Just before Safiya Robinson turned 40, she decided to start a blog detailing 39 lessons she’d learned in her 39 years of life. While sharing these lessons on the blog 39 and Counting Safiya learned something else. She learned that she had the courage, creativity, and consistency she needed to write and self-publish a book.

In September 2019 Safiya launched her debut book Everything is a Thing: My journey to living a truly authentic life. Though Safiya lives in Barbados — over 2,000 miles away from See Jane Write headquarters in Birmingham, Alabama — she’s one of the most active See Jane Write Collective members. Safiya takes advantage of virtual meetings and events as often as she can and stays active in the See Jane Write Facebook groups, too.

For these reasons and more Safiya Robinson is the See Jane Write Collective member of the month for October 2019.

What was the inspiration behind your book? 

Around the time that my friends and I started to turn 40, I had a lot of conversations with people who felt that they weren’t where they thought they would be in life. Some thought they would be married with children, some thought they would have more children. Some thought they would be further along in their career, own a business or a house. Some had these things and just thought it would be “different.” And I felt the same about some parts of my life.

But I also wondered – where did these expectations come from? Are they based on what is really important to us now or on some idea that we got from TV as children or teens? What if we focused on the things that we value and that are important to us now, rather than trying to live up to something that might not even exist? That was the inspiration for my journey of reflection, and ultimately writing the book.

What are you hoping people will take away from your book? 

I would love people to be encouraged to be true to themselves, their values, instead of their “shoulds.” I hope that that they feel comfortable when they have hopes and dreams that may not fit in with what they see around them in family or society and know that there are others out there who share these dreams — and that those people may be closer than they realize. And I hope that they will have some fun learning about my life and misadventures.

How did you make time to write your book while also working your day job and blogging? 

When I decided to start my blog, I set aside the time twice or three times a week to write, and I realized how much I enjoyed it and how much it calmed and refreshed me. In addition, I broke down my book outline into segments that I could write in 15 or 20 minutes, so that I didn’t need to set aside hours to write, and this meant that I could do it early in the morning (I am a morning person) or even write a bit while I was at lunch at work. It served the purpose of being able to make progress in my book while giving my brain a mental break from work.

Tell us more about your blog. How did your blog help you with the process of writing and publishing your book? 

My blog was an integral part of the process of writing and publishing my book. Just before I turned 40, I decided to start a blog about the 39 lessons I learned before I turned 40, and I finished this up shortly after my birthday. I have continued to blog – although my pace slowed considerably during the writing and self-publishing process of my book, and my topics are broader.

Finishing the blog project and writing those 39 posts propelled my confidence in believing that I could finish a project as big as a book and share it. Hitting publish at least 60 times before I started writing my book helped me to realize that I wouldn’t die of fright if I shared my work, or got feedback that might not be what I was hoping for. It built the courage muscle that I needed to finish writing that first book, and some of the blog content even inspired the book! I write about building confidence through lowering the stakes, taking some of the pressure off of the big project and gaining small wins – and my blog was just the version of that I needed to build enough confidence to write and publish the book.

Hitting publish at least 60 times before I started writing my book helped me to realize that I wouldn’t die of fright if I shared my work.

— Safiya Robinson on how blogging helped her write her first book

Why did you decide to self-publish? What advice would you give to other writers looking to self-publish? 

I decided to self-publish so that I could bring this project to completion in the way I wanted and maintain ownership of my work – since this story was so personal to me. In addition, my “following” is small, and I wanted to get my writing out there without the pressure of waiting to be picked up by a publisher.

That being said, if I had to give any advice to other writers looking to self publish, I would first remind them that self-publishing requires different skillsets to writing a book. So my suggestion would be — get support. I worked with a great editor, I had a close friend design the cover, and I reached out for support during the marketing from those who had done it before, and I invited people to buy and read the book. I think that writing can be solitary (if you let it) but self-publishing can be full of wonderful collaboration if you are willing to reach out. Don’t do it alone. 

Why did you decide to become a member of the See Jane Write Collective and what do you like most about the group? 

I can’t even remember how I discovered the See Jane Write blog, but I joined the free community when I did and enjoyed reading the blogs and seeing the engagement. Then you did a 21-day writing challenge and as a part of it there were group critiques and co-writing sessions, which I joined in, and I loved being on those calls with the group and getting feedback on my work, so I decided to join the Collective so that I could get more of that community and support as I write. What I like most about the group are the Zoom calls where we get to talk writing (and write) and the trainings. It is a fantastic community!

Join us on Sunday, November 10 at 3 p.m. CT for a virtual book club discussion of Safiya’s book Everything is a Thing. RSVP here.

Who should be the next See Jane Write Member of the Month? Send your nominations to javacia@seejanewritebham.com and don’t be afraid to nominate yourself! Not a member? Apply to join here.