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August 13, 2020
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I Wrote A Book During The Pandemic. Here’s What I Learned.

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Did it have to take a global pandemic for you to start something you’re passionate about?

Ever since I was 15 years old, I’ve always had this dream of becoming a famous author by the time I hit my 40s.

I was so passionate about reading business books like Robert Kiyosaki’s “Rich Dad, Poor Dad”, thinking that someday I’d be as good as them to write about the things I’ve learned in my life as an entrepreneur.

In 2016, the year I graduated from college, I started a passion project called Eight A Week. In this email newsletter, I’d write about eight things that entrepreneurs needed to read about throughout the week, hoping they’d rely less on social media and more on my emails. From this project, it’d soon open up doors for me to start taking up clients to write for their blogs or email newsletters.

Fast forward to today, I’m now currently 26-years old; co-founder and CEO of Eight Media, a digital marketing agency based in Laguna.

What started as a passion project of writing solo for clients turned into this scruffy but talented team of nine, full-time creatives with a passion for helping out other entrepreneurs through everything digital or online. From just writing for blogs, we’ve started growing to handling everything from (ironically) social media to full-blown websites.

As time went on, I gradually edged myself out of doing hands-on writing work, and slowly transitioned into running sales and planning for our company’s long-term goals.

I took on less and less writing work, inching towards managerial work instead.

I slowly felt that I was inching away from the reason I started my startup: to “make stories sell” (one of our first taglines)— this coming from my love for writing and creating stories that connected with people.

It was a lesson for me in learning what the market wanted; building a writers-only company was not only hard to scale, it also meant jumping in to a highly competitive space filled with agencies and freelancers.

I felt that it was a good call to shy away from that— but I still had a hole in my creative side slowly growing inside me.

Enter 2020, when I enrolled into a 4-month life/career coaching program. As I told them about my future plans of becoming an author, one of the first questions they asked me was: “What’s stopping you from doing it today?”

What’s Stopping You From Doing It Today?

Indeed, my dreams of becoming a book author was thrown onto the back-burner because of many reasons I told myself.

  • I had responsibilities as CEO of my company. Spending time on my book would take precious time away from growing my business.
  • I had responsibilities as the “dad” of the house. My dad works abroad, leaving me as the sole mechanic / driver / cook / bills payer / grocery runner for my mom and two sisters.
  • I had the responsibility of taking care of myself. I already spent almost every waking hour of my life on work— I had to take time to take care of myself. A couple hours of binging Netflix series or playing video games was all I had to keep me sane— taking time away from that would make me crazy.
  • I had the responsibility to juggle all these responsibilities at the same time. One misstep meant that I would either let my team or family down, or go insane trying to go superman-mode without rest.

As I listed down all these points, I eventually came to the realization that these were not reasons that stopped myself from writing; these were excuses I told myself that kept me safe from exploring what it’s like to actually write the book— and the fears that came along with it.

“Would people read it? Would people like it? Would people hate it? Bash it? Would other entrepreneurs trash it, call it false insights from a newbie entrepreneur?”

People? Others? Turns out, I was limiting what I could create because I put value more on what other people would think.

I was looking down on myself, thinking that what I could write would be insignificant to the rest of the world.

I was invalidating my experiences of starting, building, and growing, a seven-figure a year business. A business that was once just an idea in my head.

I was already thinking of how things could go wrong, even without having started anything yet.

It was when I had these realizations when my life coach gave me the best piece of advice to get my book off the ground.

”Forget other people. Write for yourself.”

I figured, “Screw it. Let’s write a book.”

And so I did.

Where To Start

Working with just a 4-month timeline, I had to make the most out of every second to ensure that I had a book that got my message across even in just a short amount of writing time.

So, like every responsible person does… I waited until I had like a month and a half left before finishing my book. Oops. But more on that in a bit.

SMART Goals

I had to have a semblance of progress throughout every week that passes. Not only because it was required for us to track that, but also because I needed to make sure that the mental conflict I had against writing my book was kept in check— seeing progress meant me slowly beating down my fears in publishing a book.

And so I started crafting a clear statement on what I wanted to achieve in a span of four months.

SMART Goals: ‘S’ stands for Specific, ‘M’ stands for Measurable, ‘A’ stands for Attainable, ‘R’ for Relevant, and ‘T’ for Time-Bound.

Specific: If I had just put in ‘I will write a book’ in my goal statement, I could’ve gone many routes to reach that goal— I could’ve written a comic book or even a cookbook. Instead, I needed to be as specific as possible at what I wanted to achieve: a book about my personal journey so far, culminating in a book launch.

Measurable: How long should the book be? Without this metric, just writing one chapter and calling it a book was enough for me to hit my goal. I wrote down an outline of the things I wanted to talk about in my book and set specific lengths as to how each part would take— Eight chapters was what I needed to get my point across.

Attainable: Overall, was my goal realistic enough to be achieved in a span of four-months? Targeting an encyclopedia’s worth of content was definitely out of the question— setting that up as my goal was just like setting myself up for failure.

Relevant: What was this goal for me? Why was I doing this? Without any exact emotional hold on me, I would just feel that this was more of compliance to our coaching program. But the fact that I was writing this ‘to fulfill my lifelong dream of becoming a best-selling author’ was enough push to get this off the ground. This certainly would not be the last book I write, and maybe not the one that puts my name on the map, but this certainly was a big step towards coming closer to that goal.

Time-Bound: Very self-explanatory. How long would this take? In my case, my book had to be done in at least four months, just in time before the last day of our coaching program.

With my SMART Goal statement set, it was then just a matter of working backwards to see how I could break it up into parts. Week one was dedicated to setting up the chapter outlines, week two was for writing chapter names, week three was for writing the introduction, etc.

Everything was already in place. All I had to do was start.

Writing Was The Easy Part. Starting Was The Hardest.

Writing the title of the book was easy. I already had one in mind ever since I started writing the outline.

Writing my ‘Table of Contents’ was easy. I already had an outline of what I wanted to write. Copy - Paste - DONE!

Introduction? Piece of cake. It was basically a direct copy from my inspirational seminar pieces when I talk about my journey as an entrepreneur, save for a few little tweaks to turn it into written format. That’s one chapter done!

Now came the start of writing the actual book. It was time to put my ideas to paper (screen, really) and start crafting something new from scratch! How exciting!

A week passes. Then two. Then three.

My coach follows up with me every day. “How’s the book coming along?”

I’d tell excuses about being busy, about how I would definitely catch up on my chapters over the weekend, not telling him that I’ve been putting it off because of how tense I get when I start opening up my writing app.

I’d stare at a blinking cursor on the screen, not knowing how to put my thoughts in order and start typing.

And when I do start typing, I’d immediately read through what I just wrote, figure it’s crap, and erase it to start from scratch.

Through sheer struggle, I was able to squeeze about half my book in a span of a month and a half.

I figured that I had a lot of time to get through this argument between my head and my fingers before the end of four months, and focusing on getting work and family responsibilities out of the way first was key to getting my mind in shape to finally start writing.

What happened next though was, in all accounts, the absolute definition and encapsulation of the acronym, ‘lol’.

The Pandemic Hits


Four chapters in, the world stood still as the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Chaos was everywhere.

My responsibilities as CEO of my company, the ‘dad’ of the house, and the sole guardian of my sanity went into overdrive.

A lot of our clients were going on pause, and catching up with sales to pay salaries became my top priority. All this while working with my COO to shift operations to remote work, keep up team morale, and do whatever it takes to not let anyone go— layoffs were a strict no-no.

I was the only one in the house who went out for groceries, and lines in the supermarket were spent with me going on Zoom calls on the phone.

All this with me rolling around in bed at night, unable to sleep, not sure of what the future brings for me and my company.

But I still had to write my book. And going with how I used to work before the pandemic was not enough to push things forward.

It was then when I learned the key thing that helped me keep on with writing.

Motivation is a Myth. Just Get Things Done.

People always have this idea that creating something will come at the right moment— at the right time of day, with the right set of tools, the right type of mood, and the right setting for motivation.

For the past months that I’ve been writing, that’s always been how I envisioned it.

“I’ll write when I have the time.” “Maybe I should go to Tagaytay to set myself into the mood.” “This weekend, i’ll definitely have time to write.”

But putting off the work ‘later’ eventually spirals from hours into days. Then days into weeks. Weeks into months.

I was fortunate enough to have someone hold me accountable to a deadline— most people don’t. With just you setting up deadlines for yourself, it’s easy to keep putting off starting.

Most people have this mindset of ‘Have-Do-Be’:

  • When I HAVE the time / knowledge / right laptop or camera,
  • I’ll be able to DO the work,
  • and eventually BE the the writer / artist / content creator / entrepreneur that I want to become.

What worked for me was the opposite— the right way of doing things to get yourself started.

‘Be-Do-Have’:

  • BE the writer / artist / content creator / entrepreneur you want to be. Let it sink in, and believe that you’re already whoever you want to be.
  • Eventually, my belief of being, in my case, an author, helped me align towards what I needed to DO. That meant proper discipline in my writing schedule, like what great writers usually have.(cue: Non-Stop, from the Broadway hit, Hamilton)
  • And by doing the work, your end results speak for it. You finally HAVE what you’ve always wanted. Again, in my case, a finished book.

Thanks to my coach, that shift in mindset was what I needed to keep on pushing despite everything that was happening around me.

I started establishing a routine for my day— wake up at 7am, exercise, have breakfast, and write 1,000 words. By the time I finished, I was ready to jump into work and keep up with my responsibilities.

I also stopped filtering the words I typed— I used to edit as I write, usually turning into a cycle of writing a sentence, not being happy with it, and starting from scratch. It actually became more fun to write anything and everything that popped into my head, and just edit it at the end of the chapter. My thoughts became unshackled and I ended up with more content and realizations as I typed.

With every thousand words that I wrote, my mind became less and less tense. I was focusing on the work that needed to be done, I was putting in the words to complete my chapters, and I finally ended up with a finished book.

Eventually, I was already on the final step.

Conclusion

Was I ready to show the world what I made?

“Would people read it? Would people like it? Would people hate it? Bash it? Would other entrepreneurs trash it, call it false insights from a newbie entrepreneur?”

I had people help me with my book cover and the edits, and I even made a website to showcase the book.

After uploading the book, it was just a single button click away that stood between me and fulfilling my dreams of becoming an author.

My cursor hovered on the ‘Publish’ button.

My finger on the trackpad began to feel numb. Was I ready?

I realized that those past four months were the most grueling moments of my life as a writer— but all that mattered was I finally wrote a book.

What was supposed to be my retirement plan came at the age of 26.

All that was left was to hit ‘Publish’.

Screw it. Let’s publish a book.

Click.

—-——

“Never have I expected that a book will understand the entirety of my thoughts as a young entrepreneur— Love At First Sale perfectly encapsulates the rollercoaster journey that entrepreneurs go through, but never really dare talk about. An easy read that’s concise, bold, and very brave!”

  • Ace Gapuz, CEO, Blogapalooza

Gerald Castillo © 2021