This is a personal story about how I wrote my first book and a behind the scenes look at my struggle with insecurity, anxiety and stress that was very much a part of this journey.
I am a mindfulness coach. I coach individuals and groups how to access their best self using mindfulness techniques. In December 2014 I was on a committee organising and participating in an annual coaching conference. That’s where I met our keynote speaker, Professor Jonathan Passmore from London.
Passmore was easy to admire. He’s a psychologist with five degrees, has a great sense of humour and is also a remarkable father. He had brought with him for those few days to Israel his 5-year old daughter, Beatrice. I was awed.
Following the conference, the committee got together for a celebratory meal. Jonathan and I chatted. He was leaving late the following day to return to England and he wanted to spend his final day on the beach with his daughter. December in Israel is winter. However, one of the great things about Israel is that our winters are very much like English summers. I offered to join Jonathan and bring along my 5-year old daughter Mika.
The following day we were blessed with a wonderful, wintery, sunny day. There were clear skies and it was 22-degrees celsius. Once again he impressed me. I watched how he interacted and communicated with his daughter. There was a perfect mix of love, clarity, teaching and empowerment. He would ask her, instead of telling her the answer.
Whilst Mika and Beatrice played in the sand, Jonathan and I discussed various topics of interest. He told me about the books he had written and I shared stories with him of how I was using mindfulness in coaching and in leadership workshops I was facilitating.
He challenged me to share my knowledge about mindfulness by authoring a practical book. We explored how I could do this and by the end of the day I put to him that if he would join me as a co-author, I could maybe see this happening.
You see I’m the type of person that gets excited about many things. But I tend to start projects and don’t necessarily finish them unless I have external accountability. Furthermore, I was aware I didn’t have the first clue about how to write a book and that I would need a seasoned mentor.
Jonathan agreed to set up a Skype call with me so we could further discuss writing the book. I remember leaving the beach that day feeling elevated and very happy. This new project felt like an adrenalin rush.
But as I arrived home, doubt set in. Who was I to write a book with someone so wise and renowned? Jonathan and his five degrees felt worlds apart from me. I cast aside the book idea however a few months later we got together for that Skype call.
Things progressed quickly. Jonathan was pragmatic. He mentored me and answered my questions. He made everything seem easy. Within a few phone calls we had the skeleton of the book and the format. He started preparing a proposal to send to publishers and I began writing the first chapter. I sent it to Jonathan and he was very encouraging. He asked me to continue writing the next chapter.
I became stressed. I was anxious about many things such as my writing wouldn’t be good enough and the waste of time if the book would not materialize. Interestingly, I was mindful of my stress, fear and negative thinking. I joked that I was writing a practical book on mindfulness for myself. Indeed the mindfulness exercises that I was sharing in the book were helpful.
But it was taking me a long time to write each section. My fears grew as time passed and we still had no positive answer from a publisher. Jonathan had sent off a number of proposals but we were yet to receive an offer. So I stopped writing. I wasn’t interested in self publishing and I didn’t want to write anymore until we had secured a publisher.
An offer arrived a few months later from Nova Science Publishers in New York. Nova’s target market is university libraries. Their books are academic and science orientated. I was relieved that I had delayed the writing. Only now my anxiety reached new heights as I was certain I was out of my depths. Thoughts like “you are not good enough” kept popping up in my mind.
I did however have the perfect co-author. Now Jonathan would focus his input on research and the science of mindfulness. Each chapter would have a story, some learning, exercises and a research section. This worked out well for us. The book came together chapter after chapter. I reached out to my close friends who had inspired me throughout the journey and asked them to edit a chapter or two. Jonathan arranged for a colleague to proof edit the book. The publisher accommodated many changes we requested. On 13 September 2017, almost three years since first meeting my co-author, I received a physical copy of the book.
The process has been an eye-opener for me. It still feels like a dream. I have been on a professional adventure, broadening myself, my choices and decisions. I had trusted others and through partnership and collaboration achieved so much more than I could have imagined.
As the Jewish New Year approaches, I wish you the courage to leap out of your comfort zone and to dream big.
Take the time to stop and be still, to ask yourself: what is important to me? What would I like to invest in this year and make happen?
- what is your dream?
- who can you partner with to realize your dream?
- what help and support would you need?
- how can you manage your fear and anxiety as you journey towards something new that is potentially bigger than you?
Whatever you choose, know that you have strength and when collaborating, you can achieve something significant and meaningful. Shana Tova!