4 Lessons I Learned from Writing a Book

macbook pro on brown wooden table

When I initially set out to write my book Knowledge-ABLE I had no idea what I was doing. All I knew was that I had a bunch of ideas that I wanted to organize and share for myself, and for other educators.

For about 10 years I had been collecting these ideas and publishing them to my personal blog The Landscape of Learning. After my blog reached one-million views in March of 2022, I was inspired to take my writing to the next level. I decided that I was going to write a book.

Because I am an educator and I value the process of learning, I wanted to document and share the knowledge that I gained while writing my book. So I created a book project website (www.knowledge-able.org) and shared my progress on social media with family and friends. Throughout this process of writing, sharing, and reflecting, I learned four valuable lessons:

1. You don’t have to be a writer to become an author

2. I learned so much more than I anticipated

3. Vulnerability takes courage

4. Self-publishing can be advantageous

My aim with this post is two-fold. First, I hope you find the information that I share to be insightful by giving you a sense of what it is like to write a book. And two, if you are someone who is thinking about writing a book, I hope the lessons that I share inspire you to take action, and support you along the way.

1. You don’t have to be a writer to become an author

Before I wrote my book, I used to think that you had to be a “writer” to become an author. I thought the only people who write books are English majors, journalists, professional authors, and celebrities who could easily get book deals. Now I know that anyone can become an author. It just takes a lot of time, dedication, practice, and support.

With a background in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) I had a lot to learn about the writing process. My strength as a writer has always been my creativity, but I struggled when it came to grammar, vocabulary, and composition. But by practicing my writing on my blog and analyzing the work of others, I quickly began to improve my skills in these growth areas.

2. I learned so much more than I anticipated

Before I started writing my book, I made an outline of the chapters that I wanted to include. This helped me to organize and structure all of my knowledge that I wanted to share. What I didn’t anticipate is how much more I learned as I began to write each chapter. I found myself conducting research on various topics to confirm that my knowledge was accurate. And by researching these topics, I ended up gathering more information, learned new information, and even gained knowledge in areas that I hadn’t intended on learning.

Aside from learning new content for my book, I also learned so much about the process of writing a book. I connected with my colleagues in education—who are authors of successful books—to solicit their advice. I performed queries online in search of tips and tricks for new and aspiring authors. And I learned about effective strategies to help me sell and market my book. While I didn’t anticipate learning all of this additional information, I realized that it was simply a natural byproduct of the process.

3. Vulnerability takes courage

The most powerful lesson that I learned from writing my book is that vulnerability takes courage. And whenever you put yourself out there—such as writing a book—you naturally become vulnerable to criticism. Someone once told me that an effective book in education leaves your readers wanting to shake your hand because they learned so much, and wanting to give you a hug because they feel like they know you. This really resonated with me and I made it a goal to intentionally connect with my readers.

After doing some reflection, I realized that some of my favorite books were written by authors who shared personal narratives that really moved me. So I decided to share stories in my life that were difficult to write about, but were meaningful and relevant to the content in my book. Some of my stories are about triumph, and others involve mistakes and hardships. But in every story I include in my book, I also share a lesson that I learned, and how my readers can apply it to their role in education.

Not only was I vulnerable by sharing personal stories in my book, I was also vulnerable with the entire book writing process. This is because I was passionate about my book idea, but I feared what others might think about me. I worried that people would think that I am conceited. I was curious if people would think I might fail. And I wondered if people would find my book to be valuable. Battling with all of these thoughts in my head, I eventually found the courage—and the confidence—to write and promote my book. The hope that my book might make a positive impact on students helped me to overcome my self-doubt.

4. Self-publishing can be advantageous

When I started my book project I assumed that I would land a book deal with an educational publishing company like many of my other colleagues did. However, I discovered that this was a lot more challenging than I had previously thought. After submitting my book proposal to a few publishing companies—and getting turned down—I decided to take this as an opportunity to self-publish my book.

Seeing the upside of this situation allowed me to really lean into the idea of self-publishing. After doing some research, I learned that most people choose not to self-publish because of the perceived lack of professionalism, and the additional work that is required. However, I have found that choosing to self-publish is often more lucrative in the long-term, and authors have complete control over the rights and content of the book. I also learned that it is recommended to self-publish under a single-member company (such as an LLC) to separate finances and add liability protection. This is the main reason why I created UpLearn LLC, but as a bonus I am beginning to learn that there are a lot of other advantages to owning an individual consulting company.

After I wrote my book I was reminded of a message that I frequently share with my students: You can accomplish anything in life if you are willing to work hard enough, smart enough, and long enough. I even shared a story with my students about a fourth-grader at my wife’s school who recently co-authored a children’s book with an adult. I told them that I used to think that only professional writers could become published authors. But now I know that anyone can become an author if they are passionate about an idea, and have the determination to share it with the world.

Have you ever thought about writing a book? If so, I would love to read some questions that you might have. If you are already a published author, what are some lessons that you have learned from the writing process? Leave a comment below if you are willing to share your insights.

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