On writing the first draft of the Present Yourself book

“Everyone has their own process. There’s no one right way. Do what works best for you.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. I was paying someone to give me the same advice that I was writing in Present Yourself


Because I set a goal to finish the first draft of the book before I went on maternity leave and the deadline was creeping up on me. I felt stuck. I questioned myself. I stared at the page. I hated what I wrote. I felt like I was doing it wrong.

I was embarrassed to tell my book coach all of this. I was co-writing a book on sharing your ideas with confidence. The irony! 

But I had hired her for a reason. I knew how important it was to have a community of support while writing this book and her accountability and advice was a key part of that. 

I felt relief after saying those things out loud. I needed her to listen and give me these reminders:

  • The self-doubt is normal. 
  • I am my own worst critic.
  • A shitty first draft is OK. 
  • There’s not going to be a “right way” to write this book. 
  • I had to experiment and find my own process. 

After talking to my book coach, my co-author, and a few friends, I let go of the idea of how I “should be” writing. 

I had blocked off full days to spend holed up in a coffee shop, doing nothing but writing. I tried to hop around from chapter to chapter so I didn’t get stuck in one place. None of that worked for me. 

Instead, I blocked off small chunks of time and set specific goals of what I wanted to complete during that time. I let myself go in order and I made myself just write without trying to make it “good”. There would be time for that later. 

The day I put my Out of Office on, I pressed send on the “shitty first draft” to the editor and closed my laptop for two months. 

Ultimately, my process wasn’t what I expected it to be but it worked for me. 

*Deep breath*

Each month, we’ve been writing updates about the process of running our Kickstarter campaign and creating the Present Yourself book, to share our journey with our Kickstarter backers. We generally write from the perspective of Women Talk Design and the team working on the book, but today, I’m writing to you personally. 

If we haven’t met, my name is Danielle. I lead Women Talk Design and I’m one of the co-authors of Present Yourself

In the process of putting together this book, I’m reminded over and over again how important the lessons of Present Yourself are. Regardless of how well you know your material, it’s HARD to put your ideas and stories out into the world. It’s so easy to get stuck in your own head and to doubt yourself. 

But the things that scare me about writing this book are the very reasons I know it needs to exist. 

One of the early chapters is about building your community of support. That has been so key to my journey. I’m not writing this book alone. I’m co-authoring it with the incredible Christina Wodtke and with contributions from a dozen of our brilliant community members. It’s informed by what we’ve learned from our students and instructors and speakers and organizers. We’re supported by editors and the Women Talk Design team. Don’t go at it alone. It’s a key lesson of the book and thank goodness I took that advice to heart.

I’m also reminded of the need to find my own way. As much as I’ve spoken to other authors and taken classes and read books, I needed to find my own way of writing. It’s another key lesson of the book: There’s no one right way. 

I came back from leave with a marked up manuscript from our developmental editor in my inbox. Based on her summary, maybe it wasn’t as “shitty” as I had thought. We still have a lot of work to do incorporating those edits and designing the book. We’ll continue to share our progress and lessons learned each month. 

If you’re working on sharing your ideas with the world, I can’t wait to get the Present Yourself book in your hands. But in the meantime, I encourage you to seek out a community of support and remember: the process that works the best is the one that works for you. 

I’ve learned so much from our community already and I look forward to continuing to learn from you! Send us a note and let us know, what’s your process for writing (be it a book, a blog, journal, or social media post)? We’ll share your responses in our next update! Email us at contact@womentalkdesign.com

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