Writing a Book: Learn to Let Go

Jul 7, 2020 | Writing A Book

“Great artists ship.” Steve Jobs said that.

There may be exceptions in the great sweep of art history, but not many and not you. No book that you don’t finish will enhance your reputation or support the case for raising your fees.

On the other hand, you want to turn out the best book possible. After all, the book will probably outlive you. It will represent you to people you never even know about. Great work is important.

That sets up the tension that every business book author faces. You want to turn out the best work possible. You want to get your book out the door and into readers’ hands as soon as possible. Think of it as the art of letting go.

Stop When You Can’t Make It Any Better

The danger is that you’ll keep trying to make it better long after your changes are doing any good. Your goal should be to stop when your changes are making your book different but not making it any better. Ask yourself two questions.

Are my changes making the book more understandable?

Are my changes making the book easier to read?

If the answer is no to those questions, then stop revising and editing. You’re not making things any better and you’re slowing down the success train.

Stop When It’s Time to Stop

When you’re up against a deadline, it’s time to stop. You might have a deadline because you’re writing a book for a publisher. When that deadline comes, it’s time to stop. You may have set a deadline because your book must be in readers’ hands before some special event.

Whatever it is, when you reach the deadline, it’s time to stop. Sometimes you’re not really done, but you’ve run out of time. It’s time to stop.

Some of my clients set specific writing deadlines. One of my jobs as their book-writing coach is to be the accountability partner. I push my clients to write a great book and get it out the door on time. Great artists ship.


Stop revising when you’re making your work different but not better.

Better means easier to read or more understandable.

Stop revising when it’s time to stop.

Set a deadline with an accountability partner to inspire urgency.

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