Today, as I release my new book, PUSHBACK: How Smart Women Ask-and Stand Up-For What They Want (Jossey-Bass), I can't help but reflect on the ways that book writing has changed me — both personally and professionally. Yes, some of these changes may sound intuitive, as though they're natural byproducts of taking on a big writing project, but many others have come as a surprise. As I stand at the finish line, taking a needed breath, here are the 4 book-writing lessons I'm most grateful for:
1) It's Incredibly Empowering to Have a Voice:
If you are not at least 200% sold on the concept of your book, writing the thing will be downright brutal. And even if you have huge passion and commitment to fuel your cause, writing can still be grueling at times. I've learned to find energy in the realization that my platform whether my books, my Forbes or Washington Post columns, or the speaking podium is a privilege. There are women around the world that can't safely express themselves for fear of their lives, who can't dare speak about their outrage or lobby for improvements. That realization instantaneously makes having a voice into a gift, not a burden.
2) I am Challenged, Humbled and Encouraged by Dialogue with Readers:
Readers represent your biggest cheerleaders, liveliest debate partners, and your harshest critics all rolled into one. Not shockingly, I, like many others, have the easiest time digesting the nice, complimentary feedback! But those who challenge me the most, who really push me to think outside of my own paradigm, often disagree with me. Yes, the critics can be downright tough, but those that can shed light on something I hadn't considered, or who can show me that my message could be made even more inclusive, push me the furthest and make me a better writer and professional. Thicker skin is not a bad thing, especially in my case, and I'm glad to have more of it.
3) I've Found New Levels of Grit & Determination:
I consider myself a pretty disciplined person when it comes to work, but let me assure you, nothing can reduce a person to paralysis and/or tears like 55,000 words that you have yet to write. Suddenly when you should be writing, you notice that your office needs tidying, that you should dash out and do errands, or that it's time for lunch. Some days I had to respect the fact that I had zero creative juice, but most days I had to grab myself by the shoulders and make up my mind that the work (whatever small segment) was going to get done. I'm now starting to incorporate this don't overthink it, just do it mentality into other realms, whether physical exercise or team projects.
4) I Have Much Deeper Respect For Those Who "Put Themselves Out There":
Whether an artist, a new shop owner, or a burgeoning filmmaker, I have a profound appreciation for people who share their handiwork with the world. They take risks, put themselves on display, and therefore expose themselves to everything from applause or booing. I am more likely today to go out and support a friend with a new restaurant, nonprofit, or cause than I used to be. I get that sharing your ideas with the world is as terrifying as it is thrilling, and that it can make you feel like you're naked in Times Square. I also remember what it was like, and how much easier it was to be critical, when I was sitting in the safe, little cocoon of my corporate job, not risking much of anything at all.
Obviously, writing a book isn't the only way to grow these skills, but stretching yourself in any activity can highlight life lessons you wouldn't otherwise have received. What experience has especially challenged and pushed you and what key lesson did you take away from it?
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