6 Rules to Help You Keep Moving Forward

Jul 19, 2023 | Writing A Book

So far, so good. You’ve got a solid idea for a book, and you’ve taken the time to plan it well. Now comes the “doing” part. Planning is good. Preparation is powerful. The hard part is to keep moving forward day after day for the year or more it will take to write your book. Here are six rules that can help you.

Use reminders and checklists, not motivation or self-discipline.

Don’t depend on motivation. Motivation is fleeting and fickle. You can’t count on it.

Don’t depend on self-discipline. Self-discipline is essential, but you’ve got a limited supply. Save it for the times you really need it.

Use reminders and checklists to help you keep moving forward. Think of them as your pocket accountability partner. Use them to stay on track and move forward.

Master the mundanity of excellence.

Daniel Chambliss was fascinated by the way some people get the most out of their abilities. He coined the phrase, “the mundanity of excellence” to describe how top performers attain and maintain their excellence.

It’s great fun to imagine that writing a book will be a succession of motivated moments. It’s great fun, but it’s misleading. Writing a book means working every day to move closer to your goal. There will be days you don’t feel like it. There will be days when life intrudes. That’s when the mundanity of excellence comes to your rescue.

Chambliss saw it in the Olympic swimmers he studied. I’ve experienced it myself and witnessed it at work for my clients. Here’s how Dan Chambliss describes what his research found.

“Superlative performance is really a confluence of dozens of small skills or activities, each one learned or stumbled upon, which have been carefully drilled into habit and then fitted together in a synthesized whole. There is nothing extraordinary or superhuman in any one of these actions; only the fact that they are done consistently and correctly and all together produce excellence.”

If you’re serious about writing a great book, you must master the mundane. You must develop the habits and rituals that help you be productive.

Always know what’s next.

If you don’t know what to write when you begin a writing session you’ll squander precious writing time figuring that out. The way you beat that kind of aimless mental wandering is by deciding ahead of time what you’re going to do next. Here’s Ernest Hemingway’s advice.

“The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing a novel, you will never be stuck.”

When you know what’s next, you can start right in writing when it’s time to write. Once you’ve started, the writing itself will propel you forward.

If it’s important, do it first.

Identify the most important thing you should do every day, whether it’s writing or something else. Then do it first.

The day has a way of getting away from us. There are interruptions, distractions, and rabbit holes to explore. Social media beckon. You can bet that any day will contain things that are not your highest and best use of time.

So, before the day has the opportunity to get the best of you, do the most important thing. Do it first and it’s done. Do it first and you feel better about everything else that day. Do it first and momentum is easier.

Don’t break the chain.

I’ve been coaching people and helping them write a book they can be proud of for more than 20 years. One of the things I’ve learned is that there’s no “one best way” to get the writing done.

Some of my clients write every day. Some write once a week. Two save their writing up, then go away for a couple of days and produce huge quantities of good work. You will have to figure out what schedule works best for you given your personality and situation.

You must make sure that you keep to your schedule. If you write every day, don’t miss a day. If you write every weekend, don’t skip a weekend. Keep the chain going.

We both know there will be times when you will break the chain. When that happens, make sure you don’t miss two sessions in a row.

Maintain your health so you have stamina.

Legendary football coach Vince Lombardi said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” That’s right, but it’s not the whole story. Fatigue also makes us lazy and sloppy. You must maintain your health so you have the stamina to do good work every day.

I don’t have to go into details here. You know what I’m talking about. Get enough sleep. Eat sensibly. Exercise. You know the drill. I can promise you this. If you are fit and rested you will be a better writer.


Don’t depend on motivation.

Don’t count on self-discipline.

Use reminders and checklists.

Master the mundane with good habits and routines.

Always know what’s next.

If it’s important, do it first.

Don’t break the chain.

Maintain your health.

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