• Mackenzie Finklea

Just Do It - Nervous

I did not always know that I wanted to write a book. In college, I wrote dozens of papers for class, as one might expect of a liberal arts major, but I took great joy and pride in these assignments. Even when I was not writing for school, I was writing for work as a contributing writer and content manager for multiple museums, start-ups, and writing platforms. I am not going to lie and say that “it didn’t feel like work” because writing is hard work and does not always come easy, but the process and final product are both rewarding.

Through my displays of these efforts on the internet, I was “discovered” one might say. An educator in book writing reached out to me and said, “I see that you’re a writer. Do you want to write a book?” To which I responded, “Say more.” Were they simply looking for more people to participate in the class or was this a can’t-miss opportunity? I could not have predicted the profound impact such a simple question would have on my life.

The passion for writing was clearly there, and it had been for a long time; from writing and illustrating original stories in elementary school to journaling serial entries about dating in high school. I wanted to write a book. I knew I wanted to give it a try and pursue the new, monumental challenge. The question was, what was I passionate enough about to crank out over thirty-thousand words in a year?

Through much self-reflection, my biggest fascination and curiosity at the time was museums. I am by no means an expert on displays of human culture or their institutions but turns out, you do not have to be an expert to write a book. I knew enough to drive myself through the creative process and develop the book, and the rest I learned through hours of research and interviews; learning from the people who might be considered experts in their field. Anyone who participates in academia knows all too well that research papers are just arguments supported by other people’s research papers, which are supported by others– you get the picture.

The same can be said for books. In fiction or nonfiction, you do not have to start completely from scratch; start with inspiration. For nonfiction, learn from other experts and how they talk about the industry. For fiction, learn from other writers by reading their work and following classic story structures.

No one writes alone.

The other driving force behind a successfully completed book is an entire village of people with their hands in its creation. No one achieves anything alone, and that is certainly true for writing a book. Next time you read a novel, pay attention to the acknowledgments section: there’s a reason nearly every book has one. It’s the people that you brainstorm with, write with, and interview; it’s the friends who care to check in on your progress; and perhaps most essentially, it’s the editors that help you develop and refine your work.

Through the lectures and the journey of writing a book, I learned several things; first, anyone can write a book. Truly. Anyone. All you need is dedication, organization, and the power of community. The assumption or stereotype is the lonely writer, hunched over their manuscript in the corner of a dark office, and that is far from the truth.

Set milestone goals.

Writing a book is no small task. Passion and drive are essential to publish and reach the finish line. Goal setting is a powerful tool to put these feelings into action. Start with big picture goals; why do you want to write a book? What do you hope will happen once you are published?

My personal goals were to simply finish the book, and actually publish it, and once it was out there, it would be something people find approachable. In finishing the book, I would prove to myself that I was up to the task. After myself, the next most important person to me is the reader. Why publish a book if not for others to enjoy it? I set my expectations knowing my book might not be for everyone, but I wanted everyone to feel like the material was accessible– just like museums should be.

Express yourself through your work.

Writing approachable nonfiction is essential to having your story heard and information shared. The best-selling nonfiction works might have niche topics, but they cater to a large audience. How do you write approachable work? Be transparent and write as you would speak. For me, this was different from anything I had ever done before. I was so used to writing erudite, straight-laced papers for other academics to read, but this time, I wrote for myself. In the process, I created something that my peers would actually read, and I’m fortunate that they have.

My book was a path of discovery. I was not an expert in my field, and I learned and grew in it through writing and connecting with other industry professionals. The book became something of a personal experiment, and I learned a lot about myself along the way. Books can open doors to new opportunities; whether you write fiction or nonfiction. If there’s an area you would like to grow in, try writing a book about it, you may be surprised with what you find, and do not wait for the ‘perfect moment’ or set of circumstances to start. ‘Life’ will always ‘get in the way’ so just start today: one word at a time. It is also easy to get caught up in anxious paralysis; is it going to be any good? Will anyone actually read it? What if I do it all for nothing? It’s fine to feel that way. Just do it– nervous. Do it anyway. Even if you don't know where to start, just sit down and start writing.


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