You’re a force to be reckoned with at work, your household runs like clockwork and birthdays are always remembered and celebrated on time. But you can’t seem to finish (or start) writing your book.
Does this sound like you? Or even a little bit like you? (I have to admit that “clockwork household” thing doesn’t sound exactly like me. 😉 )
Considering what I do for a living it’s embarrassing to admit it, but my own books don’t get finished. (I’ve even written a blog post before on Seven Virtuous Ways to Avoid Writing Your Novel.)
In a splendid irony, in my day job as an editor and publishing consultant, I help small publishers and indie authors get their books out into the world and achieve their dreams, cheering them on, helping them overcome obstacles, feeling excited for them when the successes come etc etc… and yet my own personal manuscripts suffer a different fate. I have 5 or 6 or 7 of them languishing in various stages of completion.
Confession time: The last time one of my own books was published was 2002!! Hopefully that makes you feel better — however much you’re struggling to get a book finished, at least you’re not as bad as I am. 😉
For me, I think there’s three main obstacles:
- Life gets in the way. Important things have to be done, and the book gets relegated. Yep, we all know that one.
- Perfectionism. I don’t want to put it out there till it’s really, really good, or it could ruin my professional credibility. (Conversely, I’m sure getting nothing finished is doing wonders for my credibility. NOT.)
- Fear of not having that book project that I’ve grown to love occupying a space in my life any more — a type of loss. (It took me a while to recognise that one.)
What are your obstacles? We’re all different.
Eager for some answers to my conundrum, I attended a workshop called Project Management for Writers at the excellent Queensland Writers Centre. (If you’re in another country and can’t attend their courses in person, check out the allied Australian Writer’s Marketplace, which is developing a list of online courses available to writers worldwide.)
The workshop was presented by Aussie management consultant Dr Monique Beedles, who actually knows something about getting things done. Monique has given me permission to share her insights with you, and we’ve even got an audio interview you can listen to on the train or bus, or perhaps while you’re alphabetising your spice rack. 😉
Monique is the author of Pivot Point: Making the Decisions that Matter in Business (Amazon affiliate link). You can find out more about her at moniquebeedles.com.
It’s nice and short, only 9 minutes, so you can get back to your writing! 🙂
Listen now: MP3 4.3MB
Here’s a quick summary of the main points…
- How to connect the creative process with the tools of project management, and whether it really works.
- How to figure out our priorities, so we can manage y\our time and resources. One of the things Monique uses for this is to get us to write our own obituary the way we’d like it to be (which won’t be needed for many years, of course!) It helps us work out what we want to be remembered for and whether our writing is part of that.
- Tips for sharing our goals with the people who are closest to us, so that they can support us in the project.
- The importance of creating accountability for ourselves, by setting milestones and action plans for achieving writing goals. Working with others can also help — for example by joining a writing group, or working with an editor — to make ourselves accountable to someone else.
- Even if you only have small amounts of time to get a book written, it can be done. Monique knows someone who wrote a book in short bursts on the top of her washing machine, in between demands from the kids! If you lack inspiration, or the perfect place in which to write, it can still be done.
- Monique is an author herself, and has used these principles in getting her own book finished. She actually planned her book launch before she finished her book, and it gave her a deadline she had to work towards. A public, concrete, ADVERTISED deadline. Brave woman! Monique found this to be “positive pressure”, but it’s not for the faint-hearted!
I came away from Monique’s workshop with this piece of personal inspiration: I need to treat my books the same way I plan my work projects — by working back from a deadline, one step of the process at a time.
What’s keeping you from finishing your book? Do you think some of these tips might help? What’s your favourite procrastination story? (We all enjoy a good procrastination story.) How have you overcome procrastination or fear or other people’s expectations in the past? Tell us so we can all learn and be encouraged! 🙂
Featured jigsaw image via Bigstock/stuartmiles