He would like to be capable of writing as he thinks, quickly, without effort, the word as agile and dynamic as athletes in a race, jumping over hurdles, one after the other, go, go, go, flying towards the finishing post, faster than the disgust limping behind him.
We desperately yearn to write that book, to become a published author, to find our passionate readers—and yet we don’t. Day after day flies by, and we do not put pen to paper. Why? Are we failures? Do we need to go back to school? Does procrastination hold us so tightly in its ugly grips that we cannot free ourselves to write even a few words a day?
Over the years, I’ve worked with many people who want to write books. I’ve noticed distinct differences in the attitudes and behaviors of people who finish books. When I examine my own writing habits, I can see why I manage to finish some projects while others languish untouched.
Last week, you wrote out your writing goals for the rest of the year. Although not all of you want to write a book—some of you have blogs, articles and poems to finish—this applies to you, too. Here are three hurdles to writing your book this year, and how to overcome them.
Hurdle One: Purpose
So you know what you want to do—write a mystery, a memoir, a self-help book. But do you know why you want to do it? Most of my procrastinating clients tell me that they have no trouble finishing an assignment for an editor or a teacher. When we puzzle over why, a variety of reasons come up from pay to punishment—you get paid to write for an editor and punished if you don’t. But the real difference is purpose: When we write for an editor, we have a purpose. Real people will read our work. When we write a novel—unless we’re under contract to a publisher—we have no idea if it will be read by anyone other than our critique group.
The Fix: We need a reason to be writing a book, a purpose beyond ourselves. Rewrite your goal and add a purpose statement:
- I will write my book this year so I can teach my clients how to overcome symptoms of depression.
- I will write my book this year so I can achieve my dream of becoming a children’s book author.
- I will write my book this year so I can … (Add your reason here!)
Hurdle Two: Other Goals
You’d be writing the great American novel, but first you have to finish training for the marathon, planning the launch of your business, or redecorating the living room. Your big life and career goals conflict with your goal of writing a book. You don’t have the life-space or head space necessary to think big thoughts and write them down.
The Fix: Take a hard look at your life and list every single thing you’re doing that might get in the way of writing your book. Let go of one or more activities that conflict with your goal of writing. Open up time and space in your life to think and write. If letting go of one thing doesn’t help, go back to your list and choose another activity to let go of. Repeat until you’re writing regularly.
Hurdle Three: BHAG
Lots of coaches talk about the Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG). I often meet writers who have BHAGS—like writing a nine-book epic fantasy series or the definitive guide to the care and feeding of rabbits. I tend to like a good ol’ BHAG myself, but the truth is: having a big hairy audacious goal is a huge hurdle to actually writing a book.
The Fix: Break down your BHAG into absurdly tiny steps. So instead of “write nine-book epic” or “write book one” or even “research characters” try something like:
+Write physical description of Mist Le Doux, the evil queen of the fairies.
When the steps are small enough to be workable, you’ll know. You’ll feel calm and able to tackle anything. And you will be writing.
Bonus Hurdle: Getting around to it. In my head, I’ve got a lot of stuff I’d like to get done—including organizing the bathroom closet, practicing yoga, and writing a few new books. I’ve even put some of these goals on my to-do list—every single week, all summer long. Clearly, I never get around to working on them.
The fix: Schedule the small steps. A to-do list isn’t enough. Get out your calendar and create a schedule. Add a time slot for each small step.
But Rochelle, you didn’t talk about …
No doubt I’ve missed a few hurdles. Maybe I’ve even missed the hurdle that trips you up the most. Don’t worry. During this month’s Write Now! Mastermind class, I’ll be talking about overcoming writer’s block, procrastination, and other hurdles that keep us from writing. If you have one that you’d like me to discuss, email me or leave a comment at the blog.
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