You’ve been thinking about it for years. Maybe even talking about it with a few select friends. So tell me—why haven’t you written that book?
According to one survey, a whopping 81% of Americans believe they have a book in them. That’s basically everybody, people. But how many of us actually sit down and write that book? The numbers are far less impressive.
I should know. I myself am one of the 81%, and I have yet to make writing a book my priority.
Now I have written books for other people—and feel highly motivated to do so. But that awesome novel idea I had on a road trip a few years ago? Or that memoir I outlined last summer? Yeah, no. When it comes to my own work, I’m just as bad as you are.
That’s why today I’m sharing my top five tips for actually writing that book. I have gleaned this advice from highly functional working-writer friends of mine—as well as my own habits, when I’m working on a book for a client. Here’s hoping they inspire you…and me!
Tip #1: Make an appointment in your calendar.
As a busy business owner, this is truly the only way I get any writing done these days. I block out half an hour in my calendar, sandwiched between author calls and errands. I don’t know about you, but if it’s in my calendar, I’m way more likely to actually sit down and do it. And contrary to authorial folklore, most books don’t get written during month-long writing retreats in the woods. Most books get written in small increments, sprinkled throughout the week.
Tip #2: Write a little bit, everyday.
Set a very easy to reach daily writing goal. By easy to reach, I’m talking one page. (Double-spaced, if I’m going easy on myself.) I’m talking the kind of goal you can squeak out between your morning run and making breakfast for the kids. Let go of whether the output is “good.” Focus on the fact that you’re finally making progress. You’re writing! And there’s a bonus: I’ve found that when I give myself a tiny little goal, I often end up writing that and then some. Why? Because once I’m writing, it just feels so freaking good.
Tip #3: Start with an outline.
Many of us sit down, look at that blank page, and then freeze. “What am I supposed to write about today??” Having an outline next to you is akin to having a tidy little homework assignment. You have your work cut out for you, so there’s no thinking involved. Just pick a spot that inspires you, and dive in. You’ll have that daily writing goal knocked out in no time.
Tip #4: Start writing—about anything.
To immediately contradict myself, I will say that you don’t have to start writing from your outline—if your outline is causing you stress or nausea. (I speak from experience.) When you’re trying to overcome writing inertia, what you write doesn’t matter as much as the fact that you actually do write. If you’re having a hard time jumping into your book proper, just start moving that pen across the page, or those fingers on the keyboard. Write about what you see out your window. The enlightening conversation you had with a friend last night—or the argument you got into with your 7-year-old. Keep a list of writing prompts on your desk. Here are a few to get you started:
- What’s lighting up my life right now is…
- The most remarkable thing about me is…
- What my Mom wouldn’t want me to write about is…
Tip #5: Imagine yourself finished.
I got this trick from the inimitable Mike Dooley, creator of TUT: Notes from the Universe. (If you’re not familiar with TUT, check it out—this man writes a letter from God, to you, every single day. Talk about a committed, working writer!) Earlier this year at the Hay House Writer’s Workshop in Chicago, Mike revealed that he does a celebratory dance before he even sits down at his computer! He conjures up the feelings that will be running through his body once he’s successfully completed his writing assignment for the day—and he feels them in advance. The juice he gets from imagining himself finished puts a fire under his tush, and makes the day’s writing assignment FUN. After test-driving his theory (in the privacy of my own home) I’m here to tell you it works! So go on—jump up and down, pump your fist in the air, do whatever you need to do to feel the endorphins coursing through your veins. You did it! You rocked out your writing goal! Then, sit down and do it for real.
If you have any tips of your own, I’d love to hear them on the KN Literary Facebook page! Hop on over and let me know how you successfully park yourself at your computer or notepad and get the writing party started.