You Can’t Finish a Book if You Don’t Start It

Apr 27, 2021 | Writing A Book

I talk to dozens of them every year. Sometimes, they’re people who call me and want to write a book but who just never get started. Sometimes, they’re people I meet at parties who say they’ve always wanted to write a book but who never did. Sometimes, they’re the people who tell me what a great book they could have written.

All those people are dancing around this simple fact. You can’t be an author until you’ve written a book. And you can’t finish a book unless you start one.

There are all kinds of psychological explanations for why people don’t write the books they say they want to write. I’ll leave those to the psychologists. That’s far deeper wisdom than I have.

I know this, though. The best way to start writing a book is to start writing.

Don’t Wait for The Perfect Time to Start Writing

There will never be a “perfect time.” There will never be a perfect time to start a business or get married or write a book. Don’t wait for the perfect time that will never come. Start writing.

Don’t Wait Until You Have It All Figured Out

Some people don’t want to start their book until they have it all figured out. They don’t understand that writing a book is a journey of discovery and learning.

A few years ago, a man came to me with a 32-page outline for the book he wanted to write. When he set up an Options Review Session, I asked him what questions he wanted to cover. That’s when he sent me the outline and a single question: “What more do I need?”

My answer was simple. You can probably guess it. I told him, “You need to start writing.”

Don’t Wait Until Everything Is Ready

In a way, this is just another version of waiting for the perfect time to start writing. In this case, though, all the barriers are self-created. They say they’ll start writing the book as soon as they’ve finished filing or as soon as they file their taxes or as soon as they come back from vacation or … The list never ends.

This is deadly. There can always be something that needs to be done before you start writing. If you want to write a book, you need to start writing no matter what. If you want examples of how other people have dealt with the challenge of writing in tough circumstances, pick up a copy of the book Daily Rituals by Mason Curry. It’s filled with examples of how writers, artists, and composers got their work done no matter what.

The world is full of people coming up with excuses not to write the book they say they want to write. If that’s you, quit creating your own reasons not to write. Start writing.

Ways to Start Writing

If you’re having trouble getting started, here are three ways to start writing that you may not have thought of.

You can start by mind mapping. Mind maps are great because they give you visual representation of your ideas and how they connect. Some writers write directly from their mind map. Others turn the mind map into an outline.

You can start by free writing. Just start writing about whatever comes into your head. As you get into the writing flow, ideas and phrases that relate to your book will pop up. I’ve worked with several writers who’ve used free writing as the way to start every writing session.

You can start with a zero draft. I got that concept from Peter Drucker. He described a zero draft as the draft that comes before the first draft.

Write your book straight through from start to finish. Instead of stopping to refine things or worrying about phrasing, just get it out of your head and onto a page or into a file. Make notes about things you’ll need to get when you write your full book. The key here is to keep going until you have a complete version of the book. When you finish a zero draft, you’ll know what you need to write a first draft.

Remember the key: Start writing.


Don’t wait for the perfect time.

Don’t wait until you have it all figured out.

Don’t wait until everything is ready.

Start by mind mapping.

Start by free writing.

Start with a zero draft.

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