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Written by JJ Barnes

I interviewed business coach and author J Haleem Washington about his life and work, what inspires him to write, and the work that went into his new book, I Won’t Starve.

Tell me a bit about who you are.

J Haleem Washington, author of I Won't Starve, interview on The Table Read
J Haleem Washington

I’m J Haleem Washington, serial entrepreneur, three-time author, business coach, and corporate trainer.

When did you first want to write a book?

In 2017, after creating my company, I Won’t Starve. I had already started my career as a motivational speaker. Everybody told me that it’d be a good idea for a motivational speaker to have a book. I definitely knew I had a story to tell. So, I started the process of trying to get that book done at that time.

When did you take the steps to write the book immediately?

As soon as I thought about it, I wanted to do whatever it took for me to be legit as a speaker and as a thought leader in my position. Immediately, when the thought came to mind in 2017 and when other individuals had walked the path before me suggested that I have a book, I went about the process.

How long did it take you to complete your first book from first idea to release?

It took me two and a half years to actually get the book done and released from the time I first thought about it.

How long did it take you to complete your latest release?

It took me approximately three months, about 90 days.

Focus on your latest release. What made you want to write I Won’t Starve?

I was in the middle of doing a video series titled Morning Motivation on social media. I did a video everyday, from November 2020 to the beginning of first quarter 2021. I did this consistently for 150 days and I didn’t know how long I was going to be able to sustain it. So I decided since I had already written two books, I would take that same content and put it in a book.

What were your biggest challenges with writing I Won’t Starve?

My biggest challenge with that last book was being concerned about meeting the deadline, especially with having so much content. This was the most content I ever had out of all three books. So that was one of the biggest problems, choosing what to keep and what to leave out.

What was your research process for I Won’t Starve?

My research process involved the videos that I was doing prior. As mentioned, I had completed over 150 videos. Research came with studying the topics I wanted to talk about on those days and as a result, I got very, very knowledgeable about those subjects and that content.

From there, it was a matter of expounding on the content I chose to use for the book, which opened the door for more research. The videos were only five or six minutes in length, and in order to translate that into a nice-sized chapter for my audience, I had to take a deeper dive, and talk to/interview individuals from my community. I wanted to know which topics they liked and didn’t like and from there, the final 11 chapters were chosen. 

How did I plan the structure of I Won’t Starve?

I knew I couldn’t put all 150 topics in there. In order to structure the book properly, I really had to take some time and identify the topics that I was going to use and expand on them.

J Haleem Washington, author of I Won't Starve, interview on The Table Read
I Won’t Starve by J Haleem Washington

Ultimately, we focused on the motivational portion because the premise of the book was providing motivation through a crisis – any crisis and not only the one we are currently living in. I also wanted the reader to keep the same pace, so the topics had to be arranged in a manner that made sense and allowed them to accomplish the goal I set for them.

The #1 Writing Tool

Did you get support with editing and how much editing did I Won’t Starve need?

I did get support with editing and it needed a lot like most books. I am a free spirited writer, so I kinda just put down some of what was on my mind at the time. I think that if we focus too much on trying to get it right the whole time, a lot of people would probably never write their book.

My thought process was to take what was in my mind and my heart at the time, get that out and go back and clean it up later. What’s in my heart had to come out, I couldn’t sit back and let it fester. So, it definitely needed enough editing, however, I have a team of people that I’ve worked with for my first two books and there was no problem getting the editing completed.

What is the first piece of writing advice you would give to anyone inspired to write a book?

Outside of advising them to write it would be to get started right now. Start talking about it, start moving in that direction, start writing down ideas and creating an outline. For example, if you want to write an outline of your life from childhood to adulthood, make sure your outline covers the main topics, or main themes of your life you want to walk the reader through. But the most important advice I have to give is to get started because the more people hesitate, the more they probably will not complete the book.

Can you give me a hint about any further books you are planning to write?

My plan is to never stop writing books. When I wrote my first book, I felt like I came alive again. I had found my new lane and I don’t plan on stopping. Right now, I have about three or four in the queue that I know I will be releasing in the near future. I am actively working on two of the four as we speak. I even have the titles chosen.

Finally, are you proud of your accomplishment? Was it worth the effort?

Yes, I’m extremely proud of my accomplishment. Becoming an author was probably one of the greatest things I’ve ever done.


@iamjhaleem across all social media accounts


I Won’t Starve

U Won’t Starve: Key Principles for Entrepreneur Development

Morning Motivation: Consistent Encouragement Through a Crisis

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