I Don't Know How You Do It

Unleashing Your Inner Author: How and Why to Write Your Book, with Elizabeth Lyons

January 30, 2024 Jessica Fein Episode 53
I Don't Know How You Do It
Unleashing Your Inner Author: How and Why to Write Your Book, with Elizabeth Lyons
Show Notes Transcript

Have you heard these myths about writing your book? 

Myth #1: You have to be a perfect writer to start. Myth #2: You need a big block of time to make progress. Myth #3: You have to have a groundbreaking idea. #4: You need an external credential to call yourself a writer. Elizabeth Lyons joins us to bust these myths and so many others about what it takes to start...and finish your book.

Elizabeth is a seasoned writer and book editor with six published books under her belt. Through her popular online courses and the "Write the Damn Book Already" podcast, Elizabeth shares invaluable advice on navigating the complexities of writing, publishing, and launching a book. Her relatable and humorous approach resonates with aspiring writers, encouraging them to break free from self-doubt and embark on their writing journey with confidence. 

Elizabeth highlights how writing can serve as a form of therapy, allowing us to process personal experiences, find humor in challenging situations, and facilitate growth. Regardless of whether your work will be published or remain personal, diving into the healing power of writing can provide huge benefits. Using writing as a tool for self-expression transforms it into a journey of personal exploration, revelation, and ultimately, healing.

In this episode, you'll learn:

  • Why so many of us have imposter syndrome when it comes to creative endeavors
  • The myth that any of us knows what we're doing
  • How to give ourselves grace and compassion with our creative projects
  • At what point in the process we need to trust ourselves most
  • How to get started without getting out of your pajamas
  • And so much more...

Learn more about Elizabeth:

Latest Book

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Music credit: Limitless by Bells


Jessica Fein: Welcome. I'm Jessica Fein, and this is the “I Don’t Know How You Do It” podcast, where we talk to people whose lives seem unimaginable from the outside and dive into how they're able to do things that look undoable.

I'm so glad you're joining me on this journey and I hope you enjoy the conversation. 

Welcome back to the show. This episode marks one full year since we started and I want you to know how grateful I am to you for being part of this community, for believing that we expand our own lives by listening and sharing our stories with others, and realizing that we can do it, whatever our it is.

One of the things I didn't expect when I started the show was how many writers would come on as guests. I think it makes sense given that so many of us who have others [00:01:00] saying, I don't know how you do it, are doing things we want to share in book form. So, for our third and final in the “It's January and There's Something Big I've Been Dreaming About” series, I am so excited to introduce you to Elizabeth Lyons.

Elizabeth is a six-time author and book editor who helps aspiring authors untangle the wild world of book writing so they can get out of their way and get on with writing, publishing, and launching a powerful book. She also offers several celebrated online courses that guide authors step by step through writing, publishing, and launching their books, and she's the host of the Write the Damn Book Already podcast.

A mom of 5, she's obsessed with coffee, cupcakes, sloths, and consistently remodeling her already perfectly good house. Liz and I talk about how we can get out of our own way, why so many of us feel unqualified to write, how we can get started, and why writing can be so healing. Without further ado, I bring you Elizabeth [00:02:00] Lyons.

Welcome, Liz. I am so excited for this conversation.  

Elizabeth Lyons: I am so excited for this con I'm excited for any reason to have a conversation with you. 

Jessica Fein: I feel the same way. And by the way, we should tell our listeners that we met, I was a guest, what, I think like a year ago on your amazing podcast. Yes. And. I think we actually had to like stop recording several times over the course of the hour because we were finding all of these things that we had in common.

I know. And we just had, we went on so many tangents and it was like such immediate friends.

Elizabeth Lyons: I know. I felt the exact same way. I, and that's what I love so much about, as much as we lament sometimes, and I do like every hour social media, I'm so grateful for it because it's how I met you. It's how I've met.

So many people in the podcast has just, it's just, it's fun. 

Jessica Fein: I totally, totally agree. Absolutely. Absolutely. All right. Well, let's jump into it. You wrote your very first book because the [00:03:00] book you needed didn't exist.

Elizabeth Lyons: Correct. Tell us about that. Okay. So it was back in, back in 1947. It feels like it sometimes.

So I found out I was expecting twins. And this was in, let's see, they were born in 2001, so it was 2000, and Amazon really wasn't a thing. And so I immediately said to my then husband, take me to Barnes Noble, immediately, right after the ultrasound. And I bought every book they had on expecting twins, of which there were, like, three.

And all of them said, your life is over. And P. S. you already had a baby at home at this point. I did. I did. I did. I had a one year old at home. And it was like, you're never going to sleep again, eat again, shower again. This is your life. Just hear some prayers. And, well, first I went into a deep depression. I was like, oh, this is awful.

But. The thing is, I thought, this isn't what I want. So when I was pregnant with my [00:04:00] oldest, Grace, I had found Vicky Iovine's Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy. That's what I wanted. But Vicky Iovine hadn't had twins, so she hadn't written the Girlfriend's Guide to Twins. I wanted a Girlfriend's Guide to Twins.

I wanted someone to be honest with me. I didn't want it sugar coated, but I also wanted strategies, and I wanted lightheartedness. And I wanted someone to remind me that, you know, I wasn't the only one who was going to be in pajamas for five days straight having not showered and that that was okay. Like let's find the humor in it type of a thing.

Jessica Fein: Wait a minute. Do you need to have had twins to be in pajamas for five days? 

Elizabeth Lyons: I hope not. I hope not. Because my youngest is 15 and I just spent the last. Three or so days in pajamas. Okay, good, good. Okay, does that feel better? Yeah, one of my closest friends called me a couple days ago and she said, I'm a little concerned about myself because I've spent two days in pajamas and I didn't shower.

And I said, well, I spent three days in pajamas and I don't think I showered. So. Do [00:05:00] we both need an intervention? And it's just sometimes knowing that you're not alone in this is the thing. Exactly. So I had always, as so many people have, wanted to write a book, right? I've been a lifelong writer, but I don't and didn't have any credentials that say I, air quote, should be, could be a writer. My undergrad is in Japanese for God's sake. How, why would I write a book? And so I couldn't ever put my finger on what I was air quote qualified to write, whether fiction or nonfiction, even though I was a big avid writer in silence, it was like, I'm not qualified to write a novel. What am I an expert in?

Come on. Right. And then it just kind of all came together. And I thought, I wonder if I could do this. You know, I wonder if I could do this book. 

Jessica Fein: Did you start it while you were pregnant? Did you start it while you had three babies at home? Like, when did you do this?

Elizabeth Lyons: Yeah, I did have three babies at home, but I wasn't pregnant.

[00:06:00] You know, regret's a weird word. I don't tend to regret anything, honestly, but I mean, if I could go back and do it differently, I would, but that's different from regret in my world. So I did not write within the book about being pregnant. And there are a lot of great books out there on that, by the way.

That was the other thing, is that I had bought several books on being pregnant with twins that were written by doctors and were excellent. They were light hearted. It was all the things I wanted. So there was no reason for me necessarily to add to that. But I did start writing And I started writing not really knowing if it would go anywhere.

It was kind of my escape from the mothering thing. I didn't look at it as a job. I didn't give myself any deadlines. It was weird. It was like at 3 a. m. when I'm stuffing bottles in two mouths and trying to keep myself awake, I would think, I remember one night I used a cantaloupe to balance one of the bottles.

Because the other baby needed [00:07:00] two hands like it was a whole thing and I, I just remember thinking this could be funny and this is a viable solution. I mean, I'm doing it. I've got a cantaloupe up here, right? Oh my god, I hope you had photos in the book because of that. I don't. I mean, that was before like the cell phones that had cameras, you know.

Jessica Fein: Okay, so you write this book. Part of me relates to when life is crazy, being able to write. And part of me, you know, now looking back, it's like, I'm not sure how you did that. You did that, right. And it's so interesting to me when you said you felt like you weren't qualified, because I feel like that is not unusual for people to feel like they need some kind of, you know, Degree, decree, something that says, yes, you are qualified to write a book.

There, there's some big hesitation, and you know, you and I talked about this a long time ago, but this idea of, I'm not qualified to write a book, or I'm not a writer. You know, it's [00:08:00] like we hesitate. Why do you think that is?

Elizabeth Lyons: At the uppermost level, it's that whole imposter syndrome thing. But I do think, and in having worked with and talked to so many people now who have not only written books, but done other creative things, whether they're painters or singers, songwriters or musicians who have sort of stepped into this space where they don't feel like they're Supposed to be and when I say supposed to be, I mean, by society's definite, they are supposed to be there.

I mean, there's no doubt, but just kind of the way that we collectively have been trained, I guess, to think. Like, you don't belong here. We don't think that about other people nearly as often as we think that about ourselves. 

Jessica Fein: Exactly. And I feel like maybe it's because in these creative spaces, we all have a writer or a singer or whatever, where we look at them and say like, that [00:09:00] is a writer.

Like, okay, Toni Morrison, that's a writer. So how could I be a writer? Whereas I'd imagine, I mean, like, I'm not an accountant, for example, but I imagine if I were, I wouldn't maybe have this idle accountant and be like, well, I can't be an accountant because that's what an accountant is. 

Elizabeth Lyons: You just said something that I think is really like you put your the nail on whatever the thing, you know, what day is it?

It's Friday. It's early. 

Jessica Fein: Hit the nail on the head. 

Elizabeth Lyons: Thank you so much. And that is that when there is something you can measure So in other words, I have a medical degree I don't to be clear, but I mean I do through Google, but I have a medical degree. I have a law degree I am a certified accountant.

I am right it like bestows This invisible credential. It doesn't say how good of an accountant you are or how good of a doctor you are, but you are legitimate. You've passed something where you get to say definitively [00:10:00] there's nothing like that in the creative space. The only thing in the writing space that I used to hear more often, way more often than I do now is, Oh, I'm a graduate of Iowa Writer's Workshop.

Or, I have an MFA in creative writing. Or, I went to this renowned residency for writers. And even that only holds water if you're speaking to someone who knows what in the hell that is. 

Jessica Fein: That's right. And that's something you did. That's not something you are. Maybe that's it. To say, I am a writer. That, now I'm defining myself.

Elizabeth Lyons: Yeah. And I think that's hard because the minute you put that am on it. A lot of people, I believe, get certain degrees, and this may be controversial, but because it allows them to say, I am fill in the blank. An attorney. It's an ego thing. Yes, I am an attorney. I am a neurologist. I mean, when people lead with that information, it's kind of a clue.

I mean, if you ask them directly, what do you do, and they say, I'm a neurologist, that's different. But if you say, hey, what, you know, what did you do [00:11:00] over the weekend? And they say, well, I'm a board certified neurologist. And so, right. I feel like that's sometimes a clue that there's a little ego leading the way there.

But with creatives, it feels hard to say I am. A painter, because most creatives are inherently, like, I don't know if the word is humble, but like, we're quiet. We're not the ones to go, I am at a neurology, and I have six degrees, and I, that's not what we do as creatives. 

Jessica Fein: Right, and I feel like if you say, I am a writer, musician, whatever.

Then the next question is going to be like, Oh, you know, what have you done? I might have read or, you know, I'm an actress, anything I might have seen. So you feel like you can't say it until the answer to that would be yes.

Elizabeth Lyons: And I mean, when is that even going to be true necessarily? Like I know of people you could say I'm an actor and they say, Oh, have you been in anything that I've seen?

And you say, yes, I was in the color purple. And they go, well, what is that? Right, right. And the other thing I think that happens is that once we claim it as creatives, we feel the [00:12:00] pressure to be a certain level with it. So if you say, I am a writer, then they go, Oh, how many books have you written? And you're like, well, I'm working on my first one.

Jessica Fein: I have two responses to that, though. On the one hand, I will say I have my second book coming out, and I still hesitate to say I am a writer. And maybe that's like a whole other thing. I need to go to therapy on that.

Elizabeth Lyons: Oh, I did. I did. And it took me a long time. And even now, what I find is I vacillate between I'm a writer and I'm an author.

Oh, yeah, I do. And I catch myself when I'm doing it. Because when you say I'm a writer, I do it to just kind of downplay it. It's like my version of I'm a doctor versus I am a world renowned neurosurgeon. So I'll just say I'm a writer. And then the inevitable next question is, Oh, what do you write? And my answer is books.

And then the next question is, Oh, what kind, you know, it follows a very predictable path. 

Jessica Fein: I want to hear your advice for people because I think that everybody wants to know how do I do this. But I will say that one of the things [00:13:00] that I feel like does help is to claim it. Because you can say all day long, well, I want to write a book, I'd love to write a book.

Okay. But when you switch it around to say, I am writing a book, I am a writer, it shifts things for you for sure. And the way you act and what you do changes accordingly. 

Elizabeth Lyons: The thing is, I feel like your words are for you, not for the, that's the key is that your words are for you, not for the person to whom you're speaking, right?

You're claiming it for you. You're not claiming it to prove it to someone else. 

Jessica Fein: I totally agree. Okay. So now you're at three babies, ultimately you're going to get to five, but at this point you're at three and you've written your first book and your assumption is that you're going to do what people think that they do, which is they go through the harrowing process sometimes of trying to find an agent and a publisher and then something changes for you.

So what happened?

Elizabeth Lyons:[00:14:00] That's it. Right, so I went through all that and I submitted queries and I did all the stuff that you do to agents and I continued to get, when I got a response, cause this, let me really date myself, this was back in the day when the recommended advice was to send a postcard with every query letter with a form on the back so they could check yes or no or I'd like the manuscript or whatever, right, we didn't, email wasn't even, I I sound like I'm 207 years old.

Jessica Fein: Did you handwrite your manuscript? 

Elizabeth Lyons: I know, right? Exactly. With a quill and ink, you know? But for the responses I did get, I remember one just in big, bold red said, No! Exclamation point, right? Ugh! Yeah, but the people who were kind enough to actually give me more information, more often than not said, your market isn't big enough.

Great concept. Great idea. Your market's not big enough. This isn't sellable. And I was like, you're insane. I mean, no disrespect, but they're the numbers are no [00:15:00] disrespect, but you're insane. Yeah. The classic, no offense, but let me offend you. Like, yes, there are millions of women who want to read fiction. So you can cite a number, one million, or whatever number you want to cite.

There's a much smaller number of people who are expecting twins, but it's still a large number. So at that time, it was 100, 000 sets of twins were expected to be born in the U. S. alone annually. Everyone, I would argue, of those parents is borderline desperate for info, or will become desperate during that first year, which is the time period that my book addresses, to get information and support and that sort of thing.

So. Once I had heard too many no's, I'm not the most patient person on the planet. I just thought, how hard can this be? So I went and tried to do it myself. And back then I did hire what now I would, and I won't ever say who it is, but it's a vanity publisher, which I do not ever recommend. I did not realize back then there's a difference between a hybrid and a vanity.

And this was definitely a vanity, meaning that [00:16:00] you pay them and you're just kind of a number in their queue. They don't really care.

Jessica Fein: Yeah, and just for people who don't know the difference, so a vanity is a publisher where you pay them and they'll publish. And can you just explain for people who don't know what a hybrid is?

Elizabeth Lyons: Yeah, they're both author financed, as I say. So the author covers the cost of the publishing, but a hybrid is really more of what I would call a professional publisher. They vet their manuscripts. They don't take everything that comes across their desk. It's not just an endless queue of authors. They're in partnership with their authors to varying degrees, right?

And there are varying royalty amounts all the way from we as the publisher take 0 percent all the way up to probably no more than 50%, but it does happen. That's a hybrid, and hybrids, there are a lot of amazing hybrids out there. Those are great. Vanity, they're the ones who today are jumping into Facebook groups, and they're messaging people.

That's a huge red flag. They're reaching out to the authors and saying, we hear you have a book, we're really [00:17:00] interested. In the end of the day, they don't care. They just want your money. So I probably invested 10, 000 back then, again, 22 years ago in having this done. And it was a mess. It was a big mess.

And once I realized that I was just a number and the quality of the product was not good, and I wasn't getting a good response to all that. That's when I really thought how hard can this be to just take it back and do it myself? So I did. I hadn't given them the rights to anything. I didn't have to buy anything back.

And so I just went down the Google rabbit hole and it was like one step at a time. I figured it out and then I made a mistake and then I corrected and then I made two more mistakes and then I corrected. I mean, it was not as, and I am going to use the word easy in this case because simple and easy are different, but today it is easier.

Truly. To self publish and certainly to hybrid publish, but it's a lot easier to self publish today and do it well. That was the key. From the very beginning, I was like, I want my book to be [00:18:00] as high in quality as anything I just can go in and buy in Barnes Noble. I don't want anyone to even suspect that this is me, that I'm the publishing house.

Jessica Fein: Which goes back to our conversation, like, what are these criteria we have for ourselves?

Elizabeth Lyons: But even the air quote, and I'm very, very heavily air quoting, because everyone's a real author. I mean, they're showing now that many self published authors are out earning their traditionally published counterparts, which is not to say that traditional is bad at all.

It's to say that there's starting to be some leveling in all of this. 

Jessica Fein: Okay, so how many books have you written now? 

Elizabeth Lyons: Six. 

Jessica Fein: Okay. And I will say that your books have some of the best titles I've ever seen. Okay? I don't know which I like better. Holy Shit, I'm Having Twins or Write the Damn Book Already.

How do you come up with your titles? 

Elizabeth Lyons: Well, that's [00:19:00] kind of a funny story. So holy shit, I'm having twins started as ready or not. Here we come. And then the sequel to that, which is the toddler years with twins is ready or not. There we go. Back then I was not yet comfortable. Really being me as an author, I was trying to write for everyone.

I was trying to please everyone. I certainly didn't wanna make anyone angry. I still did, by the way, but I didn't want to. And so those were my titles and that was great. But then I did the second edition of Ready Or Not, here We Come and I think, oh. And then when it came time for me to do the third edition, because back in the first edition, one of the not required, but recommended things that new moms of twins or new dads of twins have on hand, brace yourself.

It's a headset for your landline. You know, so you can talk, you're like, what is that? Most people don't have landlines anymore. And the headsets have changed. So I needed to update things like that. So when [00:20:00] I did the third edition, I thought, you know what? It's time. Like I've done the other books. I swear in my books.

Now I'm just me. My goal is always, if you read my book and then you see me at the coffee shop, you're not going to be surprised. I'm probably going to drop an F bomb. I mean, if your child is standing next to you, I won't, but. That sort of thing. I remember I was speaking with a friend of mine, Jenna McCarthy, who's written like 18 books now.

And we were on the phone, this was years ago, and we were talking about new titles. And she is the one who said, you need something like, you know, holy shit, I'm having twins. And I just, I was like, yes, because that's what you say, right? You're going to be a reader of my book. Right, if you're staunchly opposed to that phrasing, no problem.

I have all the respect in the world. So if that turns you off, it immediately lets you know this book isn't for you. 

Jessica Fein: I love that. And you know, it's interesting. I wonder if because you were self publishing, you had the freedom to change it and to do whatever you wanted. And maybe, you know, if you were going with.

A traditional publisher and if it was corporate, maybe they'd say, well, we need to watch because [00:21:00] in the middle of the country, they might not like you to say, holy shit, or whatever it is. Right? Absolutely. Let's beta test this. Let's do focus groups. And you could just say, holy shit, this is what we're calling it.

Elizabeth Lyons: Holy shit. This is what we're doing. Right. Yeah, absolutely. 

Jessica Fein: So at what point did you, I mean, I don't want to say pivot because you were still writing your own books, but expand to not only be writing your own books, but to helping people in so many different ways. bring their books to life. 

Elizabeth Lyons: This was so accidental.

I can't even express how accidental this was because not only did it never occur to me that I could or should, and I'm using those words very intentionally, write books, but it definitely never occurred to me that I was qualified To help other people do it, I mean, to say it was not on my radar is the greatest understatement ever and what had happened was maybe about seven years ago.

Now, someone who had been following me on social media messaged me and [00:22:00] said, will you help me with my book and publish it? And I was like, you know, and he said, because you, you know, he had all these reasons and it's kind of a funny story because His name's Chris Martinez, and he's in the automotive industry, which we joke because I said, well, tell me about the book.

And he said, I've written this book about how to sell cars or whatever. And I said, Chris, you seem lovely. And with all due respect, I'm sure this is great, but I would rather pull my eyelashes out one at a time than buy a car. So I don't know that I'm the right person. And he said, no, I'm actually really trying to change that.

That's my goal. I want to change this experience for people. And so fast forward, I ended up editing and eventually publishing his book. And then from there, I ended up working with several other people in that space because he said I had this great experience with Liz, go talk to her. So it went from there and it just kind of grew and it was at every step.

And every stage from helping people publish. I've been editing my whole life. I hadn't edited book manuscripts, but I've been editing. I've edited [00:23:00] dissertations and technical things and whatnot. My whole life, my mom's an editor as well. So it's just passed down sort of, but you know, the ghost writing, I never thought I would do something like that.

And I've ghost written maybe six books now. And it's been one of the most profound gifts of my life truly to help collaborate on these. It's incredibly beautiful. I mean, there's one that's just coming to mind right now called Hi. The author is Debra Edwards, and it's the story of her son's heroin addiction and recovery from heroin addiction.

And I just adore her. I adore him. And it was just the greatest gift to help her bring this incredible story into the world. 

Jessica Fein: How do you do that?How do you get yourself into somebody else's head so much that you can tell this most personal story in their voice?

Elizabeth Lyons: I think for me, for me, because there are a lot of different ghostwriters and people do it all different ways, but it's so important to me to be willing to be emotionally [00:24:00] invested and to make it all about them.

I want them to feel safe. That's very, very important. And so I have a rule with my ghostwriting clients. Anything you tell me will die with me if it doesn't go into the book. Because I want them to feel safe to say, Okay, here's a story. This is really vulnerable. I don't know if this should go in. Should this go in?

And trust that I'm not going to get on the phone or on a hot, you know, something and say, Oh my God, you're not going to believe this. That's a tremendous level of trust. And so, I think that's important. And then, you're correct. It is critical that you be able to get into their voice. In the case of High, it was more of, I would call it a co writing.

Debra wrote the vast majority, she probably wrote 75 80 percent of that book. I did not ghostwrite that one from scratch. But it was helping to get that over the finish line and using her words to do it. You have to be able to feel like you can get into their space. 

Jessica Fein: And it's not only ghostwriting, I mean, just to be clear for everybody who's [00:25:00] listening, you also now publish other people's books and you coach and you have your own podcast where you give all kinds of amazing, amazing insights into everything publishing related.

So you have the personal experience and so much experience from so many other writers. What do you find is the biggest challenge for yourself and for other people in going from I have this great idea or I have a story to bringing that to life? 

Elizabeth Lyons: This has been the greatest gift of my podcast. It just makes me so happy because I can talk to authors at every level of the spectrum.

Well, they've usually released at least one book or they're getting ready to. Like when you and I did yours, it was done and it was off and it was going through the process, right? All the way through to authors who have written five, six, seven, eight books. And the most incredible thing is they all say the same thing.

Which is, none of us know what we're doing, right, even when we're at book eight. [00:26:00] And that is so validating to not only hear, but then to be able to share with my audience, with my clients, with my friends. Because, you know, to just hear someone say, you're not doing this wrong. Yeah, we're all confused. We're all trying to figure it out.

I mean, I was on the phone the other day with an author friend who is traditionally published and working on her fourth book. And she said, Elizabeth, I need plot help. And we were on the phone for over an hour and I said, this is miraculous to me that you've written three novels and we're on the phone here and you're trying to figure out, well, does that make sense?

Well, could she do this? Well, what if he did this? Well, should it be in this country? Because we don't, as readers and as aspiring authors, we don't ever see that part of the process. We don't see the shitty first draft. We don't see the days when people are like, I just don't feel like writing today. Like, I'm on deadline, but I don't want to.

We don't see any of that. And so that's actually why I started the podcast. Because I had every appendage [00:27:00] crossed that the authors would be transparent. You know, and honest, which I guess is the same thing, enough to say, yeah, this is tough, or I added this line in draft 15, or, you know, right before my pub date, I moved everything, and they are, everybody who's come on is that honest. 

Jessica Fein: So essentially the biggest challenge is that everybody is totally lost.

Elizabeth Lyons: Everybody is totally lost and they think they're the only one who's lost. Ah, right. And so they think they're doing something wrong or to come back full circle to the beginning, I'm not supposed to be doing this. 

Jessica Fein: And in your situation, it's so interesting because you are the creative, writing your own books, ghost writing, and you're also the business person helping people navigate the whole system, publishing other people's books.

So how do you marry those two?

Elizabeth Lyons: It's easy and it's challenging in different ways. It's easy because I do understand both sides. Here's an example. This is a weird example, but I feel like your audience is going to understand. I have always had a female gynecologist. [00:28:00] I've had two male doctors deliver babies.

So OB different. But now, at my age and stage of life, I want a female gynecologist. Maybe she's not had a baby, maybe she's not in perimenopause, whatever, but I do just feel like there's that slight bit more understanding of what I'm saying when I say, I feel like I'm losing my mind and no one understands.

She immediately goes, uh huh, I get it. Even though that doesn't clinically or logically make sense, I get it. Being able to be on both sides of this, allows me to truly understand when my own clients are like, I don't want to write, or I don't think I have anything left to say, or I'm afraid I'm going to get in trouble.

Someone's going to get angry. I legit understand now on the business side. And it sometimes is more frustrating because I so badly want to shorten the time from I want to write a book to I'm writing a book. And the reason that that time is so long is [00:29:00] because of all these misconceptions and myths and misunderstandings about the industry, the process, and how everyone else is doing it.

Jessica Fein: Let's talk about people who say, I want to write the damn book, but I don't know how to start. What advice do you give them? 

Elizabeth Lyons: Right. The thing I said when I started my seventh book. I really want to write this and I have no idea where to start. So it's rampant, you know, the most unhelpful advice that I used to give regularly was just start because it's so obvious.

But as I say in the book, write the damn book already. It's borderline insulting because surely you've thought of that, but it's also as simple as that. So the greatest piece of, if you want to call it advice or the greatest suggestion I have at this point is get yourself around other people who are doing it.

And even if. The only way you do that is by [00:30:00] listening to podcasts. I don't mean that you have to go join a program or go out of your house if you don't, I mean, look, I don't want to people any more than anyone else. If you don't want to go to an event, that's okay. Start listening to podcasts. Listen to podcasts where authors are actually talking about how they did it.

Because I find that more often than not, that provides this level of, I can do this. The other big suggestion I have is, you know, one big misconception about writing a book is that it's very romantic. Like, I need to go out into a cabin in the woods and sequester myself there for eight days and all I do is write.

No cell phone, no working plumbing, I don't know what people are thinking. But that's not true. So there's a thought, I have to be able to devote two, four, six, eight hours a day. I have a full time job. I'm a full time parent. I can't do that. It's our brain trying to keep us safe, saying, these are all the reasons this won't work, because if we don't do it, then we can't possibly fail at it.

There is no failure in any of it. [00:31:00] So, you don't need an hour. Take five minutes. It's amazing to me how many brilliant books were written 15 minutes at a time. 

Jessica Fein: I will say I, and I know I started at the beginning of this conversation, I mentioned Toni Morrison, but I believe one of her first books she wrote while she was on the subway to and from work.

Yes. Do you feel like part of it is you should really not do this if you aren't going to enjoy the process? And what I mean by that is I hate, hate exercising. I love having exercised. That's why we are friends. Right? And I wonder if it's like, if you're going to hate writing the book and you just want to be able to have written the book, then maybe this isn't for you.

Right? I mean, cause it's a lot of work.

Elizabeth Lyons: It is absolutely a lot of work. And that's one of the first things I put out there. People are like, why are you being a negative Nancy? And I'm not trying to be, but it's very important to me to set proper expectations. So I'm trying to get everybody off this bus of, you can write a great book in a weekend and then you'll sell 150, 000 copies and make 18 quadrillion dollars.

[00:32:00] No wrong. Incorrect. Okay. So it is hard work. Think about everything that you've done in your life that ultimately was like, Oh my God, this is amazing. It probably required some work. Otherwise, honestly, it doesn't make a great impression. You know, training for a marathon, which I've never done and will never do, or becoming a doctor.

These things are simple, but they're not easy, right? So number one, it will be hard work. Now. I heard a brilliant interview a couple months ago on the wiser than me podcast with Julia Louis Dreyfus and she, it's amazing. And she interviewed Isabel Allende. And I wanted to. die because I now I just need to meet Isabel, well, and Julia, but see, I'm clearly on a first name basis with both.

Um, Isabel Allende said something about if you hate writing, why are you doing this? And I actually might disagree with Isabel. 

Jessica Fein: Oh, wow. Okay. Tell us.

Elizabeth Lyons: Well, here's the thing. If you're in pain, the whole time [00:33:00] you're writing the whole book, of course, there are things that we write about if we're writing memoir.

That are challenging. And you're not maybe gonna love that. And I get that. And that's completely fair. But if every single time, for the whole time, you sit down and you're in pain and you're hating this, you know, maybe this isn't for you. Because the truth of the matter is that your reader will absorb that energy.

They will feel that. I don't know how it happens, like, scientifically, but they feel your passion, or lack thereof. If it's super sterile and you're trying to avoid the hard stuff, even if you're writing fiction and you're trying to stay surface level because you just want to get to the end, you don't take the reader anywhere.

You don't take them into a deep place. And that's where there's magic in books. No matter the genre. It could be poetry. It could be nonfiction, memoir, fiction, creative. It doesn't matter. What I believe to be true is that we think we don't like the writing because we put all this pressure on ourselves.

We're not sure if we can do it when we can give ourselves five minutes [00:34:00] and sit down. I cannot tell you how many times people's five minutes turn into 30 because once they're doing it and they've turned off that voice that says, do it right, make it perfect, make it sink and they lose themselves in it.

So I think it's a story pun intended that we tell ourselves. I actually have a reel up that says. We all hate writing because it's the initial thought. It's not the truth, but it's the initial thought that so many writers and authors identify with. 

Jessica Fein: You know, that's really interesting. I, like you, you said you will never train for a marathon.

I will never be a runner. I mean, just to be clear, I can do like a fast amble or like, you know, maybe if I'm feeling really good, a sachet, but I am never going to be running. However, I have heard, rumor has it, that runners feel like it's hard at the very beginning, and then they get into this other headspace and they can just go.

And that sounds to me similar to what you're [00:35:00] describing.

Elizabeth Lyons: Absolutely. And I'm with you. I've never run for a long enough period of time to get into that headspace, but I've heard it exists. I'm more of a grapeviner. You know, you sashay, I grapevine. Like, we would be a sight to see in the New York City Marathon.

I don't think we'd even qualify. But the bottom line is, yes, that is a great analogy for what happens, even though I can't speak from experience. 

Jessica Fein: Right. Rumor has it. So we're told. 

A lot of people listening to this show are living with really tough circumstances, really tough challenges, and they have amazing stories to tell.

Yeah. But their lives are so complicated that it's hard for them to figure out how to do it on so many levels, how to do it logistically, how to do it emotionally. And so if you were to be able to give a couple of pieces of advice, what might that be?

Elizabeth Lyons: This is one of my favorite things to talk about because I've worked over the years with people who are [00:36:00] writing about their experience with domestic violence, about drug addiction, about suicide, I mean, really challenging things, illness, etc.

And they have other things going on in their lives, right? They have full time jobs. I think one of the things that we disregard about writing people who aren't air quote supposed to write a book don't ever think about writing a book about it unless there's someone who's thinking about like they've seen the ad and they're thinking I could make a bajillion dollars doing this in a weekend.

The rest of us aren't thinking that way. So if you are a reader and you love books and you've thought I wonder if I could write about this You can and I will never say you should or you have to those are not words that I use but you can There is something to be said something very significant to be said about writing Through an experience, and I have seen it happen more times.

I can't disregard this at this [00:37:00] point where a writer who's writing about something very challenging sits down to do it and has that kind of perfectionist. I've got to get this right mindset from the jump. That's very stifling. And it's also based on a misbelief that that's how the real writers do it.

They just sit down, and this beautiful, it just comes out, and it's amazing, and it doesn't even really need editing, and it's, oh my god, not true. More often, I see people take three, four, sometimes five years. To write something because they do have to take a break in the middle because they hit a point where they're like, Oh my God, I didn't know this was affecting me.

I've got to go get some therapy for it. Like, I want, I want, not I have to, but like, I want to uncover this so that I can go deeper and they write their way through through to not only a book, but their own healing. And it's the most beautiful, peripheral, unexpected benefit and gift of writing specifically [00:38:00] memoir.

It would be disingenuous for me to say that I understand how hard some of those things are to write about because I don't. Just give yourself the grace. And the compassion to allow yourself to take five minutes and just journal it for you. And then if you want to go deeper, go deeper. And if you decide, Oh, this is, I can't touch this right now.

Metaphorically, give yourself the grace to say, I'll come back to this when I feel ready to touch this. Because when you do, you will write about it in a so much more powerful way. And you'll understand in hindsight why you didn't do it in a weekend.

Jessica Fein: Yeah, that's so gorgeous. And you know, it's interesting because there's a saying that you should write from the scars, right?

But I will say that there is also something to be said for, as you just put it, five minutes of journaling while you're in it. Or as you said earlier in the conversation, you kind of wished you had done some of the writing while you were pregnant, because the true raw feeling that [00:39:00] you're experiencing, if you can just get that down, even in notes, It's going to be so valuable later when you're looking back and trying to tell the story.

Elizabeth Lyons: You know, there's something that I think is really important. That quote I love right from the scar, not from the wound. But here's the thing. A lot of people believe I have to be healed, fully healed in order to write about it or release it. And I don't subscribe to that. I don't think you can put a timeline or a measure on someone's healing.

My guidance is not write from the scar, not from the wound, but release from the scar, not from the wound. And by the way, everyone's scars look different. So some scars are invisible because somebody found some sort of a cream or some, you know, that makes them go away. Some scars will be there forever. So don't judge your scar and say, well, my scar is not quite as healed as that person's scar.

So therefore, I'm not ready to release this yet. It's really an inner trust. And this is the [00:40:00] part of book writing that people don't A, know about, and then B, if they're doing it, they don't anticipate it. If there's one thing you have to do, and there, I, again, I hate that phrase, but it's develop your own inner trust before the book comes out so that you can release it without fear.

Jessica Fein: Right, right. I did call you the other night to say, I'm worried. I'm worried.

Elizabeth Lyons: And that part's so normal. I mean, You know, I had this huge smile on my face when, when we were chatting about that, because I mean, people who have written eight books will release a book and go, I'm, uh, uh, it's coming out tomorrow.

I'm terrified. I think, um, I might be concerned about chapter three. Is this gonna be bad? I mean, people often think, oh, authors who are releasing their fourth book, they have it easier than people who are releasing their first book. No, no, no. Because the person releasing their fourth book is often being compared, their fourth book is now being compared to the third book.

Right. So they have that fear. Right. What if this book isn't as well received? What if it doesn't [00:41:00] sell as well? So, it doesn't ever go away. 

Jessica Fein: Okay. And so to that point, one of the things you said earlier on was through your own podcast and through people just being really vulnerable and sharing, you have realized how common this is, these kinds of questions and insecurities.

And also you said that one of the best ways for people to get going is to listen to writing podcasts. So, I mean, I would say, start with yours, you know, I mean, it's such a great one. Yeah. So. Just as we wrap up, if you can just share a bit about your podcast and also if there's, you know, a couple of others that you would recommend if people want to dive in that way.

Elizabeth Lyons: For sure. So, I mean, mine really is not focused on the book itself, although sometimes we'll touch upon that or I'll ask a question about a quote that just blew me away or whatever. It's more focused on the process, the writing process, the editing process, the publishing process. I speak with self published, hybrid published and traditionally published authors.

I want a very well [00:42:00] rounded. Set of experiences represented. So that's my goal with mine. I am obsessed with “The Shit No One Tells you About Writing,” which is Carly Watters, CeCe Lyra, Bianca Marais. It's wonderful. And if you are interested in hearing how other people's queries are critiqued, it's a great podcast to listen to also just about the whole industry side.

If you're interested at all in the traditional side and the agenting side and all of that, it's, it's great. KM Weiland is a wonderful writing coach who has a great podcast. Those are some of the ones I'm probably most, air quote, obsessed with. I also listen to some pro, like for example, “Wiser Than Me.” I cannot tell you how many ideas I got for books or for myself listening to “Wiser Than Me.” There are podcasts I listen to that aren't writing specific, but they are extremely helpful to me as a human, as a woman, and as a writer. 

Jessica Fein: Well, that's great. I love that. Liz, thank you. I [00:43:00] love talking to you. And there's so much people can learn from this as they think is ’24 going to be the year that I start my book.

And so maybe we've inspired some people to, I want to say pick up the pen, but, you know, since, since it is not when you and I pick up the quill, pick up the quill. 

Elizabeth Lyons: pick up the quill, people calligraphy is coming back. Apparently, thanks so much. 

Jessica Fein: Here are my takeaways from the conversation with Liz.

Number one, none of us knows what we're doing. We don't see other people's behind the scenes of doubt and fear. So we think we're doing it wrong. We aren't. Number two, when you want to do something, whether that's writing a book or something else. Put yourself around other people who are doing that fit.

And that doesn't mean you have to get out of your pajamas or leave the house. Listen to podcasts or find people on social who are doing what you want to do. Number three, we have real full lives. It's okay to start with five minutes a day. Number four, if you are a reader. And you love books and you thought, I wonder if I could write about something you're going through.

You can. Number five, you can [00:44:00] start by giving yourself grace and compassion and just journaling for yourself. Number six, don't judge your scar against somebody else's. Some of us have invisible scars, some have lotions. that other people don't know about, healing looks different for each of us. Number seven, the one thing you have to do is develop your own inner trust before your book comes out.

That's one I will take to heart as I begin my 100 day countdown until my memoir, Breath Taking, is released. If you like this episode, share it with a friend. And the best way to help the show grow Is to take just one minute to rate and review it, and I'd be so, so grateful if you did that. Have a great day.

Talk to you next time.