How to Finish Writing a Book: My Breakthrough
I came to class with less than a third of my first draft. In 5 days I completed:
- Most of the first draft, with just a few details to add (which require research)
- A chunk of the bare bones of my book proposal
- Ideas for book promotion
- A rough query letter
What gets in the way? How can you overcome that in order to finish writing a book? Here’s the magic I came away with from 5 days with Eric Maisel:
The Maisel Magic: “Manage Anxiety”
- We procrastinate on our books (and other meaningful work) because of anxiety. Much of the anxiety stems from words in our heads that we tell ourselves (no one will read it, I’m not a great writer, it’s been said before, etc.). When we say such things, we need to notice. Then we can tell ourselves, “That doesn’t serve me or my book.”
- Replace the phrase with an affirmation, such as “I have something important to say and people want to hear it.” Choose an affirmation that specifically counteracts your self-talk. Eric offers many anxiety management techniques that can also help.
- It turns out that many of the exercises I do with my clients work to combat anxiety, such as “Meet Your Muse.” This exercise bypasses the linear mind and critic, and helps you accesses your creative mind). A few deep breaths can also get you to write consistently and finish writing your book in due time.
Make Writing a Morning Habit
- A daily habit of writing for 30-45 minutes each morning (or every weekday morning) makes it easy to stay on track because you never have to decide, “Will I write today?” Writing is a given. Making choices causes anxiety, so if you’ve already made the choice to write each day, it will cut down the anxiety. You’ll still encounter resistance/anxiety but it’s easy enough to tell yourself the self-talk isn’t serving. You can also use the phrase I suggest to participants in my book writing classes: “I can have my book or I can have my excuses but I can’t have both.”
Avoid the 3 Day Slump
- If you’re on the 5 day/week plan, just remember that more than 3 days of not writing (according to Eric Maisel) will make it harder to get back to it.
Anticipate the Challenges
- If you’re going to do this plan, it’s important to figure out:
a) What will get in the way of finishing your book: “I have to take my son to school in the morning.”
b) How to solve that problem: “I’ll get up 45 minutes earlier and write then.”
On Fire with My New Writing Routine
In the two weeks since I returned from the retreat, I have not skipped more than one day per week of writing.
As Eric suggested, I focus my morning writing routine (30-45 minutes) on one project—my book or the related proposal, query, promotion ideas, etc. I can work on different aspects of it; yet, I am not working on other books, other blog posts, etc.
While I’m almost done with the first draft of the book, some mornings a few more ideas come. When this happens, I dutifully capture them—stories, exercises, etc.
On the mornings I don’t feel the book coming, I allow myself to work on other aspects that will serve the book, such as the proposal.
When I don’t need to drive my son to school, I often find myself writing for two or three hours in the morning, way past my committed time.
I shared this advice with my clients since returning and many of them, too, have reported breakthrough results. Several have almost finished writing their books since we spoke about this.
Are you ready to make a consistent commitment to writing each morning? Can you anticipate what will get in the way and create a plan of action to address such challenges ahead of time?
I’d love your comments:
- What’s working for you?
- What new commitments are you making?
- Identify any challenges you anticipate; share how you plan ahead to address them to finish writing your book.
- What shifts have occurred in your writing life since taking on such a commitment?
If you enjoyed this post, you may also want to read Writer Derailed! Curing Writer’s Block.
For a new perspective altogether, read Writer’s Block: Maybe You’re Not Stuck at All.