Writers have no problem coming up with a dangerous amount of good ideas. We can walk into Woolies, see a customer selecting a mango, and immediately have a plot and character arc for another story.
Another thing most writers have no problem with, is procrastination. Story ideas pile up, books get started and then abandoned, new ideas flood in, more pages are written, then more pages are tossed.
But, within that seemingly chaotic world, there is always that one book that won’t let go. Often, it is the story we are afraid to tell, or rather, the truth we are hesitant to share. It’s a project that both excites us and terrifies us.
We may not even consciously be aware of the book. It’s just that all the other ideas we play around with don’t grip us. I know exactly how that feels.
My first novella, 300 Grams, is a book that was incredibly difficult to write because aspects of the main character hit rather close to home. When I described her obsessive behaviour, I was using my own life as a mirror. So that meant I had to write from one layer down to the next to really get to the truth of Jane’s world.
I was relieved when it was finally finished…and also exceptionally proud of what I had created (the “calling books” have this effect in the end).
Then I started getting ideas around the next book. I was incredibly excited. It was going to be all about genetics and plants and kleptomania. Plant-human hybrids and all kinds of fascinating science. I wrote a few chapters…and then…blank.
I still had Jane in the back of my mind. Her story wasn’t over yet.
I spent days walking along the beach, allowing myself to just feel (not think), and then I knew without a doubt – the next book I was called to write was still in Jane’s world.
So how do you know?
5 WAYS TO FIND THE BOOK YOU’RE CALLED TO WRITE
1. Enter a state of wordlessness
What is this? To put it simply, it is a space where you aren’t thinking. You’re just being. It is meditative, but in a way that connects you with the world around you.
Here is a simple way to access that state: Open your visual field
The researcher, Les Fehmi, found that a deeply relaxed, synchronous alpha brain wave pattern (i.e. wordless state) could be achieved by doing the following:
- Focus your eyes on a specific object in front of you
- Without moving your eyes, broaden your focus so that your attention expands to include everything in your field of vision (things get blurry – this is good).
- Focus on everything at the same time.
Notice how it is impossible to think. You are forced to only concentrate on what is in front of you and around you.
This will not only quieten your mind, but will also deeply connect you to your environment. Your consciousness shifts a little from me, me, me. It feels fantastic.
Linger in that feeling.
When you think of your book, does it evoke the same sense of peace?
2. Trust your body
Go for a walk and notice what your body is doing as you think different thoughts. Start with a happy memory. As you think back to a moment of joy, notice what your body is doing – are you walking faster or slower? Do you feel exhausted or are you energised? Do you perhaps even feel like going into a jog?
Next, think of something that is bothering you, or about an argument you recently had. How does your body shift? Are you suddenly no longer keen on walking at all? Perhaps it becomes more difficult to keep a strong pace and you start dragging your feet. Really pay attention to your breathing and how your body feels overall.
Now, bring the book you have in mind to your attention.
What happens to your walking pace? How does your body feel? Is it more like your happy memory or more like anxiety?
If you’re in tune with your body you can do this while lying or sitting down. Notice how your stomach and chest feel as you process different thoughts.
What feels expansive?
What feels constrictive?
The book idea that makes you feel like you can float, walk faster, and expand…that is the one.
3. Follow what fascinates you
What are you curious about right now? What books are you drawn to? What could you research for hours and hours just for fun?
Then start writing. Even if you have no idea what the story is. Maybe you only have the snippet of a scene. It could be one word that pops into your head.
Start. Write. Allow your fascination to guide your characters and your plot.
4. Grab what grabs you
When you’re paging through a magazine, be aware of the images and words that jump out at you. Tear them out and keep them in a book journal or file.
When you’re walking down the street or going about your day, notice your surroundings. What grabs your interest? If you can, take pictures of those things. It can be something as simple as a leaf on the pavement or a group of people playing golf.
You may even notice something fascinating start to happen – as you become more aware of your surroundings, and are paying attention to the particular aspects that grab you – more and more things will start appearing. It becomes a really fun game.
5. Move towards love, not away from fear
The book you are called to write will not be easy. You will need to navigate stormy parts of your own life in order to really get inside a character’s skin. If you’re writing a memoir, you may be afraid of hurting people. There is seldom room to play in your comfort zone when you’re writing what you’re meant to be writing. You have to push past your own boundaries.
Remember, you don’t have to print everything you put on the page, but you do need to write it all. Go deep, follow what you love, and don’t run away when you feel afraid.
If you want more, I have written an exclusive post that goes more in-depth on the topic of following your fascination, and I also share a coaching post on how I apply one of the above principles with my own writing.
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There are so many more ways that writers find their sweet spot. If you have more ideas to share, please feel free to comment below. Let’s get the conversation started and see more life-changing books on the shelves!
Speaking of books, if you want to read more about this particular subject, these two are the best I have found: