You’ve opened that file on your computer dozens of times over the years. It’s filled with ideas and even possible chapters for a book that you’ve changed the name of more than a few times.
You have a message, but when you begin writing, it becomes muddled. You have a desire to express yourself and share you unique experience and wisdom, but you’re just not sure where to begin or even how to turn it into a book.
You’re not alone. A number of years ago one survey found that 81 percent of Americans felt they had a book in them. But most of them never wrote it. It may be they felt as you do. Daunted and confused. They may have even tried, as you have, which led to more confusion and doubt.
The thing is, writing a book is daunting. We begin with an idea and sometimes that idea isn’t big enough for a book. Sometimes it’s too big. To write a book is to dive into chaos. We have to swim around in the ideas and bits of writing for a while until the core idea emerges. Then we have to try it out.
Is it too big or too small?
It’s important to ask if the core idea is too small or too big. If it seems just right, you can build an outline around it.
An example of too big is writing your whole life story. A better idea is to choose just one aspect of your life or a particular event. Or let’s say you want to write a book about writing a book. That’s too big. Pick a genre so you can get focused. It will be easier to write.
Too small is something that can be explained or shared in 5,000 words or less. If you’re not sure, break down your idea and see if you can explain some of the sections in just a few paragraphs. You may have a great idea for an article, essay or a short series of them instead of a book.
It’s time to create your outline.
An outline will help you get clearer and allow you to see where you need to flush out the idea more or cut back. During this process, as you get clear on the message or what you want to teach, you’ll discover what you need to research so you can find support for your idea. Or if it’s more personal, you can gather the stories you want to use as examples.
With an outline in hand, you can begin writing one section at a time. This is not the time to worry about how each chapter will flow together. That’s a later part of the process. Just get the sections written. Each part of the process brings more clarity. Sometimes you’ll find you have to back track. If you do, take a breath and take your time. It’s a process.
What resistance can look like.
Be aware that if you keep changing your mind about the message, the form, the order, etc., you’re probably experiencing resistance, which in normal. Choose something and stick with it. Some adjustments are a part of the process, but wholesale, constant changes are most likely resistance.
Resistance also shows up as procrastination and simply talking about it rather than working on it. Check your fears. They don’t have to stop you. If perfectionism is an issue (it is with me), you will have to do some work to convince yourself that nothing is perfect about the book writing process. Of course, that’s true about life in general. You need to allow yourself to be messy. Order will arise out of the chaos. I promise. But first, you have to live in the muddle of it.
To finish is to build confidence, knowledge and skills.
The important thing is to finish. It will make all the difference in how you feel about yourself. You will gain confidence in your abilities. The sense of completion will give you the motivation you need to keep going. There is still much work to be done, but you’ll have an early version of your book. It will probably look different when you’ve taken it through all its drafts. But if you don’t finish, you won’t be able to take the next step and you won’t have had the experience which will make you a better writer.
This topic is really too big for a blog post, but at least you can get started. All it takes is the willingness to take one step at a time consistently and to persist until it is done.
If you’d like more help, contact me to set up a time for a consultation. To learn more about what I do, check out my Coaching for Writers page.
It’s time to make a commitment and finish that book. You deserve it! The world is waiting for you.
We live in a time-starved society. We do too much and we move too fast. It’s no wonder you feel you can’t find the time to write.
If you want to write, I invite you to slow down just a bit and be willing to take a look at your life.
Below I’m going to make some suggestions as to how you can get your book or other project written in the same 24 hours you always had.
First, make absolutely sure you want to write. If you don’t feel called to do it, it simply won’t get done no matter how much time you find to do it.
Next, look at what’s going on in your life right now. For the next few days, write down what you do every half hour. This will help you see where there are gaps you might be able to use to get the writing done.
If you don’t see many gaps or ones that are too short, not writing may be the least of your problems.
Now, I want you to make a list of all the things you spend time doing. That means work, chores, errands, socializing, watching TV, playing games, reading, writing, etc. Put everything on this list that currently takes up some of your time.
Got your list? Now rate each thing from 1 to 5 with 1 being something you have to do and 5 being optional. This is based on your desires. Some people would put TV watching as 5 others might feel it’s a 3. What’s most important to you? You need to take that into consideration or you won’t make changes.
For example, let’s say you put watching TV as 5, but really feel it’s a 3. You just say 5 because you think you should, but it’s not what you really feel. Doing this only sets you up to fail. Honor your needs and desires.
Next, take your 4s or 5s and see what you can cut out completely or cut back on.
Look at your 1s, 2s and 3s and see if any of those can be cut back.
By now you should have found some time you can use to write. The next step is to schedule it. Get it on the calendar so you can be sure to get your words on the page. Those words add up, and before you know it you have an article or book.
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The best way to treat obstacles is to use them as stepping-stones. Laugh at them, tread on them, and let them lead you to something better.
~ Enid Blyton
I don’t have time to write.
I don’t know enough to write about blank.
I’m too tired.
I’m too busy.
These are just some of the excuses us writers come up with to avoid doing the work. These are not the real obstacle. The only obstacle is our thinking.
If there is something we really want to do we can make time for it. If we don’t know enough, we can learn more. If we’re too tired, we can nap first or go to bed earlier. If we’re too busy, we can cut back on something to make room for what we really want to do.
Change our thinking about it and suddenly the way is made clear. The above are not obstacles. They are excuses masquerading as obstacles. So, why do we do this?
If we really believe an excuse, it can get in the way of our progress, but it’s the belief and not the constructed obstacle that is the problem. We need to check our beliefs. And it’s important to adopt a growth mindset. When we begin to understand that we can grow and change, we can take those beliefs and toss them out or change them.
There are many reasons we construct obstacles. I believe the main one is that we’re afraid we’re not good enough. If we can transform this belief into knowing we are good enough, those excuses fall away.
So how do we do this? Let’s take our cue from Enid Blyton who was a British children’s writer from the 1920s to the 1950s.
She encourages us to use our obstacles as stepping stones. We can learn from our excuses and the beliefs behind them. It’s important to take a close look in order to move past them.
Enid also reminds us to laugh at them. To take ourselves lightly allows us to take a deeper look. There is nothing to be ashamed of. This excuse making, obstacle creating thing we do is just something humans do when we’re afraid. It’s really kind of silly of us, but then as writers we revel in the strange way humans behave. It’s all grist for the mill.
It’s important to walk through the process of seeing and understanding, to tread on our obstacles, in order to move on through to the other side where we are free to do our work.
It seems simple enough until we begin taking a closer look. But remember, with a growth mindset you can learn to circumvent this tendency. I’m not sure we ever completely grow beyond it, but we can learn to trust ourselves more and more so we are less afraid to put our words and ourselves into the world.
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6/8/2019 0 Comments
When I’m sitting at my desk, staring at the screen and thinking about how I really have to scrub the bathroom sink, I know I have a problem.
Writers procrastinate now and then or if you’re like I used to be, every five minutes. But there are reasons we do it. I’m no longer the Queen of Procrastination because I pay attention to those moments I don’t want to be writing.
Here are four questions you can ask yourself if you feel like you have to use force and not consistent and helpful discipline to get your writing done.
Do you like what you’re doing?
Don’t do what you hate. Find the projects that inspire you.
Is perfectionism rearing its ugly head again?
Deep down you believe it will never be good enough so you drag your feet in order to never see the imperfection that ends up on paper. Don’t overthink. Just get it written. No one’s first draft is perfect. Not even the 20th draft is.
Are you writing something you’re not particularly fond of like pitching or summarizing?
This kind of writing isn’t my favorite either, but when I connect it to what I value, getting my work out there, I feel better about it. I often feel perfectionism rise up around this kind of writing. To get out of that mindset, I get help writing those kinds of things.
Are you trying to do too many things at once?
I’m doing this one right now. I have so many projects to complete that I don’t want to sit at my computer. If you feel overwhelmed, you’re likely to want to avoid writing. Take a breath and then break down your projects into smaller chunks. Don’t work on too many chunks in one day. Pace yourself.
Discipline isn’t a bad word. It’s not about punishment. It’s the 1st Pro Writer Key because we need to get our butts in the chair and words on the page. But we don’t make it punishment. We become students of the craft of writing. That’s what discipline means, to become a student of something, and we do this by binding ourselves to what we value.
So next time you’re forcing yourself to work, stop and take a look at why you feel you have to do that to yourself. A pro doesn’t turn their work into punishment. A pro values themselves and their work too much for that. Adopt the lifestyle and mindset of a pro writer and success on your terms doing what you love can be yours. It begins within.
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