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Navigating the Challenges of Writing Your Book

Tracking Wonder - Challenges of Writing Your Book


Here is what I cannot stop asking myself: How do people get through the inevitable challenge of writing and create their best work? What drives them?

Really, that question has driven me for years to experiment with, research, and create.

It’s driven me to track wonder.

It’s one thing to fall in love with a fantasy. It’s another thing to stand in love with a dream.

Members in the Tracking Wonder community and ecosystem are creating their best work. Like, every week. It’s a pretty astonishing to witness. They’re launching workshops, websites, writing books, poetry & building businesses.

But none of them are without challenges. Read more

Guidelines for Crafting Story

Image: Unsplash

Image: Unsplash

So who’s your Story about?

I generally feel a wee bit disoriented right after shaping a book proposal.

What’s it worth? I wondered. What if my agent rejects it? What if this is all a fool’s errand? What have I done with my life? Okay, I don’t go quite that far.

Last time this happened, my six-year-old peeked in my study. She wanted to show me her outfit – a summer skirt and a short-sleever atop a long-sleever.

“I just couldn’t wait any longer to wear summer clothes,” she said as she twirled around the study. And at that moment, I remembered again why I’m writing this book, why I’m building Tracking Wonder, why I utterly adore engaging readers. Read more

How Many Drafts Does it Take to Write a Book?

Image: Unsplash

Image: Unsplash

Writing drafts is a process of discovery

You know, Michael Bungay Stanier didn’t write his elegant book The Coaching Habit in one draft. Or two. Or three. He wrote multiple drafts. In fact, he presented the book with multiple angles and in multiple structures to Workman Publishing, who had published his previous book Do More Great Work (that sold hundreds of thousands of copies) but to no avail.

Finally, after many attempts at getting his book published, Michael took matters into his own hands, hired his own publishing team, and published The Coaching Habit with his own Box of Crayons Press. Read more

The Freedom Project – Getting Started on Writing Your Book

Image : Unsplash

Image : Unsplash

How do we stay productive each day and each week while still feeling spacious with presence, delight, purpose? This comes up a lot when we discuss the process of writing your book.

“Productive” here references the quality that you’re moving forward on the projects and ideas that matter. And by “that matter” I mean the projects and ideas that light you up, that come from your own key drive (whether that’s novelty, mastery, impact, accomplishment), and that contribute in some way, great or small. Read more

From Writer to Published: Craft & Creative Mastery

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Image: Unsplash

You want to publish your book.

Whether you’re writing your first or fifth book, you fantasize about finishing that book, getting it into the hands and hearts of people who need it, and what might happen to your life and sense of fulfillment as a writer once that book is “out there.”

But you feel a tension. This tension is the gap between what you currently know and what your skill set is a present, versus what you might need to know and be able to do and create in order to reach that place you fantasize about.

That gap in knowledge can feel like a chasm.

That chasm’s enormity can take your breath away.

The self-masochism begins. Read more

Books That Matter to Author & Psychology Professor Dacher Keltner

Note: Books That Matter is Tracking Wonder’s interview series that showcases influential thinkers’ and authors’ relationships with books that matter to them.

IMG_0419-Dacher-2Some men chase money and power. Dacher Keltner pursues compassion and power. The faculty director of the UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center, Dacher has shared the stage with the Dalai Lama, counseled Pixar for depicting emotions for the film Inside Out, and has advised Facebook on the use of emoticons. When I spoke with and interviewed Dacher a few years ago on his pursuit of wonder and awe, it became clear that Dacher lives  according to the interests he pursues and studies – compassion, awe, power for the greater good. His latest book, The Power Paradox: How We Gain & Lose Influence (Penguin Press 2016) challenges the old story that power corrupts. From the book description: “Power isn’t the capacity to act in cruel and uncaring ways; it is the ability to do good for others, expressed in daily life, and itself is a good thing.”

In this Books That Matter feature, Dacher shares the book that changed something profound in him, the little known book he champions, and the book that offers timeless, paradoxical wisdom that he most often re-reads.

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Books That Matter to Author & Editor Brian Clements

NoteBooks That Matter is Tracking Wonder’s interview series that showcases influential thinkers’ and authors’ relationships with books that matter to them.
20150714_155349“Assemble a congregation. The congregants may come from your workplace, from the street, from a store. You may assemble them in any room. Even though they ask, it is not necessary to explain to them the reason for their congregation. You may not, however, lie.” – from “Ritual for Beginning,” Brian Clements

I met Brian Clements nearly 20 years ago at a reading for his first book Essays Against Ruin. His imaginative daring within the sentence – versus the poetic line – instantly drew me into his world, and I’ve never quite left it as our paths have intersected in publishing, teaching, and more.

Clements once said that “Writing tends to be for me a kind of problem-solving, exploratory in the way that a land-surveyor explores—mapping out a piece of land, finding its contours, its boundaries, getting to know it by knowing its possibilities.” Author of numerous books, he is equally committed to being a writer as he is to being a caring professor, husband and father, and activist community member of Newtown, Connecticut – struck by the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, where his wife taught second grade.

Among the many things I admire about Brian is his insistence – amidst inevitable limitations in our humanity and in language – upon staying attuned to possibilities.

In this Books That Matter feature, Brian shares the book that opened his teenage eyes to the possibility of writing in a contemporary voice, the kinds of books he is seeking, and the book he is embarrassed to have never read.

Read more

Books That Matter to Poet and Author Kazim Ali

NoteBooks That Matter is Tracking Wonder’s interview series that showcases influential thinkers’ and authors’ relationships with books that matter to them.

Kazim Ali HeadshotWith a deft ear for sacred sounds engraved in political moments, Kazim Ali is a rare poet, writer, teacher, and publisher. His character is at once tender and fierce as can be his poetry and prose.

In this Books That Matter feature, Kazim shares the dangerous book he would like to live inside, the two books he has stopped reading in the middle because he didn’t want them to end, and his forecast for the future of publishing.

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Books That Matter to Splitopia Author Wendy Paris

NoteBooks That Matter is Tracking Wonder’s interview series that showcases influential thinkers’ and authors’ relationships with books that matter to them.

Wendy Paris HeadshotMix verve, poise, an impassioned appreciation for applied science, and an ongoing curiosity in relationships, and you come a little closer to understanding what makes Wendy Paris distinct as a captivating author and a vibrant human being. She’s worked as a print journalist, an editor for Psychology Today (when I met her), and a mentor-editor at the OpEd Project that boosts the profile of under-recognized women thought leaders & experts.

In this Books That Matter feature, Wendy shares the books that changed something profound in her at different stages of her life, how she might be Holly Golightly-meets-the-Oracle-of-Delphi, and the one thing that she hopes people come away with from her new book, Splitopia (Atria Books).

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Warning: You Cannot Plug in Your Potential


Let’s face it, this fellow cannot write.”
– Bob Manning about a young Tracey Kidder

“The life in us is like the water in the river. It may rise this year higher than man has ever known it, and flood the parched uplands; even this may be the eventful year, which will drown out all our muskrats.”
– Thoreau, conclusion, Walden

1. The potential for defeat abounds.

Tracey Kidder was twenty-seven years old when he walked into the hallowed Boston offices of The Atlantic Monthly, one of the United States’ most respected and longest running magazines, and asked for a freelance assignment. He found encouragement from an editor, Richard Todd, thirty-two.

Kidder started submitting several freelance pieces to Todd. Some of them  were workable enough that Todd could help Kidder shape them into something publishable. Many were not.

Atlantic’s chief editor, the notorious and tenacious Bob Manning, once scrawled on one of Kidder’s pieces a note:

“Let’s face it, this fellow cannot write.”

But Kidder did write. He had to write. And eventually he learned how to write like a captivating author.

Had Kidder ever heard or listened to the publisher’s voice, Dr. Paul Farmer’s story of wanting to cure the world would never have been told in Mountains Beyond Mountains, readers would never have experienced the inspiring story of fifth-grade teacher Ms. Zajac in Among School Children, or had their minds cracked wide open to a whole new computer wave that not every one could see coming in 1981 as Kidder (and Todd) saw in The Soul of a New Machine.

And Kidder might never have won the Pulitzer.  Read more