Writing a book is an exercise in deferred gratification

Jul 20, 2015 | Writing A Book

Writing a book is worth it

There are lots of reasons to write a book. You may want to check it off your bucket list. You could want it to boost your career. You might want to really dig into a subject that interests you.

So you know the payoff. But if writing a book is “worth it,” the question is “worth what?”

Your book won’t happen without sacrifice

This week I read a great post on innovation from Jeff DeGraff. He’s a professor at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. Here’s the opening paragraph.

“At the heart of every great innovation is a great compromise: in order to start something new, we have to stop something old. Think of it as a deal you make with yourself–the things you’ll give up in order to make room for future growth. Our days are filled with countless small tasks–activities that prevent us from pursuing the bigger, more substantive creative projects on our larger horizon. There will never be enough time to write that novel you’ve been dreaming about or open that business you’ve had in mind for years. That’s why it’s up to you to free up your world and carve out the space for innovation.”

If you intend to write a book, you won’t do it without making some changes. And it will be hard to live with those changes for the year or so you’ll be writing. The work is now. The payoff is out there in the future someplace. It’s an exercise in deferred gratification.

How do you increase the odds of success?

You’ll be giving up time with loved ones, activities you enjoy, and perhaps even some income. That’s hard to do and harder to sustain. But there are things you can to improve the odds.

Get the support of the people who love you

The people who love you want you to succeed. But they also want your time and attention. Tell them why you’re doing the book. Don’t just tell them once, remind them often. And thank them. Thank them a lot. It’s hard for them and they don’t have the payoff that you do.

Track your progress in plain sight

Visual measures of progress are great because they share your progress with others. Think of those campaign thermometers. Visual measures don’t have to look like a classic mercury thermometer. You can do something as simple as putting sticky notes on the fridge for every completed task. If you track your progress in plain sight, your loved ones will know how it’s going without detailed reports.

Celebrate small wins

If you think you will just dig in and work and celebrate when your book is published, you probably won’t get there. Be specific about what you want to do each week and celebrate your successes. They might be learning or word count or an important interview. Try to have a win every day, and wins you can celebrate every week.

Celebrate with your loved ones

Don’t keep the celebrations all to yourself. Celebrate with the people who love you. And thank them for letting you take the time you need to write your book.

Bottom Line

When you let your loved ones be part of your success, the long slog of creating a book will be easier.

Now it’s your turn

What are your secrets for making the work of writing easier?