I’ve dreamt of writing a book my whole life. Even before I knew how to write I would dictate stories to my dad to put down onto paper for me. I wanted more than anything to be an author. However, as the years went by, I got distracted from my dream and eventually started to doubt I was even capable of writing a book.
I made multiple attempts to start a book, but there was always something that got in the way- writer’s block, my inner critic, or other competing priorities, to name a few. On multiple occasions, I even decided I’d only tricked myself into thinking I wanted to write a book. I’d say to myself, “Can’t I just be happy with the other things I’ve accomplished?” and I’d distract myself for a while with another project.
But the dream to write a book always came knocking on my door again. In November 2019 it came in the form of a LinkedIn invitation to connect with a book coach. I had just thrown in the towel on my latest attempt to try and write my book by giving up on the NaNoWriMo writing challenge halfway through the month. NaNoWriMo stands for “National Novel Writing Month” and the challenge is to commit to writing 50,000 words, or the rough draft of a book, in one month. This was the second year in a row I hadn’t finished the challenge and my inner critic was having a great time waving this in my face as proof that I wasn’t cut out to be an author.
Seeing this invitation on LinkedIn seemed serendipitous. Here I was doubting that I’d ever bring my book to life and someone had arrived on my virtual doorstep whose profession was dedicated to helping people do just that.
This also wasn’t an invitation from someone random. It was from Caroline Allen, a book coach whom I’d heard speak at the Families in Global Transition (FIGT) conference back in 2018 in The Hague. Her message about the expat journey as a form of the hero’s journey had deeply moved me and reaffirmed why I found so much joy in working with my international clients. Speaking with her helped me to believe in my book, and my own abilities, once again. I started off 2020 with a renewed commitment to my book, and now with a book coach to help hold me accountable and provide guidance along the way.
Without the structure I’ve created with my book coach, I suspect I wouldn’t have made it this far. While I cannot imagine a life without writing, it is also one of the most grueling activities for me. I recently heard an author describe the book writing process as “torture,” and I thought that seemed like a pretty accurate way to describe my own experience. Each time I sit down to write, I’m joined by anxiety, fear, my inner critic, perfectionism, and imposter syndrome. I constantly need to put into practice the tools I share with my clients for how to make sure these inner gremlins don’t paralyze me.
Instead, I try to focus on a quote I’ve written on the whiteboard that hangs above my desk-
“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.”
For the past year, that’s what I’ve been doing. Telling myself the first version of the story that one day I’ll be sharing with all of you. And in spite of the fact that it often feels like I’m slogging my way through mud, I also can’t imagine any other way I’d rather be spending my free time, especially since it’s so limited now that I have a baby.
After making so much progress with my book in the first half of 2020 it was so difficult to put it on hold when my son was born last August. After he was born I was eager to find my “new normal” as soon as possible so I could get back to writing. Carving out this space to honor my creativity and practice the craft of writing on a regular basis feels like one of the biggest gifts I can give to myself. Not only is it a time to work towards my book, but it’s given me the permission to finally own my identity as a writer.
Now, you might be wondering if I’m going to tell you what this book is all about, and the answer is yes!
Although I initially considered writing a self-help book (it seems like the obvious choice amongst small business owners these days), I knew deep down that I needed to write my own story. It’s not very common for people trained as therapists to divulge the details of their own lives. We’re more in the business of safekeeping others’ secrets rather than sharing our own.
However, the reason I was first attracted to the field of mental health was because of my own struggles with anxiety, depression, and an eating disorder. During some of my most difficult moments in life, I have found my way forward by promising myself that once I got through it I would one day make meaning out of my suffering by sharing my story.
This book is a fullfillment of that promise to myself. In it, I’ll be sharing how living abroad helped me to heal a relationship that I’d struggled with my whole life- my relationship with myself.
I hope that sharing my story will encourage others to join me in no longer seeing themselves as broken and instead start embracing themselves as the messy humans we ALL are. I also hope that it might inspire readers to go on their own journey- either inside of themselves or around the world- and to feel empowered to share their story as well.
As I continue to work on this book in the upcoming months I’ll be sharing more glimpses of my writing process with you as well as what you’ll find inside the pages of the book.
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