writer who starts out with the best intentions but then falls short of her goals, you'll want to give careful thought to this question. Oftentimes quality accountability and support are the critical variables that make the difference between "dreamed of" and "DONE".

From Helen, a Writer's Circle member:

"I plan to continue with the Writer's Circle until I finish the dissertation. The support is helping to propel my movement forward, and to counteract the negative criticism that I get in my regular life. I plan to ignore and/or mitigate the negative feedback, and to absorb more of the supportive and positive encouragement."

From Ginger:

"The Writer's Circle is really helpful for this because before, I would sort of flounder around saying, 'I don’t know how to solve this.' I would spend all my time thinking about the problem and precious little looking for a solution. When you look up 'Reinventing The Wheel' in the dictionary, you'll see my face. But the Writer's Circle helps because I know that all I have to do is mention the problem in passing and I’m going to have a half dozen people who have already solved this problem giving me support. So that’s helpful. So I guess what I need to do this year is actually use the support. Sometimes I feel like one of those people who doesn’t go to Weight Watchers until they’ve lost weight, or doesn’t call a cleaning lady because their house isn’t clean.

"I guess this year is about using the support structure, even if my writing is feeling fat and dirty."

 

diamonds2

pen coffeeWriting prompts for Part seven: Make it happen

Here are your writing prompts for today. If you're inspired to do so, please share your responses in the comments section on the blog (and feel free to leave questions for me too, if you have them). Otherwise you can take them to your journal, talk them over with your writing colleagues, or just contemplate them when you can. 

  • What will you do to making your writing goals happen in 2015?
  • What actions will you take?
  • What kind of support will you put in place?

Thank you so much for writing along with me this week, and may 2015 be filled with joyous writing and many blessings.

sigwhite

 

 

Reminder: Last day for 2014 rates

Join the Writer's CircleBefore you head off to your journal, I have an important reminder about my Writer's Circle small group coaching program.

We're extending our 2014 rates through Midnight Pacific Time TONIGHT so you can lock in the subscription rate you select and save 30 to 50%, depending on the subscription package you choose.

The Writer's Circle small group coaching program will help you show up, get your butt in the chair, write, and see your projects all the way through to FINISHED.

The next session starts this coming Monday, January 5. It's the perfect time to build the professional writing habit you really need to meet your writing goals for 2015 and make this your writing year to remember.

Registration closes TONIGHT, Friday, January 2nd at Midnight Pacific Time.

Find out more and register online at www.JustDoTheWriting.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seeing it through to the end

On the Welcome Call for our Writer’s Circle session that started yesterday, it was fun to notice how many members were talking about finishing. So many of us were at that point of having just finished a major draft or putting the finishing touches on one.

After having run the Circle now for going on two years, it’s deeply gratifying to see so many writers reaching that milestone.

It got me to thinking about the ingredients that go into the mix to make that happen.

It strikes me that there are both internal and external aspects to these success stories. What I see on the internal side is:

  • Vision — having an idea or a calling to see something come to fruition.
  • Passion — having a love or interest or fierce desire for a specific project or idea.
  • Decision — making the decision to tackle the project.
  • Courage — having the courage to dive in to the unknown.
  • Perseverance — having the wherewithal to stick with something.
  • Intuition — knowing when something is right for you, or not.

Hopefully we have all these skills. If we don’t, we can strengthen them within ourselves. (And there are good coaches and therapists who can help us do just that.)

So yes, completing any project requires a tremendous amount of drive, determination, and courage. But even the strongest of strong-hearted among us get tripped up by a laundry list of obstacles, like:

  • Doubt — what if I can’t do it?
  • Fears  — of success, failure, rejection, disapproval, shame
  • Resistance — the force that repels us from our dreams
  • Procrastination — our tendency to put off anything that moves us toward completion of our dreams
  • Perfectionism — the belief that perfection is attainable and that if we’re not hitting it, we’re failing.
  • Bad habits — putting vices before taking action on our dreams.
  • Poor self- management — struggles with discipline, decision-making, commitment, time choices.
  • Poor self-care — not taking care of our bodies, minds, hearts, and spirits.
  • Comparison with others — thinking other people are doing better than we are.
  • Obsessing about our chances of success — focusing on the big questions rather than doing our work.
  • Approval-seeking — looking outside ourselves for validation of our talent or ability.
  • Life challenges — stopping when life gets hard.

Many of these things can be solved with self-awareness and determination, and yet what I see time and again is that we can draw on resources outside ourselves to help us make it through the rough patches. Things like:

  • Support — there’s nothing quite like having other people believe in you, especially when you’ve temporarily forgotten your own skill and ability.
  • Daily accountability — having support to see it through, to keep showing up and do the daily work is deeply motivating.
  • Community — being a part of a community where you are with other people who truly “get” what you’re experiencing helps end the sense of isolation we can all experience at times.
  • Energy — the shared energy of working together, whether side by side or as a team, can move us into action when we’re otherwise flagging.
  • Inspiration — a shared spirit of energy and enthusiasm can reignite us when the going gets tough.

The question that strikes me is this: Do you have the support you need to weather the challenges of creating your dreams? If not, how can you create that for yourself? Tell us what you think in the comments.

Warmly,

 Jenna

 You may also be interested in: