Where’s the Fuss?
A few days ago I handed over the final draft of my latest book to my publisher. Well, metaphorically anyway. What literally happened was I pressed ‘send’; as authors do in 2013-ish. 80,000 words (or so) and to be honest, it was something of an anti-climactic moment. Not sure what I had imagined but it was a little underwhelming. No fanfare. No applause. No acknowledgment. No back slaps.
Quite disconcerting for the only child.
Eight months of work. Creative and cognitive overload. A sore back, sore eyes, lots of solitude, far too much sitting and a few neglected friends. Nothing life-threatening of course, but throw the mayhem that is the rest of my life (radio gigs, blogging, speaking, travel, coaching, business meetings, running a gym and trying to stay in shape) into the mix and it’s been an… interesting time.
Over the last few months, many people have said things like:
“I don’t know how you do it.”
“I could never do that.”
“I couldn’t concentrate for that long.”
To be completely honest, the truth is that sometimes writing a book is a pain in the arse. Literally and metaphorically. At times, it’s exhausting. Frustrating. Uncomfortable. Lonely. Scary. And sometimes, it’s amazing. Exciting. Euphoric. Fun. Satisfying.
Kind of like life.
Sometimes the price of getting the job done (whatever the ‘job’ is), is significant. And while we might be exhilarated once we arrive at our destination, the human condition means that the journey will often be full of pot holes, detours, road blocks and steep hills.
There’s a familiar saying…
“Getting started is the hardest part.”
You’ve heard that right?
Unfortunately, it’s a crap saying. Misleading rubbish.
Starting is relatively easy. We do it all the time. Some of us do it every Monday. Of the year! We change our eating habits. For a week. We enrol in a course. We drop out. We start running. We stop. We take guitar lessons. For a month. We cut back on alcohol. For a while. And we’ve all read hundreds of books. Well, the first chapter anyway.
Here’s a more informed and realistic paradigm:
“In respect to creating lasting change in our world… creating new non-negotiable habits, maintaining momentum (even in the absence of motivation) and finishing what we started… is the hardest part.”
Sure, it’s a little word-y and far less sexy (than the first saying) but it’s the truth.
So, yesterday I was asked how I keep keeping-on. That is, how I stay proactive, productive and empowered to finish my book (or any project for that matter), even in those times when the fun, excitement and enthusiasm have subsided. Or disappeared altogether. Good question.
So here’s my answer:
1. I weigh up the cost. Before I commit to any endeavour, I conduct a cost-benefit analysis, of sorts. That is, I identify and acknowledge my likely investment and the likely return. Before I commit to writing any book, I will thoughtfully consider and accept the cost.
2. I get things done early in the day. Being productive in the morning puts me in a better place mentally, emotionally and practically for the rest of my day. I am often writing by six.
3. I approach each challenge logically and strategically. While writing a book is largely a creative process, I am also totally realistic and practical about the time, energy, commitment and sacrifice required to transform my theoretical something (ideas, thoughts, philosophies) into a successful commercial product.
4. I work in instalments. When it comes to writing, I’m typically most productive when I’m working in one to two hour blocks with regular time-outs. Those time-outs could incorporate anything from a workout to a power-nap, a cappuccino to a phone call, a meal to a massage or something as mundane (and relaxing) as watering my garden. When I sit down to write, I usually set myself time-based goals. For example, if I start writing at six in the morning, I’ll probably set myself the target of writing until eight. I’ll then stroll to the café, reward myself with a coffee and be back at my keyboard for another instalment by eighty forty-five. It’s not rocket science but it works for me.
5. I start with the end in mind. Since early March this year, I have known that the good folk at Penguin Publishing were expecting me to send them a finished product on (or about) November 30. For me, having a non-negotiable deadline helps with organisation, structure, accountability and motivation. Working to a clearly defined time frame makes it all very absolute. I’m of the opinion that a little urgency and pressure can bring out the best in us.
6. I totally commit. For me, commitment means total emotional and psychological buy in to the goal or task. No reneging, no turning back and no bull-shitty excuses. I go happily into the process with an understanding that it won’t always be a fun, comfortable or enjoyable experience.
7. I improvise and adapt. Writing a book around all my other professional obligations means that being adaptable is a prerequisite. I’m determined to find a way in the middle of my busy-ness. I have written in hotel rooms, taxis, airport lounges, planes, cafes and conference centres while I’m waiting to do a gig. I have written at 2pm and 2am. If I have my laptop and some time, I’m good to go.
If you’re like the majority, then you’ve got goals and dreams for 2013. Just like every other New Year, there are things you want achieve, address and change. But just like the multitudes, you’ve been here before. It’s familiar territory. The relevant question is not ‘what will you start’ but rather…
What will you finish in 2013?
*I’ll be taking a break from the blogosphere for a week or two, so I’d like to wish you all a healthy, happy and safe Christmas and New Year. Thanks for your support this year and I look forward to connecting with you in 2013.