My friend, Bill, just made an important decision. He’s been working for about a year on a book that he intended to help boost his business and reputation. Lately though, his business has taken off without the book, and Bill faced a choice. He put it to me this way: “I figured that there was my business, my family, my health, and my book. Something had to go. I chose the book.”
Most book projects don’t end that way. Obviously, some people finish their book. But the most common thing I’ve seen is that people just quit working on the book without ever making a conscious decision to do so. Here are three things that can lead you to abandoning your book by accident.
Squirrels and Shiny Objects
Some people call it being fascinated by “bright, shiny objects.” My friend, Stephen Lynch, calls it “chasing squirrels.”
Whatever you call it, letting your attention run off in all directions is a pretty good way not to get any work done. That’s okay if it only happens once or occasionally, but it’s deadly to your book project if it happens a lot. You find yourself fascinated with things that really aren’t that important or that won’t have a big payoff. You spend your time checking them out, and soon, you’re not working on your book regularly anymore.
You can beat this book killer by keeping score. Once you’re into your writing rhythm, keep track of the work you do. You can keep track of your writing sessions, or the amount of time you spend writing. You can track your word count. The trick is to track your activity so that you know how you’re doing and, just as important, how that compares to how you should be doing.
The Quest for The Perfect Book
This one can be insidious because it piggybacks on the desire to write a great book. But some would-be authors I know, and many others I don’t, never get their book done because they keep trying to make it even better, maybe perfect. In effect, they let the perfect become the enemy of the good.
Remember that the only book that will build your reputation and fees is the one you finish and sell. Authors who write books for traditional publishers very often don’t suffer from this problem because they have deadlines and people to remind them about those deadlines. That’s what publishers do. You can do this for yourself. Hire a writing coach, like me, or get an accountability partner to work with you.
If nothing else, take the following classic quote from Steve Jobs and put it where you can see it every day.
“Great artists ship.”
Interruptions are the devil. Most great writing gets done in the largest possible blocks of uninterrupted work. Cal Newport calls it “deep work” and you need to do as much of it as you can. That won’t happen if you allow interruptions.
One of the best tools you can use to support your writing is a door that you can close. Of course, your relationships with your family and your coworkers are important, but sometimes they need to wait. Close the door.
Close the electronic doors, too. Disconnect from the web. Shut off your email and turn off your phone.
Writing a great book takes consistent effort and your full attention. Avoid chasing after new and interesting things when you should be writing. Don’t make a perfect book the enemy of a good and finished book. Close all your doors so you avoid interruptions.