It used to be that only people who were considered "writers" would write books. Authors. People born with a divinely bestowed talent for crafting a story, for using words as an art form, people whose soul won't let them rest until their imaginings and deepest feelings come alive in the form of a book. The term "literary" connoted something cultured and grand. Today, everybody wants to write a book - or two or ten or twenty. Everybody and anybody puts out a book. People who don't know the first thing about writing and even people who don't actually write anything - they just hire a ghostwriter - are producing books. In the digital world we are all prodigiously prolific. However, does that make us writers?
I had the auspicious occasion to have coffee with the late great Nobel Laureate in Literature, Isaac Bashevis Singer, just the two of us. I asked him how did he know he wanted to be a writer. He answered in his adorably charismatic Polish-Yiddish accent, "Vell, ven I came out from my mother she asked the midvife, is it a boy or a girl? And the midvife said, 'it's a writer'!"
"IDEAS ARE A DIME A DOZEN. EXECUTION IS EVERYTHING."
A good friend of my brother's who was a top TV executive in one of the major Hollywood studios once said to me regarding my interest in TV show creation, "In Hollywood, ideas are a dime a dozen. Execution is everything." Of course we know the "truth" of that statement every time we hear about a movie or a show whose premise sounds like it's going to be great, and then the show falls flat or it turns out the trailer is the best part of the movie.
Having been a professional photographer early in my career as a human being (I refer to it as my "accidental career"), I made the distinction between snapshots and actual photography. Let me break it to you gently, friends. The fact that you can pick up a camera and take a snapshot doesn't miraculously morph you into a photographer. There are standards.
EVEN SELF-REALIZED MASTERS SET STANDARDS
It brings to mind what the revered meditation master, Swami Muktananda noted about a guru worthy of following. He said a true teacher is someone who knows the scriptures and who has the authentic experience of them infused in their being. Only then could they ignite that knowledge in someone else. If the Self-Realized Masters have standards, shouldn't we also set standards for what constitutes a book worthy of publishing?
THE GREAT PARADOX OF BEING HUMAN:
WE ARE UNIVERSALLY THE SAME AND INDIVIDUALLY UNIQUE
I remember listening to a literary agent giving advice to aspiring book writers - and it struck me when she said, "Please, don't send me any personal life memoirs." I suppose because everybody has a story, but is anyone else interested in your story?
The great paradox of being human is we are universally the same and individually unique. So if everyone has a distinct set of life experiences, a particular point of view, a piece of wisdom to add to the mix of humanity--shouldn't they be able to express it in the form of a book?
Perhaps you do feel you have a story to tell, some wisdom to impart, a "how-to" that is useful. Can you write? And by the way, are you prepared to become a marketer? Do you realize, as my agent once said to me, "a book is a business"?
Books have certainly turned into a marketing activity. Not just the idea of a book as "a calling card" - but the growing numbers of books published by industry leaders, independents and self-publishers. The numbers are enormous and so is the competition for sales. For years amazon.com made the claim on any book page, "[this] and 8 million other books available." I wonder how long can there be only 8 million titles with the proliferation of new titles every year, every day?
REJOICE, PEOPLE WITH BOOKS IN YOU; THERE IS HOPE.
Whatever your answer is to such questions, if you just have to get your life story out I have a hopeful suggestion for you. We just engaged a writer to document and put some organization and context around our Mom's story, to be her ghostwriter. I instituted this for my Dad when he was 90, simply called it, Jack's Book, and declared it a family rite of passage. We kept it a secret from the rest of the family until we were ready for his official book launch. I set up a book signing "event" for him, replete with microphone, book poster and fancy gourmet hors d'oeuvres in the five-star hotel we were staying in for the weekend. An exuberant Jack gave a talk based on his book and signed each family member's book with a personal inscription. It was awesome.
So if you, too, are thinking of writing a book, ask yourself: Who will want to read it? What is my art form? How can I better hone the craft of writing? What will be the value of it to our culture? And lest I forget, good luck with the marketing :)
PS Writers everywhere, here is one of my favorite quotes to inspire you:
"Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it and, above all, and accurately so they will be guided by its light." - Joseph Pulitzer
Dianne Collins is the 6-time award-winning author of Do You QuantumThink? New Thinking That Will Rock Your World. It took her countless incarnations to experience it, a lifetime to think it, and 7 years to write it.