I didn’t set out to write a book – well, I did and do have three novels in various stages of completion, but what writer doesn’t. I was perfectly content to do free lance articles on a broad universe of subjects. It doesn’t pay as much as a bestselling book could, and you don’t get the same acclaim, but it was something I was good at. Then, a colleague suggested that I should gather some of my pithy sayings on leadership into a book to share with a broader audience. Well, it took me a year to decide to follow his advice, and another two years of painstaking writing to finish it. Things I Learned from My Grandmother about Leadership and Life was published in 2008 by an on-demand publishing house, and while it has not made any bestseller list, nor has it made me rich, enough people read and commented on it that I was motivated to take a second bite of the apple.
Taking Charge: Effective Leadership for the Twenty-First Century came out early in 2009. Basically I did what a number of readers of the first book asked; expanded on the principles learned from my grandmother, and described in more detail not only my philosophy, but my practices of leadership. Again, this was not a book that was even designed to be on any bestseller list (although I wouldn’t turn that down), but it has a modest but appreciative readership. Both books were recently added to the collection of the U.S. Department of State’s Ralph Bunche Library, where they are available to future generations of American diplomats. They are also used in the State Department’s leadership course at the George Schulz National Foreign Affairs Training Center, and are in the library of my alma mater, Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.
What I set out to do in both books is outline a non-academic, practical view of leadership, and show that effective leadership is well within the grasp of anyone willing to invest the effort, and who has the will. If an East Texas farm boy can rise from the cotton fields and rise to high levels in government, anyone can do it. I also learned a lot in the process of writing both books. Mistakes were made. Both contain more typos than I like, but I’m told by readers that that doesn’t diminish their essential value. I learned the importance of discipline in writing. I had it when it came to writing articles; but, after all, most of them are done in one sitting. Writing a book is a whole other matter. Even an 80-page book can take over a year.
Then, there’s the rewriting. Unless you’re an absolute genius, there’s no way your first draft will be suitable. If you think writing is hard, re-writing makes the first draft seem like a walk in the park. After you are satisfied that you’ve produced the best manuscript possible, don’t think it’s over. Even for a book that’s not destined for the New York Times Bestseller List, there’s a need to market yourself and your product. For many a creative writer, this is by far the hardest and least liked part of the process. But, unless you’re content to have a copy or two for your library and a few relatives and close friends, you have to do it. Books, excepting of course those written by Stephen King, don’t sell themselves.
Well, there you have it. Taking Charge: Effective Leadership for the Twenty-first Century is available at http://www.amazon.com. So, in fact, is the other one, and if the fates are kind, I hope soon that there will be others.
Causes Charles Ray Supports
The Nature Conservancy
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial