Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Writing a Spirituality Book: How Blogging Can Start It All

I'm stepping back a bit from my usual topics to talk about writing a spirituality book based on my experiences writing my ebook, Everyday Spirituality: Cultivating an Awakening. I know a lot of you are having so much spiritual information pour down into your noggins that the only thing you can do is to try and write it all out. Many of you also want to write books. And that's awesome. You can't have enough people speaking about peace and living in loving kindness. So here are some thoughts about how I wrote my spiritual book, and perhaps they'll help you write yours.

Exploring Your Words with an Audience
Sharing a 200-page manuscript with a friend can be a really vulnerable place. You wonder if s/he will like it and what s/he will say about it. Also, finding a friend willing to read that much can be a little difficult before firing it off into the publishing world with a humble and self-congratulatory query letter. That's really the old mechanism to publishing, and the world of self-publishing has radically changed our abilities to get our work out to a broad audience. In one of the simplest ways, blogging is a great tool for finding out if what you have to say clicks for others.

Blogging gives you a chance to explore your words and different topics with an audience. One of the great mistakes of any business, book, or other venture is to put something out that no one wants. If you don't need it to have great success, that's fine. Being mindful of what your goals are in this venture are also important. The initial urge to expound and expunge all these words can be intense, but there's a lot of personal work that goes into it. Sometimes, all these words and thoughts are really just for you. Hopefully, you've been journaling to make sense of them for yourself. Blogging really comes after that. Most of the stuff that I put up here has been worked through. Even though I channel a lot of the posts (meaning I write without planning or thinking about it very much if at all), many of the topics about which I'm writing I've already integrated into myself. This means that I don't resist or argue with the information. I'm a clear conduit to pretty much put down what comes to me. So after you've done your own work, set up a free blog to begin to see what you really need to say to the world and find out who wants to hear about it.

An International Focus Group At Your Fingertips
If anything, blogging creates a great focus group. Let me be clear that you are very unlikely to have a 100,000 visits in a month when you start writing your blog. You'll be lucky to have around 30 unless you understand how to use social media and have a bunch of people to whom you can email your blog. So, it will be a small group at first. And yet, this is incredibly public, so anything you put up on your blog should be able to withstand the scrutiny of everyone from where you live to the Middle of Nowhere, Nova Scotia. You are extremely exposed, although you can also choose to make your blog private. In that case, I hope you do have a lot of people whom you can invite to share and comment on your blog. Personally, I know that I have a very public role to play as a spiritual teacher, and I wanted to see where this blog would catch on around the world (so far, it's not been very specific other than favoring where I live since this is where most of my connections are: otherwise, it really has been popular around the world). Be mindful of what you say, and pay attention to the feedback you get. Google Analytics is great for finding out which posts are getting read the most. This can help inspire you further for your book.

Structuring Your Spirituality Book
Blogging is a little bit of a free-for-all in terms of visual structure. It's tough for people to flow through it other than to read down the page. If you can, as you write your blog posts, start to think about where things will fit into the overall story or message you want to deliver. Don't just assume that it'll all flow out perfectly. Sometimes it does, and that's a great gift. But as I like to describe energy as water, think of your words in the same way. What structure are you creating to hold this water and guide it? It doesn't matter how great the message is. If no one can understand it or if they feel flooded by information, you're not writing a very effective book. Of course, once again, this goes back to your purpose with this book. If you just want to write it and be done with it and don't care if more than 3 people read it, than structuring it matters a lot less.

Give Yourself Plenty of Rest Time
When I was writing Everyday Spirituality: Cultivating an Awakening in October and November, I just felt live-wired. There's no other way to describe it. I couldn't write it out fast enough, and I felt like I'd burn myself out. I needed quite a bit of time to rest, and usually as I was resting, it felt like even more information was pouring in. Meditation and other spiritual practices are so important during this time. You have no idea just how much you're giving of yourself in this process. It's kind of a big deal, and if you're still moving through awakening, it may be too much. It is okay to give yourself space before taking on a big project like writing an book. Honestly, you won't get very far if you're in the middle of awakening because your perceptions are being altered so drastically. What you'll have to say one day will change with the next revelation that drops in and integrates with you the next day. But regardless of where you are, when you start to write, you're also going to need plenty of time to not write.

Exploring Ebooks and Self-Publishing
I'm still pretty new to the ebook thing, so I don't have a lot to say here other than it's so wonderful to be able to share my ebook around the world with a system like Amazon. Setting up takes some time and figuring out, which you may or may not be fully up for. You can always find a techie friend to help you out. And just because your ebook is up on Amazon doesn't mean you're going to sell 100s over night. I think since April that I've sold around 30 as I'm still learning about it. But with so much stuff going digital (In addition to Amazon, there's Barnes and Noble with their Nook and Apple with iPad), it's a smart space to be in, and you don't have to wait around for your hundredth query letter to get accepted by a publisher. Furthermore, how much support do you think you're going to get from a publisher these days? Having a physical book doesn't mean it's going to be anymore successful than having an ebook. I honestly can't compare the two ways of going about it, but I'm pretty sure that if my ebook proves successful online that some savvy publisher will want to come find me to make a physical book. In that case, the negotiating changes considerably.

So these are some thoughts about writing a spirituality book. I hope it's helpful for those of you who are interested. You are welcome to leave comments with other questions that you may have about my process, and if you are interested in my ebook, please click on this link to get a copy of Everyday Spirituality: Cultivating an Awakening. Be well in all your spiritual writing endeavors!
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