“Go as far as you can see; when you get there, you'll be able to see further.”
This is one of my all-time favourite quotes, and never has it been more pertinent for me than in the past 18 months writing a book.
When I started the Changemaker’s Project in 2011, I didn’t know it would become a book. As far as I could see back then was interviewing as many successful changemakers as my schedule would allow.
When I presented my project’s findings at a global conference in August 2017, I received encouragement to write a book and publish the research. That sounded great and exciting and a logical next step, but I did not know how to write a book. As far as I could see was to just get ‘bum in seat’ and start typing.
I finished writing the first draft a year ago. That felt big, finishing the first draft. I announced my achievement on Facebook and asked for help with next steps, because I did not know how to turn my Word document into a book I could hold in my hands. As far as I could see was to interview local authors to find out how they did it.
And on it went.
Looking back over the last year, I notice this pattern repeating: I don’t know how to do it, I learn about it, and then I take a small step toward it. That’s it. So this giant, how-will-I-ever-climb-this-Mount-Everest-of-a-book project is happening. But by the smallest of steps. I am literally going as far as I can see, and when I get there, I actually can see how to go further.
Changemakers know this. One of the most reassuring themes from my research is that successful changemakers don’t have the whole thing figured out before they start. They take a small step, see how it goes, make any adjustments, and then step again. They are committed to their cause (or program or project or initiative) and they keep taking small actions.
One other thing I’ve noticed on my journey: These small steps feel like terrifying leaps at the time. For example, it was scary to let someone else see my manuscript, so it sat there for 6 months (6 MONTHS!) until September when I sent it to a professional editor. And then a month ago it felt like an even bigger, scarier leap to give the refined, edited version to people I know and respect to get their feedback. I am learning it’s okay to feel scared. For me it means that we are deeply invested in our commitment, and what we do matters.
The last 18 months haven’t been easy and my path hasn’t been linear or without setbacks, but I’m still on the path. And I’m still making progress. I am really hoping to hold my book in my hands by the end of the calendar year, but that’s another Mount Everest. Right now, as far as I can see is to hunker down and choose a self-publishing company.