When I first landed a publishing contract, life was exciting! Some days I would wake up in bed thinking – Hey, it’s real! I will be an author!
Then the reality set in. My publisher wanted a quick turn around and in truth so did I. The trouble was that with a full-time job, a busy personal life, writing a book was an extra! A big extra. And in the last weeks before I finally handed in what I thought was a great product, I was exhausted and worried whether what I wrote was good enough. Working with it everyday made me too close. At the very end, I literally went into what my friend called perfectionism overdrive one night.
The only thing keeping me away from turning the fear of the book not being good enough into inaction and/or procrastination was my respect for deadlines, high quality product and my word that I would get the manuscript to my editor on time. An editor, actually two editors (Jonathan and Jenny) that have been absolutely amazing!
So here’s my list of things that helped me stay focused on the task and get the writing done. I share this with you as I think it can be used for completion of many tasks especially the final bits that seem to take ages and when many of us can lose steam.
- Chunk down: divide what seems massive into small and manageable chunks. For me this meant book sections and then individual exercises. One after another, I read and reread each bit to make sure that the quality of each was on par with others. There would be no fillers in my book!
- Highlighting the stuff that I felt was weaker than the rest and really taking the time to rework it! With a couple of exercises that literally meant a pack of PostIt notes and a whole Saturday afternoon.
- Taking regular short breaks! Especially fresh air, walk to the local super market, quick coffee shop visit and short comedy programmes on Radio 4.
- Coffee – bucket loads. I made a thermos of it at 7pm and drank three cups until 2am. Strangely, at night coffee really does keep me up!
- Good friends. They were indispensable to remind me to regain a balanced perspective, turn blockages into productive edit sessions, and generally motivate me when the end seemed far in sight.
- Feedback! While the book was being written, I freely shared exercises and chapters with my coachees and colleagues to get their honest opinion. I am lucky to have friends who are very honest and will tell you what works and what doesn’t so their positive feedback really helped to keep my motivation up and trust in what I was creating.
- My fantastic writing editor Jenny! Nothing like another person helping you draw out the essence of what you want to say with less words. And Jonathan who had tremendous excitement for the idea from the start.
- A visual map of progress. I am lucky to have a massive wall radiator in my kitchen, where I often work. It loves magnets and the feeling is mutual :)- I put up a picture of books I snapped in a local bookshop to remind me of the final goal – my first book being amongst them. I also wrote up a giant to-do list of all the outstanding tasks connected with the book and ticked them off as I completed each one. Seeing this list get smaller was a massive motivator.
- Sleep. Yes rest is actually good!
- Early morning rereads of the work I did the night before. With a few hours of rest, reading my work anew and feeling good about what I wrote helped me acknowledge my own progress was real.
- Firm deadline I wasn’t prepared to break.
- A daily schedule. Some things took longer. Others were an unexpected but pleasant breeze. There were days when the schedule seemed to slip, and then moments of absolute breakthroughs. So my advice is be realistic and flexible. And when in doubt chunk down.
- Breathe and slow down. Surprisingly you will get more done that way.
If you are writing or completing another project, I wish you lots of success! And if you have tips you care to add to this list that others can use, please do so via the comments list. Thanks and stay productive!