The Shyness Project

What do you want in a one-year project book?

Writing a book is much harder than writing a blog.

For one, blog posts are short.  They don’t have to connect together and transition smoothly from post to post.  Book chapters do.

I did not post every thought I had or action I took on this blog.  I wrote about a lot of my experiences but not all.  So now I am gathering what I can find on my computer and my journal and notebooks in search of all that I have written down this year.  I want to know exactly what I was thinking early on in 2011 so I can express my thoughts accurately in the book.

I wrote a draft of the first chapter a while ago one night in a writing frenzy, but now when I am trying to write chapter 2, I am struggling to find the right words. Who knew writer’s block could come so fast?

I think I might need more time to research and reflect before going further, or to skip a part of it for now and focus on another part.  I’m not worried, but I just thought I would share for those of you interested in writing a book someday.  Book writing is very different from blog writing, though blogging first has definitely given me an advantage.

While I gather my thoughts and do some more preparation, what are your thoughts on what you would like to be included in this book?  Would you be interested in reading my experiences straight through with the things I learned along the way and tips I found useful, or would you like there to be more “self-help” aspects involved?  Would you want to read say, my experience with talking to strangers, and then a separate chapter from an expert that shifts the focus to strategies on how you can do it too?   I’m thinking of how I can make the book flow smoothly but be the most effective at the same time. I definitely want to include interesting and helpful studies that have been done, inspiring or thought-provoking quotes, psychological theories and explanations, some others’ experiences, statistics I can find, and tips I’ve found personally helpful or others I know have found helpful.  And I’ll include all that I learned and the realizations I had in more depth. But I’d like to hear your input too and what you’ve enjoyed about other memoirs or books with a self-improvement basis.  Because I don’t want to write this just for the sake of writing a book, I want it to write it to comfort and help motivate people.

I was reading several of the reviews on The Happiness Project’s page and it made me think about what other people want in a book.  Some are very happy with reading her memoir and can take inspiration out of what she’s done, while others are upset that it was self-centered and her realizations were too obvious. (Realizations often are obvious, but experience really makes you understand the obvious and why certain things are said over and over.)

Then there’s Jamie Blyth’s book Fear is No Longer My Reality which mixes his story with advice from experts.  I read it and enjoyed the story but found it was kind of distracting jumping from his voice to the voice of experts throughout the chapters.  If I did include expert advice I would want to find a way for it to transition more smoothly and not seem like it was interrupting the flow.  I want it to read like a good story that people can read and take away from it what they want.

So please share your thoughts on all this.  Thank you and I look forward to the discussions!

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38 thoughts on “What do you want in a one-year project book?

  1. riatarded on said:

    Good luck! I would be looking forward to reading your book and I think it can help a lot of people!

    God bless you:)

  2. jakesprinter on said:

    Great article again Brittany 🙂

  3. Hi Brittany… If I may make some suggestions:

    Unless I’m mistaken, you spent a month each working on different aspects (e.g. talking to strangers, public speaking)? That sounds perfect for having one chapter for each month, and it’ll be chronological and yet organized by the 12 “challenges”.

    I’d be interested in reading about your experiences chronologically and from your personal viewpoint. At the same time, you could also include things like expert advice and pointers to online resources by having these boxed up separately, while the rest of the book is more of a narrative.

    Finally, what I don’t find in many “self-improvement” type books is what *doesn’t work* and what to do when people don’t achieve all they want to do. If you could talk about that, I think people would be able to better relate to your experiences, and it wouldn’t sound like yet another “I’m an expert; do this” or “Look at me, I succeeded, so can you” book.

    (Anyway, this my first comment but I’ve been following for a while. Thanks for sharing your experiences with all of us!)

    • Thank you very much CT! I loved this and thanks for taking the time to reflect and write on this. I spent about a month on each goal, though some took longer than others (particularly the public speaking one). So there were 10 goals in total and you’re right I definitely want to share them sequentially.

      Glad to know you’d be interested in the expert advice and other resources!

      And good idea on including what doesn’t work and what people can do when they don’t achieve all they want to. That’s an excellent point and I notice that isn’t included often as well. I definitely don’t want to come off like I’m an expert and everything I say will work for everyone. Things don’t always go to plan and that’s ok, the important thing is in the trying.

      Thank you for sharing your insights! I’m so glad to hear from you!

    • I am with CT 100%. Include the “What doesn’t work” along w/ the things that did. Personally I LOVE the sense I’m reading someone’s journal, not something all neat and pretty and you’ve got this whole thing figured out. The people who are probably going to be most drawn to your book are the ones still stuck in their shyness, thinking, is there any hope. As they read about you as a real person, struggles and all, it gives you even more credibility. That is one of the reasons I respect Barb and her new “self compassion” project. She does have lots of insight in personal growth, yet she freely admits there are times she struggles. (like we all do) for my two cents worth as a fellow blogger (and author) keep it real…forget the naysayers who would say it’s too self centered. Let them write their own book 😉 DM

      • Awesome Doug, I agree 100%! I made a list of some of the things that didn’t work or go as I planned during the year. That’s not always what you think about so it was a great idea to write down specifically what didn’t work. I’ll just have to caution that just because it didn’t work for me doesn’t mean it can’t work for others.

        And I’m glad that you love the sense that you’re reading someone’s journal! I love that too. And I love what you said about forgetting what the naysayers say who say it’s too self-centered. Thank you! And you’re right the people most attracted to the book are the ones who may still be stuck in crippling shyness, and making it as real and honest as possible will be the most helpful than trying to sound like everything goes perfectly and you’ll never have problems again. The year helped me significantly and I learned a lot, but like I say it was not a “cure-all” and there isn’t really a cure-all. It’s more about learning to change your thinking and how you’re viewing yourself and your perceived limitations. There are times when the shy or anxious feelings do return and that is going to happen, it’s just about realizing that it’s ok and not succumbing to the feelings so they get out of hand. Thanks very much for sharing your opinions Doug!

  4. I actually liked your previous blog design better, because it divided the project into subchapters in the tabs in the top: telephobia, presentations, making friends et.c. I think such a structure would be good for the book too. Then persons who have problems with one particular type of shyness only can skip directly to that section. If they like it they will probably read the entire book anyway!

    Other aspects of this blog that are great: spicing it up with inputs from others, and that the personal experiences are specific. Specificity is helpful because it can make your experiences serve as recipes for others. For example the informational interviews – great idea… For others who want to imitate your strategies to overcome their shyness too, the key barrier may be to get started. Specific descriptions can help bring the idea down on the ground where they can see that this is something they can do too.

    • Yeah having the tabs at the top was nice, but after sticking with one theme all year I was itching to change it. This was the best one I could find that would still allow me to have categories and organize my page like before, only now they are on the right side of the page instead of at the top. I agree it’s nice to keep that same organization for the book and I definitely will.

      Thanks I think personal stories and examples are my favorite parts of books I read. I don’t want to just hear advice but not see any examples of it. Getting started is definitely very difficult and I’ll include what I did in the beginning to ensure I took that first step out of my comfort zone. Thanks for your input and suggestions Mados, I appreciate it!

  5. Just read CT’s comment now… That is smart thinking and a good idea, I second that!

  6. I see many great ideas within the comments above. Personally, I would encourage you to share your narrative in detail and incorporate only the most important ‘expert’ materials into the flow of the story. For instance, describe how you came about the materials that affected you most and how they transformed you. What did you struggle with? How successful were you?

    I also see that, in your blog, you have featured stories about other individuals who struggled or are struggling with shyness. You might also have to decide whether ‘meeting’ these people will become a very central part of your narrative; or, if this might confuse the narrative flow of the book by introducing too many other stories.

    • Thanks Murﺗﻀﯽ ! Those are good ideas to think about. The narrative will be the main part for sure. And as for featuring the stories of people I’ve met along the way, that was a part of my last goal of the year so it will have its own chapter too like all the others. You’re right though in that it could be confusing to have too many stories. Thank you for your input!

  7. You have been on a tremendous, life-changing journey, Brittany. An important one for you, and for those whose lives you’ve touched. IMO, I don’t feel there’s anything like “writer’s block.”

    Just start writing. Anything. Open your consciousness, and let it flow. It may or may not relate to your book, but eventually something will stimulate your thinking and writing. I always suggest you ask yourself a question, and then write the answer to get things going.

    Keep up your great work and your purpose. You deserve a great reward, my young friend! 🙂

    • Thank you MJ! It has definitely been life-changing. It’s hard to believe I actually wrote about all this stuff because I always thought I’d be the last person to ever admit any of this to anyone! Haha.

      Good advice! Yesterday I was feeling the flow more and was able to write bullet points of what I’ve been trying to write in chapter 2 and it was coming more naturally. There is hope! And I’ve been writing about some other parts too while I had some thoughts on them that I wanted to write down before I forgot. Asking yourself a question is a good idea.

      Thanks you MJ! I already got a great reward- meeting all of you and feeling more connected to other people than I have in my whole life. This blog became a personal support group and I can’t thank you all enough for that and for bringing the best out in me with your inspirational words. So glad to have met you! And thanks for your input!

  8. Just keep writing your story – I think it lends itself well to the “journal” style. Just keep writing and don’t be afraid to edit yourself and you’ll find the best way.

    • Thanks for the advice Patti! I’m currently spending a lot of time cleaning my room so I can make a better environment for writing. It’s really hard to write in the living room with my family around even though that’s where the table and chairs are. I see why people go to Starbucks to write now!

  9. Barbara Markway on said:

    Hi Brittany! I definitely agree with Doug and others to not listen at all to any negative reviews about The Happiness Project being too self-centered. That book has been on the best seller list for a couple of years now so she’s done a lot right! And it’s described as a memoir, which I’m pretty sure means that you’re going to write about yourself 🙂

    I’m glad you had more flow going yesterday. Yes, you just have to write and be willing to write “crap” sometimes. My favorite writing book is “Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within” by Natalie Goldberg. She encourages daily writing time, regardless of what comes out. Even if you write, “I have no clue what to write about…” Also, I don’t know if you’ve ever tried this, but sometimes it helps me to switch from the computer to pen and paper, and even multi-colored pens!

    I’m a big believer in creating a nice, writing environment with meaningful things near you. Right now I have a card from you sitting on the bookshelf right by my desk 🙂

    I tweeted your last post about your project to someone I know at New Harbinger Publications and I just got a reply that they were going to have someone in the acquisitions department look at it.

    I know your book will find a home with a publisher, and I have no doubt that you have what it takes to write it. And you have plenty of support from a loyal group of followers!

    • Yeah definitely, it’s pretty hard to write a memoir and not have it based around your own experiences. And you’re right, being on the bestseller list for a couple of years now does overpower what the negative reviewers say. It’s a shame there’s so many negative reviews on amazon because it seems like some are deterring away readers who would probably very much enjoy the book.

      I need to check that book out, I’m pretty sure that was my 12th grade Lit teacher’s favorite writing book too now that you mention it.

      Aww yay! Glad you liked the card a lot! I like making my own cards. I should put some meaningful things up and around my workspace too.

      Cool thanks Barb! Hopefully they’ll like what they see!

      Thanks Barb, this is exciting! Thanks for all your input and tips as a published author yourself!

  10. Hi Brittany: this is really exciting stuff and you already have loads of different viewpoints. I am a self-help-book junkie: I have been addicted for years. The ones which helped most, walked the reader through a personal journey, but each stage had bullet-point lessons learned and generalised advice built on hard experience as a hard-edged conclusion.

    But whatever you choose, I wish you success 🙂

    • Thank you very much Kate for sharing which self-help books have helped you the most! I agree that what you describe does sound most helpful and I’ve been thinking of doing a similar thing. Thanks for your insights!

  11. I feel like everything’s has been said already and I don’t want to just repeat what others have said, but I think the “journal” style is a good choice. you had many good ideas, brittany, but I fell like all don’t necessary go together and choices need to be made. If you decide to go for the “journal” style, then having a chapter on an expert’s opinion would be a too drastic change, no? That being said, it doesn’t prevent you to include information from expert’s opinion to back up your own choices and experiences within existing chapters. For exemple, you might want to explain why public speaking was one of your goals by citing someone else’s (expert) thoughts on it. If you find a way to include expert opinion to your own experiences, it could be very interesting!
    Generally speaking, I feel like “step-by-step” help books, although very helpful, tend to be very cold and sometimes I feel like the things authors recommend do not apply to my situation. Sharing your 2011 journey can be very inspirationnal. And sometimes, that is what people need: to relate to someone else and to be inspired. “Step-by-Step” Books cannot do that.

    • Cool thanks Vee! I’ll definitely include things from other sources that I think would help illustrate my points and be helpful. I’ll try and make it all as personable as possible so it doesn’t come off cold. I don’t like it either when you feel like you’re just getting general advice from someone who hasn’t really experienced what they are talking about and who knows how difficult it can be. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  12. nancieteresa on said:

    Greetings! My name is Teresa. This is my first time reading your blog. I am 41 years old and most of my adult life I have struggled with a variety of challenges… compulsive thinking, anxiety, sudden and unexpected shyness and social phobia. I was on the drug paxil for ten years and suffered many challenges while on the drug and in withdrawel symptoms in getting off the drug. But those are not the only colors of my life… as I have had many interesting experiences along the way! I am currently living in Europe after leaving my home in New Orleans. I have been gone for about 8 months now and have been writing a blog about it. This year I am going to explore writing more about my personal challenges in my blog. I have to say that I am nervous! Nervous what to say, nervous what people will think! I am starting to look at other people who are writing about related topics and found your blog… I appreciated this entry on exploring writing your book. When I begin to do something new, I often think of what a friend/mentor of mind says… that most important thing we have to satisfy ourselves and express ourselves… It’s as if when we pay attention to what is truly in our heart to express, and satisfy our true hearts desires… that is when we are authentically satisfied. Best of luck to you!

    • Hi Teresa, thanks so much for stopping by and leaving this great comment! I’m glad you can relate to this blog and appreciated this entry on writing a book. That is exciting that you are going to write about your personal challenges on your blog now after writing about Europe! You’ll have to leave the link here so I can read it. Blogging about your personal life and personal struggles is no easy task and can make you feel very exposed, but it’s very important that we all share some of our stories. Vulnerability is a powerful thing and brings people together like nothing else. Thanks for reading and writing!

  13. “Writing a book is much harder than writing a blog.”
    Absolutely, Brittany!
    But if the same principles apply to both; know your audience, listen to your writing voice and stay true to your artisitic vision – no matter what!

  14. I came across your blog from Psychology Today. I am SHY too and somehow I managed to overcome it. I am now a TV host based in Malaysia. I have a similiar blog like yours.

    Keep on inspiring other people.

    Take care …

  15. As for what to include in your book — man, that’s always a hard question to answer. I love personal anecdotes that describe actions and results, as long as they fit in well with the chapter’s (and book’s) theme. Maybe you can include some case studies from people you’ve interviewed, and how specific actions / tactics helped them achieve specific goals (or vice-versa — what doesn’t work).

    Have you considered using Scrivener? I haven’t tried it, but I know a few writers who think it’s fantastic. They say it helps them organize thoughts, plot points, characters, etc.

    Good luck with your book, and thanks again for stopping by my blog!

    • Yeah it’s tough, I may need some space from it for a little while. It’s hard to focus on it right now because I have a lot going on. I’m hoping that I can get my own laptop for my birthday so I don’t have to share a computer anymore either. Personal anecdotes are always good, I agree. And specific actions/tactics would be helpful too. And I haven’t considered Scrivener, I’m not quite sure what that is even and haven’t heard of it before. That is interesting though. Thanks for your comment, and I’ll stop by again soon!

  16. Hi Brittany. Just curious: is the book project still on?

    • Hey Mados, thanks for checking in and for your note, unfortunately I’ve been barely blogging this past year and haven’t done much book writing either. I am hoping to blog more this year though and haven’t forgotten about this book idea either. I think it’s going to take longer than I thought for me to feel ready to write it yet though, because right now I feel like I’m going through a time where I’m learning a lot more and my beliefs/attitudes on this subject are still being shaped. Were you planning on writing a book as well?

      • No (I hadn’t even thought about that:-) I just wondered if it was going to happen, because I think it is a great idea.

        I came to think about it because I decided to rewrite and complete an old draft about social anxiety and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, and I mention the Shyness Project (the post is not finalised yet). I wondered if I should mention that it is going to be a book, because I did not see any signs of it when I checked your blog. Also, I don’t want to put any pressure if it is not on right now.

        • Thank you, I appreciate the support, this is certainly something I want to organize into a book. 🙂 I’m not sure if it’s going to happen any time soon though, so for now I wouldn’t mention about it becoming a book. That is great, I look forward to reading it! I’ve missed the blogging world and all the exchanges of thoughts and ideas that come out of it.

          • Ok, I won’t mention it. Look forward to see what comes out of it in the future.

            I agree with all the exchanges of thoughts and ideas that comes out of blogging… That is the best side of it:-)

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