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LEARNING BY THE BOOK: 7 TRUTHS I’VE DISCOVERED FROM BECOMING AN AUTHOR

I did it! I wrote a book! French Complexion, the secrets to beautiful skin at any age (Penguin Random House Australia) is now off the press – available worldwide (with free shipping) via insert affiliate link and will hit the bookstores of Australia and New Zealand in late March.

What initially drove me to write this book was the desire to offer a professional and helpful alternative to the masses of sponsored (i.e. marketing-driven) skincare blogs and articles out there. I wanted to share my expert knowledge and independent skincare philosophy built on my French cultural heritage and experience working as a hands-on facialist for more than two decades.

This book-writing adventure has been very enriching: allowing me to grow on both a professional and personal level. It has also made me discover the fascinating world of book publishing. Here is what I found.

It can all be done on an iPad 

Maybe it’s because I have watched too many episodes of Sex and the City where you see Carrie Bradshaw typing on her computer and confined to her Manhattan apartment, but I didn’t think that you could write a 217-page book on just a little iPad. I am really glad that I thought of using such a device because it allowed me to be very mobile: my iPad easily fits in my handbag, so it was always within arm’s reach when inspiration struck! 

Inspiration comes randomly 

What I found interesting about writing a book is that you cannot always predict when and where your creative juices are going to flow. Having said that, I did find the two following scenarios to often be the most inspirationally productive: 

1 – About 6am and I am seated on the sofa at home, everything is still and quiet.

2 – Mid morning or afternoon when I am in the ‘company’ of strangers in a cafe surrounded by a medium level of background noise and activity.

Writer on the move
Writer on the move

It takes you on an emotional roller coaster ride

Tapping into your creative side makes you somehow vulnerable. At first, there is something a little unnerving about putting your personal ideas on paper…and having your thoughts and principles put out there for public scrutiny. You hear this nagging voice inside you head say, ‘Who cares what you think? Who do you think you are?’ But you soon accept the fact that self-doubt is the part-and-parcel of writing something that is close to your heart. What helped me cope was constantly keeping top-of-mind my reason and motivation for wanting to publish my skincare approach in the first place (i.e. to help women avoid damaging their skin).

It helps to work with an editor

There is only one word – OVERWHELMED – to aptly describe how you, the writer, feel as you’re trying to get your head around the entire book publishing process – from the day you receive your publishing contract up until the time you’re supposed to hand over the final manuscript. But like most challenges in life, you soon figure your way around things. Working with your editor is like dancing the tango: you must let yourself be guided by your editor (who knows the steps and the tempo better than you do) while gently affirming your expressive dancing style (your core vision). It is a passionate and intense dance!

It takes longer than you think

All up, it took me about two years (part-time) to complete this book. Preparing a manuscript and undertaking two partial rewrites to refine the text, the entire process felt endless at times! In hindsight, however, this timespan was totally necessary for clarifying the book’s core messages as well as nailing the illustrative concept (to make it congruent with my vision and words). When I look at the finished book today, I feel proud of what I’ve achieved and this makes all the frustration, fatigue and stress worth it.

Nearly there!
Nearly there!

It is not good for the waistline

Writing made me crave carbs. Maybe it’s because my brain went into overdrive and required that extra glucose to function at its optimum level. Or perhaps I simply needed extra comfort food to curb some of the stress caused by the successive deadlines that are part of the editorial process…or both. Coupled with the fact that I often traded my daily walks or weekly Pilates class to have more time for writing, the extra intake of pasta and chocolate did cause me to gain five kilos (which I’ve since shed by going back to healthier lifestyle choices).

It is addictive

Writing is an interesting process. The more you write, the better your style becomes and the more prolific you end up being as a writer. This is probably the reason why, not long after finally handed over the manuscript to your editor for the last time (fatigued and brain-drained from all the final proofreading!), you soon surprise yourself thinking about what your next book might be about. Once you have unleashed the writer in you, you then realise that you cannot imagine your life without writing. But frankly, I could think of worse addictions to have!

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Voilà!
Christine Clais
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