On a regular school-holiday-Tuesday in August, LinkedIn congratulated me with a work anniversary. At about the same time, the doorbell rang. It was the postman with a package, containing five copies of a book.
So I wrote a book and it’s finished and published and if you wish, you can buy it on Amazon. Now what?
Well, if you’d ask me, I would answer that it’s no big deal. It’s not even 100 pages and I’m not a writer with a story in her head that has to be told. You could do it too. It’s just a coincidence that someone I already knew, read my blogs and asked me to share her daughter’s story (which accidentally became a bigger project). However, the other day I replied with the sentences above to a question from a friend about the book thing. She looked at me and said: ‘Don’t ever say that again. Don’t downplay what you’ve accomplished. Just share what you’ve learned from it.’
So what did I learn from writing about a young, very talented Chinese girl? A girl named Lilian Chu, who likes to go by the name Liane, was born in Hong Kong, moved to Shanghai and then moved again to New York when she was 15 years old. She was 17 when we got in touch and had just gone through a rough period in her life. I’ve had countless conversations with her and her mom (Maggie) and I’ve written a few blogs about the process, that you can find here for example, should you be interested ) :)
My three biggest insights
1. Build your story step by step
The idea of writing a whole book was frightening in the beginning. Where do you start?! After a lot of procrastination, I just started with interview one, then another and from there I slowly grasped what I was doing and how to do that best. It’s like a puzzle; every piece makes more sense. What I noticed is that I especially like creating rhythm in the book and that I like to write as if you had written it yourself. If people mention that my article, blog, or book reads easy, my mission is accomplished.
2. Love and trust are key
I highly value trust in every relationship and I also need to fall in love with ‘my subject’. Not for real of course, but I do need a strong connection and the feeling that you can and want to share basically everything with each other. I’ve written about this ‘falling impersonal love’ before and it still holds. I didn’t only interview Lilian and her mom, I looked forward to every conversation. I wanted to get know them and their personalities. After a while I could sense when they didn’t want to talk or needed more time. I knew when to push and when to back off. We laughed and shared stories, had fun and learned. Oh my gosh, I learned so much from them, about their relationship and their culture. Love and trust unlock your inner feelings.
3. Teamwork makes me happy
I need to be responsible for a task myself (otherwise nothing will happen), but working together is what makes me happy. Of course Maggie, Lilian and I formed a team, but I quickly realized I needed a coach, an editor and a language corrector. Luckily I knew people through my network with all the required expertise. They of course helped me with their knowledge, but there was more. I had to prepare my conversations with them and I was therefore forced to set deadlines. I had to reflect and I also liked to just chit chat with them now and then as writing a book can be a very lonely process. Working in a team fuels my fire.
So, let’s try it again
‘Hey, Eva, I heard you wrote a book, tell me about it?’
Honestly? I will probably giggle and say something like: ‘Well, you know, it’s more a story then a real book.’ I know I will do that because I’ve tried to be serious and well, I failed. I guess I’m more a ‘process person’ than a ‘final product person’. However, if you would ask me to write your autobiography, I would totally love to do that without hesitation. Writing Lilian’s story also taught me that the elements I mentioned will have to be part of any future assignment; I really like to write, working together in a team keeps me on my toes and eventually, all you need is love.