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Words by VLB

10 Lessons I Learned from Self-Publishing My First Book

My first book, A Way in the Wilderness, turns one on November 10, 2021!

Writing, self-publishing, and promoting A Way in the Wilderness taught me more life-changing lessons than any other project I've worked on. While its difficult to put into words just how deeply the experience of self-publishing changed me, I want to share 10 key lessons I learned as a self-published author with you today.

I don't share these things to be boastful or to benefit myself in any way. I want to tell you about my experience of bringing A Way in the Wilderness to life because I want to glorify God — the One who gave me the brain to think of sentences, the fingers to tap the keyboard, and supportive people to cheer me on through the publishing process. He made a way through the wilderness — not me.

1. Life calls before you're ready.

When I was 19, I decided I'd write a book before I turned 30. It took me a year and a half to build up the courage to share my dream with a few trusted people . . . and then a few months after that, the pandemic struck. I moved home to Colorado, my summer study abroad plans crumbled, and I heard God undeniably call me to write the book. At first, I said no. I looked for other internships. Nothing worked out. And eventually I realized that whether I was 21 or 28, writing a book isn't something I'd ever feel fully "ready" for. I just had to take a leap of faith.

2. Accountability makes impossible things possible.

The book wasn't real until I told people about it. I started small and slow, knowing that my promise to write wasn't one I wanted to break. And here's the thing: I know I would have broken this promise if not for the gentle accountability from the people I told. If you want to accomplish a goal, you need to tell people who will cheer you on through the grittiest parts of the process and stay until you're at the finish line.

3. Don't limit yourself before anyone else does.

Even after I committed to publishing a book in 2020, there were many times that I doubted if it was truly possible for me. I wasn't limited by external factors; I was limited by my own self-doubt and insecurity. If I'd I listened to those lies, A Way in the Wilderness would never be published. To accomplish huge, nerve-wracking things, you must seek truth and believe it over limiting lies. This takes courage, and I believe you have it in you.

4. Be careful who you listen to.

Whether you're writing a book or changing your college major or quitting your job, people are going to have opinions (and they're entitled to that!) You don't get to choose what people think or say about you — you are only in control of whose voice you listen to. Listen first and foremost to God's word, and trust the guidance of people who know you deeply and want you to thrive. Anyone else's opinion is worth briefly considering, but it's not worth dwelling on.

5. Vulnerability is your superpower.

In the hours of writing and editing my story, I cannot even begin to tell you how many times I wanted to edit out the difficult parts. However in these moments, God kept whispering 2 Corinthians 12:9 to me: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." As evidence of God's trustworthiness, the details I almost edited out — waking up in the middle of the night drenched in sweat, crying in public, feeling shameful about going to counseling — are the parts of the book that people have related to most.

6. Find people who will truly listen.

I absolutely could not have self-published AWITW without people who were willing to truly listen to me — even when the subject matter didn't apply to them. I am so thankful to those who gave me the gifts of head nods and eye contact as I rambled about finding an editor or formatting the book's interior or COVID-related shipping delays. You are worthy of having these kind of people in your life. If you don't have someone who will listen, be someone who will listen.

7. Give yourself GRACE.

My self-publishing process did not go exactly how I wanted (when does life ever do that though?) There were days I didn't write enough and days I didn't like a single word of what I'd written. Don't even get me started on the book editing/formatting/design process . . . that tested me in more ways than I knew were possible! When we work on any big project for the first time, it's easy to critique every flaw instead of celebrate every win. This critical mindset just leads to discouragement — and its much harder to be productive when you feel discouraged. On the flip side, it's easier to be productive when you feel encouraged. Encourage yourself by giving yourself grace.

8. Praise is powerful — proceed with caution

To be honest, many of the past 365 days I’ve found my worth in the accomplishment of being an author. I've confused praise for my book with praise for me and I've become prideful. Ouch. If this is how a few hundred book sales impacted me, I can only imagine what it's like to have hundred of millions of fans and followers. Whether you influence 10 or 10 million people, make sure their praise doesn't turn into your pride. You must constantly remind yourself that who God says you are is enough. Your worth does not come from what you do or who notices.

9. Life is a process of learning and re-learning.

I cannot even tell you many times in the last year I've said — "I should know this by now! I wrote a book on expectations and mental health!" When I first launched AWITW, I did not expect the feelings and frustration and shame that would accompany repeated struggles with the very topics I wrote about. I want to make it very clear (for you and me both) that writing a book about something does not mean I've mastered it. For the majority of my time as a self-published author, these moments of struggle led me into a deeper shame spiral. I feet like an imposter. It wasn't until recently that I changed my perspective and began to let my own words encourage rather than taunt me. Much of life is a series of the same lessons applied in new ways.

10. By myself I can do nothing.

As I've mentioned before, this book was not my own doing. I know myself, and I fall into perfectionism and insecurity often. By myself, I would be too scared to self-publish. But with God, I can trust that my shortcomings demonstrate His power and my confidence comes from Him alone. When I am tempted to feel pride (#8) or shame (#9) about A Way in the Wilderness, I must remember this book is truly not about me. I've actually found the most peace and confidence when I've focused on God and not myself — when I've realized I am just one part of a bigger story.

That bigger story is something called the gospel. It is the good news of Jesus that many people celebrate on Christmas and Easter. The gospel is the true story of God, creator and controller of the universe, sending his son Jesus to live a perfect life on earth (John 3:16). Jesus was fully God (able to perform the miracles you can read about in the Bible) and fully man (able to empathize with every emotion you've ever felt.)

A payment had to be made for humanity's shortcomings so broken people could have access to a perfect God (Romans 6:23). After 33 years of perfect and sinless life (which you and I could never achieve — Romans 3:23), Jesus willingly received the punishment for our sin and died a brutal death on a cross. He did this because He loves us (Romans 5:8).

But the story doesn't end there. Three days later, Jesus resurrected from the dead and appeared to hundreds of eye-witnesses. He told them that because of His sacrifice, they could have a right relationship with God. He told them that they didn't have to do anything to earn this access to God; they just needed to confess and believe (Romans 10:9-10 + Ephesians 2:8-9). Then Jesus ascended to Heaven, where those who believe will join Him after death. This is the bigger story I'm living for now, and I would love to talk to you if you have any questions. If you take away nothing else from this blog, remember: God loves you and wants relationship with you.

There's a million more messages of gratitude I could say, but I'll leave you with the Bible verse that inspired the title of my first (and definitely not last!) book: Isaiah 43:19.

Behold, I am doing a new thing;

now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

I will make a way in the wilderness

and rivers in the desert.

God is always doing a new thing. This passage of scripture if from the Old Testament, but God is still in the business of making ways in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.

If you are interested in writing and self-publishing a book of your own, I'd also love to be a resource for you. Please use the "Contact" form on my site, or you can email

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