Three years ago, five days after bringing a new baby home from the hospital, I signed my first book deal. I was deliriously excited at two dreams coming true at once. In hindsight, I had no idea what craziness lie ahead. Luckily, I learned a lot along the way:
1. You find the time for what’s important.
Writing a book is a staggering amount of work, but I’m used to hard work. See, I went to medical school for a zillion years. But working full-time with a newborn and a deadline felt overwhelming. I’m a morning person, so I was up at 4 every morning to write furiously before work. Those months were fueled by caffeine and adrenaline, but amazingly worth it.
2. The rewrites never end.
“Working on my final round of edits today. Almost done!” was my Facebook status about 900 times. I knew there would be edits. But by the sixth round, the thought of reading the manuscript one more time made me cringe.
3. You can’t please everyone.
The publishing experience takes this platitude to the extreme. I co-wrote a Christian Pregnancy Book. Mainstream Christian publications felt it wasn’t Christian enough (we actually mentioned *GASP* birth control). Secular media felt it was too religious. Different editors gave us opposite feedback. Eventually, we wrote the book we believed would be most helpful to pregnant moms, and based on the response we get from them, we are pleasing the right people.
4. Buy Books.
Previously, I was a fan of borrowing books or checking them out at the library. Now I buy books. All the time. I appreciate how extremely challenging it is to sell books. If I am ever at a bookstore and there is a signing going on, I stop what I’m doing and get in line. If the author has no line, I will stop and talk with him indefinitely, feigning interest in the subject no matter how lame. “Oh a book about a civilization of bunnies, you say? How interesting!” Having been on the lonely side of a signing table, I know the awkward angst of sitting sadly with a fake smile hoping someone will stop by.
5. My Definition of Success.
I am an OB/GYN with a successful practice. My life has not been tainted with failure. When I got a book deal, I assumed this venture would be met with the success I’d grown accustomed to in life. Not because I was cocky (OK, I’m a surgeon, so by definition I am slightly cocky), but because I felt it was a really great idea and I was naive. Despite the fact that everyone related to me thought my book was awesome, it was not the best-seller I’d hoped it would be. It hasn’t even sold 10,000 copies. But it has helped people and genuinely made a difference in some women’s lives. That is why I wrote it, and that’s truly what is important to me. I had hoped it would impact women and be a best seller, but that is not the case. When I get discouraged, the royalty updates from my publisher go in the shredder. But the “thank you” notes from the people we’ve touched…those stay in a folder to remind me of my new definition of success.
Writing a book did not change my life or make me a millionaire. It did teach me that time management is key, that you can always find time for what’s important, and that success is best measured one person at a time.