Writing a Book: Letting good habits unravel

Oct 23, 2018 | Writing A Book

Writing a book takes discipline if writing isn’t your main job. People who get it done develop good writing habits.

Some of my clients write early in the morning, others write late at night. Most work on the book every day, while a few set aside a block of two, three, or four hours every weekend. There’s no one writing habit that works for everyone. You must find your own way. But once you’ve figured out what works for you, you must stick with it.

Why It’s Hard to Stick with It

You had a chock-full life before you started writing a book. There are business demands, social and family obligations, and you want time for recreation. They still claim your time and attention. Writing is something new.

It’s hard to develop good writing habits. It’s also hard to do them day after day and week after week and month after month. There are two common ways that my clients let their writing habits unravel.

The Exception Becomes the Rule

Every day, you’re tempted to make an exception. You’re tempted to say, “Just this once…”

Don’t do it. Making an exception is a slippery slope. It’s easy to make the exception for today, and then for tomorrow, and then for the day after that. After a couple of weeks, you realize you haven’t written.

The best way to keep yourself moving forward is to use an accountability partner. An accountability partner is someone you report to on how you’re doing. Having to explain things to someone else makes you more likely to keep doing things you’ll be happy to report.

When you bring on an accountability partner, you can use a friend, or hire a pro. I’m the accountability partner for several clients. Every week, they tell me what they want to accomplish. At the end of the week, they tell me how they did. My responsibility is to nudge them when they stop reporting and to help them improve their writing and their writing habits.

You can also be your own accountability partner, using comedian Jerry Seinfeld’s “chain method.” Seinfeld uses it and recommends it to comedians who want to be sure to write a joke every day. It doesn’t take much to adapt it to writing your book.

Describe what you want to do, like writing 100 or 500 or 1,000 words every day. Get a nice, big calendar you can post where you and other people can see it. On a day when you make your goal, put a great big red X in the day on the calendar. Every day, remind yourself that you don’t want to break the chain. It sounds simple and it sounds silly, but it works.

There Is Nothing More Permanent Than A Temporary Solution

When I went to the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, in the 1960s, several of the barracks were buildings built as temporary staples during World War I. Left to our own devices, it’s easy to make the temporary permanent by simply not dealing with it.

You can be your own accountability partner on this. When you decide to stop writing or working on your book for a while, define by what you mean by “a while.” You’re more likely to resume if you set a specific date and a way to remind yourself of it.

When one of my clients decides to stop writing for a while, here’s what I do. I ask them to set a date and I take responsibility for reminding them of it. There’s nothing wrong with deciding that you don’t want to write a book anymore. It should be a conscious choice, though, and not happen by default.

Bottom Line

Writing a book takes discipline if writing isn’t your day job. Develop good writing habits, then stick to them. Use a system or an accountability partner to help you maintain your discipline. If you decide to stop for a while, decide when you will resume and set a way to remind yourself.

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