And having more fun writing than ever before
One of the hardest questions to answer correctly is this one: what is the next right thing I should do? My friend wrote an entire book about it. And there are countless ways to address the problem.
One of my personal struggles is deciphering what to do next out of all of the cool things that I find interesting.
Five years ago, I knew what I had to do: start writing. I had to write not because I wanted to write, but because not writing would have hurt too much. I had to write to be the person I wanted to become — or face extreme regret at the end of my life.
So I started writing.
But around a month ago, I noticed a different feeling. There was a story that had to be told — a story that could only be told by me. I was inspired.
But I hesitated.
It is a story for children.
My own children had heard the story hundreds of times, with each telling a little different. The laughter with my kids was priceless. I never wrote it down, because… it was a story for children.
Last month I felt something similar to what I felt five years ago. I didn’t want to share this story with others — I had to.
So I did what any smart person does when they need advice: I asked my kids what to do (ages 9, 7, 5, and 2).
The answer was unanimous. “Write the book, dad. Other kids will love it, too.”
Now I am working on one of the craziest projects ever, for me. I am an attorney who works at a large firm. I practice business law. I manage large trademark portfolios. I represent startups and technology firms. I read the U.S. tax code nearly every day. I counsel people through some of the most challenging events in their lives.
And I am also writing a children’s book.
For the last month, I took a break from writing about reinvention, business, and personal development. And I wrote eight drafts of a children’s book.
I am writing this article to share why, and also to ask an important question at the end.
1. Stupid Ideas Sometimes Work
I really don’t think it makes sense for me to write a children’s book right now in my career. It’s a pretty stupid idea.
But sometimes the stupid idea is the next right thing to do. The stupidest ideas sometimes make millions of dollars. And what seem like the best ideas often fail miserably.
Richie Norton wrote a book called The Power of Starting Something Stupid, and I think he’s completely right. There is incredible power in doing things even though they don’t seem rational.
Honestly, the topic of the book I am writing is a little embarrassing. I’m not even ready to share it publicly yet. I am sure that the book and topic could hurt my legal career. But at this point, the book brings joy to everyone who reads it — kids and even adults.
I don’t expect a fortune from book sales either. But I am applying everything I’ve learned as an entrepreneur, lawyer, marketer, and author to this project. I expect that the book will make people laugh, which is a great start for any project.
You never know — sometimes stupid ideas work.
2. The Promise I Made to Myself Ten Years Ago
Over ten years ago, I completely reinvented my professional life. I used to drive to Flint, Michigan, to manage a media department for a leadership development company. Less than 10 months later, I was sitting in a law school classroom.
When I left my job as a media manager, I made a promise to myself. I had become frustrated that I had so many ideas that would help the company. I felt like no one was listening to, or trying, any of my ideas. And when one idea actually worked (and generated millions), I did not get to keep any of the rewards. I was tired of dreaming up big ideas and then giving them to other people — without much benefit to me.
So I made a promise to myself 10 years ago: going forward, I will execute my own ideas with my own time and with my own money. If the idea fails, then I will accept the consequences. But if the idea makes money, then I am keeping the money.
Writing this book for children is my own idea. And if it fails, then I am ready to accept the consequences. But if it does well, then I am ready for that, too.
3. I Thought I Was a Weird Kid, So I Hid Who I Really Was
I once read a quote that explains so much of my life:
The goal of life is to take everything that made you weird as a kid and get people to pay you money for it when you’re older.
— David “Swim to Kansas” Freeman, screenwriter
When I was younger, I used to be embarrassed about some of the things that I thought were cool. I tried to avoid telling people about what I was really interested in or what made me laugh.
I felt like a weird kid. I didn’t know that sometimes it’s okay to be yourself.
But now, I am confident enough to believe that if you don’t like what I like, then it’s more likely that there is something wrong with you than with me.
In writing a book for children, I have had to revisit what makes a kid interested in a story — and what makes a kid laugh. Most adults I know have forgotten how much fun it can be to be a kid: there is so much cool stuff to discover!
Writing this book has reminded me that it is okay to tell a story that you love and makes other people happy — even if some people might think it’s weird.
4. A Book Contract Showed Me It’s Possible
The seeds of a children’s book started when I reviewed a book publishing contract for a writer client who had written a children’s book. He wanted a legal review of the agreement between himself and the publisher. I had reviewed publishing agreements before, so I happily accepted the project.
But I had never reviewed a children’s book contract. Everything about it was similar to other publishing agreements I had reviewed — except for one thing: Exhibit A. Exhibit A was the full book manuscript, without illustrations.
It was a 15 page contract.
Exhibit A was two pages. With huge margins.
It had maybe 100 words, total.
The length surprised me. But the story was complete. It was cute, funny, brief, and clever. It was art.
If a children’s book was this short, maybe I could capture some of the stories that I told my kids. Maybe a short story, for kids, could be art?
I forgot about the contract until recently, but the seed was planted a few years ago. Maybe I could write a book for kids?
5. My Favorite Book Right Now
Before I started reading books written for children, I dismissed writing for children as beneath me. It was not art. It was less sophisticated. It was not as polished.
But I was wrong.
As a father of four young children, I have read some incredible books to my kids. I am convinced that writing a children’s book can be art, and there are some amazing artists writing and drawing for children.
My favorite book right now is a book for children. It is not my favorite children’s book — it is my favorite book. If you have not read The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors written by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Adam Rex, then you are missing out. The story is so much fun. And the illustrations match the fun of the story.
The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors is a simple story, told really well.
And it is hilarious.
And it is a children’s book.
When I re-read that book, I am in awe of the humor and creativity. If you can create a book for children, then you are talented artist.
6. I Know Someone Who Has Had Success Writing Children’s Books
A few years ago, I was in an online course with Eevi Jones, and I purchased her book How to Self Publish a Children’s Book. She had written multiple children’s books and had success with self-publishing. I wanted to support her and her book. Yet, I had no desire to write for children at the time.
But when I had the impulse to write the book for kids, I picked up Yvonne’s book. It was incredibly helpful — so helpful that I booked a call with her. She reviewed the book and gave me so much confidence about the project. I can’t wait to get more advice from her.
It is so refreshing to know that there are people out there that know how to help us accomplish our goals. Going into new writing territory requires me to lean on the smart people that I know — there are a lot of them, and I am grateful for each of you.
7. I Want to Teach My Kids How To Turn Ideas Into Reality
One of my main motivations for writing a children’s book has nothing to do with the actual book. One of my dreams is to be able to work in a way that my kids can see and be proud of.
When I was talking with my wife about carving out time to write this book, one of the highlights was involving our four kids in the process. We decided that I would involve the kids in the writing, illustrating, publishing, and marketing of the book.
My goal is to show my children how to turn an idea into reality — how to execute. Parents shouldn’t ask their kids to be creative and then fail to demonstrate what that means. This idea really means a lot to me.
- Before I wrote a word, I asked my kids what they thought of the idea. Of course, they loved it.
- I have written eight drafts so far, and I have read each draft to the kids to get their feedback.
- My kids helped me picked an editor (with my supervision, of course).
- My kids are going to help me pick an illustrator.
- My kids are going to learn about starting a business, profits, expenses, and marketing.
Honestly, I was surprised to discover that my kids have some pretty good ideas. I recently told them that we needed a follow-up book to publish after the first one. I thought that we should prepare for success and capitalize on learning the process. If we learned the process to create one book, then we could tell more stories.
I suggested a few other stories that they loved. However, my seven-year old immediately reminded me of a story that I completely forgot I ever told them. It’s hilarious. And it would be a perfect follow up story to tell.
8. The Real Purpose of Writing The Book
Why does someone devote significant time to writing a book for children?
For me, there is a simple answer.
I sent a draft of the book to one of my best friends, Jerome Vierling. He read the draft (without illustrations) to his five young kids. Here is what he wrote back to me:
just read it to the kids…GREATTTT JOBBB!!!!!
hysterical laughing…asked the kids do you think this could sell…split second they “yes!”
Thank you for giving me thirty minutes of laughter and joy with my kids. It was priceless.
The book gave something to my friend — something that can never be replaced.
There is not much better than the laughter of a child. I am sure many would agree.
For me, the purpose of writing this book is clear: give the gift of joy to a child and to an adult — to a family.