Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Time Waits For No One

Isn't it amazing how quickly time seems to pass when you're busy. You're going to and fro, doing this and that, and before you know it the day is gone, you're pooped, it's bedtime and you're thinking you'll have to do it all again tomorrow. But really, do you accomplish anything you NEED to do on days like that, or are you merely running around doing stuff? Are you making progress or simply wasting time? 

Doing busy work is often a way to avoid doing what you really need to do. In essence, all of that busy work is a waste of time. A smart woman once told me, "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing! I try to live by that saying, especially when I'm strapped for time. No matter what project I'm working on, I want to be sure to use my time wisely so that I make progress towards my goal.

One thing I've found that helps me tremendously with making progress on any project is to organize my time. We all have just 24 hours in a day. You can easily portion out how much time you spend on daily tasks, such as work, errands, email, phone calls, paying bills, etc. But I'm here to tell you that it's not about all of the things on your to-do list, it's about organizing your mind to focus on what you need to accomplish, and that includes your book project.

Wouldn't it be better to spend an hour writing, instead of spending 20 minutes complaining about not having enough time to write? Stop using the excuse of being too busy or not having enough time to work on your book. Instead, apply these points when reviewing your to-do list and making time in your schedule to work on your book.

  • Prioritize projects. Know what s most important and tackle that first. Even if you don t finish, determine that you ll make some progress.
  • Have realistic goals. Keep your expectations attainable.
  • Make several small goals rather than one large one. With each small step taken, you get closer to the finished product.
  • Make an action plan and follow it. Take time to make time.
  • Develop a routine. Schedule time on your calendar and keep that appointment with yourself to write. This will help you get in the habit of writing. It will help your family, friends, or roommates know that you take your writing time seriously, and so should they.
  • Make use of small chunks of time. If you've got 15 minutes in the middle of the day, use it to proof your work, research something, make a call, check a fact, or plan for tomorrow.
  • Pay attention to where you are wasting time. Avoid anything that does not contribute to your goals.
  • Have a comfortable, peaceful, quiet place to work.
  • Eliminate distractions.
Implementing these few tips will help you get more done, feel more accomplished, and have more time to do everything on your list. Try it, and remember to keep the main thing the main thing.

Dost thou love life? Then waste not time; for time is the stuff that life is made of.
~ Benjamin Franklin

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I Lost My Mo-Jo! Now What?

No, this is not a post about me (or anyone else) losing their edge, their sex appeal, or their money. It's about you, as an author, losing your inspiration, your motivation, your drive to complete your book project. As an author's coach, I see it all the time.

People start out writing their book with an abundance of excitement and drive. They've got an idea for a fantastic book and they're psyched about it. They've got the notes and the quotes; everything that'll make their book the best. But at some point, something happens. Oh, it could be the busy-ness of life, a family emergency, a business project that needs to take priority, or even just writer's block. Whatever it is, it causes the aspiring author to cease writing.

Then there's the would-be author who gets halfway through the publishing process and either gets cold feet or loses enthusiasm for the project and abandons it before it's had a chance to blossom. Perhaps the spouse read the first chapter and commented that it could use some work. Or maybe the editor made more corrections than the author anticipated. Or perhaps the designer took longer than expected to get the cover art just right. Any of these could be enough to cause an author to lose his/her grip on the goals of the book project. Don't let this happen to you.

If you feel your mo-jo slipping away ... ACT IMMEDIATELY! Here are a few things you can do to keep the momentum going for you book project:
  • Have a plan: Define why you're writing this book, who you're writing for, and what you hope to get out of it (as well as what you want readers to get out of it).
  • Create a timeline: This is just one form of goal setting. Set dates for the completion of certain chapters, when you want to begin or complete the editing process, when you'll complete the final manuscript, and when you want the first copy of your book in hand.
  • Get some inspiration: Throughout your book project you're going to need some voices of encouragement. These could be friends, family, or colleagues. Also, look to inspirational books, recordings, and speakers to give you a boost from time to time.
  • Refresh your surroundings: Sometimes what you really need is a new writing location. If you're bored stiff with writing in that little room in your house, try writing at a coffee shop, library, park, friend's house, or some other unique venue.
  • Read: Writers read. It's always a good idea to read a good book. So grab one and pay attention to sentence structure, story flow, character development, chapter transitions, book outline, overall content, and other elements.

Above all, do not give up on your book project! Losing your mo-jo is only temporary. Try any (or all) of the above and you'll find it once again, probably where you left it ... somewhere between "In the beginning ..." and "The End."

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Fail to Plan ... Plan to Fail

You’ve probably heard the saying, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” I wouldn’t go quite that far when it comes to writing and publishing your book. However, beginning your book project with a plan is one of the best ways to help smooth the process and ensure you reach your goals for your book project.
One thing I share with my clients -- whether they’re writing their first book or their next one -- is the importance of having a plan. Practically every successful author starts out with a plan. This book plan could include a number of points to ease the writing process and produce a quality book that sells. When you begin your book project with the end in mind, and then chart a path to reach your desired result, you can see how every step along the way should point directly towards your goal. 
The content of your book plan is for your eyes only. It is the foundation, the background, and the substance that will lead you into the content of your book. Your plan is your road map. It is the hand you will hold as you walk the path of writing and publishing your book.
The following is a simple plan I suggest you try at the start of your book project. Or, if you’re part way through the process, it’s okay to step back, develop your plan, and move forward with these points in mind:

  • Qualifications: Who are you? What do you know? Why should I care? Answer these three questions to solidify in your own mind how and why you are uniquely qualified to write this book. Describe your background, qualifications, and expertise. Explain the unique perspective you bring to the topic of your book.
  • Why: Determine your purpose for writing this book. It could be that you want to increase your client base, gain more media attention, leave a legacy for your family, support your expertise, advance in your career, or something else. Be firm in your why and let that inspire you to continue when the going gets tough.
  • Readers: For whom are you writing this book? This might not be an easy question to answer. You should thoroughly define the ideal readers for your book. This will help you remain focused on the needs and interests of your readers so you can write a book that will be a page turner. 
  • Knowledge point: Consider what you want readers to think, feel, or do when they finish reading your book. 
  • Goals: How many words, pages, or hours per week will you commit to writing? It takes this kind of goal setting to stay dedicated and to get your book done. 
  • Finish date: It is critical that you set a target finish date for your manuscript. Without a defined finish date you might never get your book finished. At the very least, select a date by which you plan to complete a first draft of your manuscript.
Apply these points to your book plan to help get through the process quicker and easier.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

It’s Okay to Take a Break

Have you ever dreamed of taking a vacation to an island with white sand beaches, crystal clear blue waters, cool, refreshing drinks, and steel-drum music? Ever wanted to get away from it all and just ... be? Honestly, I’ve thought about it numerous times, and recently, I did it. Last month, I enjoyed an amazing 14-day cruise through the Caribbean. What a fabulous time I had ... which is why I haven’t posted anything in a month. 
One day I decided to write at poolside.
At the onset of my cruise, I planned to write a little something each day (I’m a writer, after all!), read a book I’d been holding onto for just such an ocassion, and, of course, get some much-needed rest from the busy-ness of my life. Well, I can honestly say that I did only one of the above tasks. That’s right, I rested. Each time I thought about writing something, the sparkle of the waters caught my attention, and I simply stared into the deep blue ocean. Each time I reached into my bag to pull out the book, I decided that it wasn’t time to begin reading. “I’ll read tomorrow,” I’d tell myself. And so, I simply rested. 
Oh, I did things on the cruise ship -- toured the bridge and the galley, ate, exercised in the fitness room, ate, participated in a table tennis tournament, ate, touched up my tan near the swimming pool, ate, watched a few movies, and even ... ate. If you’ve ever cruised, you know it’s all about the food! Of course, I did some fun stuff while in the eight ports I visited -- zip lined, snorkeled, shopped, and toured. It was all a load of fun. 
Well, after all of that sunning, funning, and eating, I just didn’t have the desire to do anything else. A few days into the trip I felt rather guilty. I mean, really, how could I have let so many days pass without writing one word? It was so unlike me. I had so much work to do that if I didn’t make some progress on my projects while on vacation, I’d return only to find myself behind schedule, and I hate to be behind schedule. After a few days of this, I finally let myself off the hook. “I’m on vacation, for goodness sake!”
So, where am I going with this, you might ask. My point is that I realized that it really is okay to take a break from time to time. I honestly don’t remember the last time I actually took a vacation from EVERYTHING. I must admit, this was a great way to put my work and my life into perspective. I love to write, but even more, I love to live. My advice to you is, don’t get so caught up in your doing that you miss out on being. 
Remember, life’s a trip; enjoy the journey!