In trying to publish a book about the via Appia bike tour, I'm following James Altucher's Ultimate Guide to Self-Publishing.* He has a checklist of 20 items meant to get you through the whole process, from the idea to the finished product.
I'm hung up on step 2.
The first item on the checklist is, "Write every day." Over the past six months, I've been close. Now I have a calendar in front of my computer where I get to put a yellow slash each day I write, and the number of days in a row.
It's heartbreaking to get to 30 or 40 days, then skip a day and have to start over again at zero. This keeps me motivated. This might be a good training tip, come to think of it. If you're getting ready for a bike tour, and you want to exercise every day, you could use this same process to stay on track.
But that second item on the list is a killer, at least for me: "Decide what the book is about."
There's an easy answer, or at least an obvious one. It's about a bike tour of the ancient Roman road, the Appian Way. But I want the book to be about more than just this.
The book is about pursuing your dreams. Pyrrhus shows up a lot in my story, because he had a dream of becoming rich and powerful by conquering sections of Italy. He was essentially stopped by Appius Claudius, the builder of the via Appia who famously said, "Every man is the architect of his own fortune."
Appius Claudius had a dream of building aqueducts and roads that would make his name immortal. He achieved all this relatively early in his career.
Claudius and Pyrrhus were notorious for their ability to "just do it." When they had a dream, they would go for it.
I'm not a Pyrrhus or a Claudius. I first stumbled onto via Appia while trying to walk off a hangover after a night of partying in Rome. That very day I fell in love with the road and the idea of taking a bike tour along her entire length.
It was seven years before I did anything about it.
But it turns out it truly is better late than never. I did follow my dream, however belatedly, and I made that first bike tour seven years after I first got the idea.
Now the new dream is to write a book. Or rather, to publish it. I've been writing for years. A lot of the manuscript came directly out of a journal that I kept during the bike tour, a bunch of papers held together (ironically) with rubber strips taken from old inner tubes.
I think I've got a decent manuscript for the book now, but what is the book really about? I want it to be meaningful for someone who never plans to do a bike tour in Italy.
It's about following through on your dreams, no matter how late and slow you are, and no matter how foolish the dream. That must be it. Be the architect of your own fortune, better late than never.
Step 3 in Altucher's Checklist is simply this: "Write it well." Fair enough. I think the first draft is decent, and I've generally gotten good reviews along with a lot of constructive criticism from people who've read the manuscript.
But can I really write it well if I'm not clear on what the book is about?
It feels like I'm at the beginning of a steep hill at the start of a long bike tour. I'm in the lowest gear standing in the saddle, just to get past steps 2 and 3 on the checklist.
There are 20 items I need to check off in total. Maybe in another seven years I'll be able to tick them off and be a self-published author.
Here's the good news. Becoming the architect of your own fortune is just like pushing yourself forward on a difficult ride. You'll get there.
I can almost guarantee you'll get there faster than I will.
This was a rant about my new book on biking down the Appian Way. If you would like to read the entire book, or even join me on a future bike tour of via Appia, subscribe below and I'll keep you up-to-date. Your email will not be published, and I will never share it with anyone.