by Karen Hodges Miller
A recent survey showed over 80% of Americans would like to write a book – but most never will.
In fact, in my experience, of that 80% who WANT to write a book, only about ten percent will ever start – and only about one percent of those who start will finish! After years of helping writers to complete their books, I’ve learned that the best way to finish is to schedule two to three two-hour blocks of time each week to work on it.
Think you don’t have that time? Here are a few tried and true techniques to help you find it.
1. Develop Your Vision. Why do you want to write a book? What do you want your book to do for you? There are as many possible answers to these questions as there are books and authors. You may want your book to inspire others, to help you build a business, to build your reputation as a writer, or all of the above. There is no wrong answer, only your answer.
2. Don’t Wait for Inspiration. How often have you said, “I’ll start writing my book when …” You are waiting for that special moment when time, energy and inspiration all come together. It may be when your kids are in school, the week they are in camp, or when you quit your job. But somehow, whenever those moments do arrive, something else always fills your time. There are clothes to wash, appointments to make, meetings to attend, and a host of other excuses. But if you are going to finish your book you must schedule regular writing time every week – and then make that time sacred.
3. Write About Your Passion. If you are not passionate about the subject of your book you are not going to want to spend the time needed to write it. Writing is hard work. There are times when you will have to give up evenings or weekends or Saturday afternoons to work on your book. Just because dozens of people have told you that you ought to write a book on a certain subject, doesn’t mean you should. If you don’t love it, find another topic!
4. Set Your Goals. A book is a big project. You can’t finish your book in one afternoon, or even one month. So set some goals for yourself. “At the end of one month I will have completed my outline.” “I will write one chapter per week.” “I will finish my books in six months.” Make sure your goals are realistic – then stick to them.
5. Give Yourself Rewards. Now that you’ve set your goals, reward yourself when you accomplish them. It works for your kids, why shouldn’t it work for you? Set small rewards for small goals – a relaxing cup of tea for finishing 1,000 words, for example. Set larger rewards for larger goals – a night of fun with your favorite video, popcorn and some friends to share it, for completing a chapter. And don’t forget to set a really nice reward for actually finishing your book!
6. Manage Priorities, Not Time. Make a list of your priorities, then divide these tasks into four categories: Urgent and Important, Urgent and Unimportant, Not Urgent and Important, Not Urgent and Unimportant. For example, a ringing phone urgently pleads for your attention, but is often unimportant. The two hours you block twice a week to work on your book are important but not urgent, so it’s easy to let something else slide into that time slot. How much of your time is spent on urgent but unimportant activities? Using this quadrant will help you see just how you are using your time.
7. Block Your Time. Now that you know what your most important priorities are, take out your calendar and start blocking in times. Block out the time spent on running errands, attending meetings, taking kids to activities. What time is left? Can you find two or three two-hour periods each week to work on your book? Once you’ve blocked them, make them sacrosanct. Only real emergencies should keep you from working on your book in those time periods.
8. Find the Right Place to Write. Writing takes concentration. You really cannot do your best work in the middle of the family room with the TV blaring and kids running around. Find a quiet corner where you can keep your work organized and easily accessible. Even if you live in a small apartment, make yourself a comfy corner where you can work without distraction.
9. Find an Accountability Partner. An accountability partner is someone who supports/nudges/nags you into completing a difficult project. Accountability partners can be used for everything from weight loss and exercise to writing your book. The relationship works best if each person has the opportunity to be both the nagged and the nagger. If the deal is only one way, it can devolve into something uncomfortably like the relationship between a parent and teenager – and that’s a good way to ruin a friendship. Both people don’t have to be working on the same thing, although that can be helpful. Just make sure that you and your partner have clear rules about the structure and type of nagging that will occur.
10. Why projects fail is failure to start. What’s the number one reason why projects fail? Failure to start. So pick a topic. Pick a time. Pick a place. Pick up a pencil. Pick out a file name for your new document. And write.
While over 80% of Americans say they want to write a book, most never will. Karen Hodges Miller offers her 25-plus years of experience as writer, editor and publisher to entrepreneurial authors who want to realize that dream. She holds a variety of workshops and seminars each year on book writing, publishing and marketing. Karen’s experience as a freelance business reporter gives her a fresh outlook on the creative world of writers and the practical world of business owners. As founder of Open Door PublicationsSM LLC Karen has helped dozens of authors bring their own ideas to market; the company published almost two dozen books since 2006. Karen began authoring her own series of books for authors in 2010. “Finish Your Book! A Time Management Guide for Writers” is a practical and inspirational guide for the busy writer who must find time to write while juggling a business and personal life. “Sell Your Book, Think Outside the Bookstore,” to be published in April 2011, includes over 100 practical, specific tips for book marketing along with interviews with a variety of nationally-known publishing and marketing experts. Learn more about Karen at www.OpenDoorPublications.com