Authors all over the world have been in this scenario more often than they would care to admit: they set a resolution to write a book by a certain date, but despite good intentions, motivation and discipline, the date slips by as their routines take over (going to the gym, being a great parent, keeping the boss happy, cleaning the house, etc.).
How often do you find yourself two months past your deadline and you haven’t checked a single thing off your writing list?
There’s a culprit here that we don’t like to talk about, and its name is resistance.
As Steven Pressfield wrote beautifully in the classic book The War of Art: Winning the Creative Battle, “Procrastination is the most common manifestation of Resistance because it’s the easiest to rationalize. We don’t tell ourselves, ‘I’m never going to write my symphony.’ Instead we say, ‘I am going to write my symphony; I’m just going to start tomorrow.’”
So, what’s your excuse?
Let’s go over eight techniques for overcoming resistance and finishing a manuscript in 90-days.
- Set goals (and keep them).When you don’t have a goal in mind, it’s easy to miss out on opportunities to write throughout the day. Set a daily or weekly word-count goal and write it in your schedule as something you MUST do. If you have an hour a day to write, make sure you sit down for an hour a day to write. If you miss a day, make it a point to make up that time the day after.
- Start small.When we start to implement goal-setting, it is important to remember that these goals don’t have to be huge. You can set a goal of 500 words per day, five days a week. This gets you to 10,000 in one month! Little chunks add up quickly, so don’t get hung up on the amount you “should” be writing. Break up your big goals to make them seem easier to achieve.If you don’t have the ability to write daily, commit to writing a few days per week or on weekends. Elliott Neff, the CEO of a fast-growing company called Chess4Life, makes it a priority to write on Thursday and Saturday mornings. He is averaging 2,000 words per week, and finds that when he gets “in the zone” that it’s difficult to stop! He loves the process of writing and cannot wait to get back into the story on the days that he doesn’t write.
- Time yourself and take breaks.There are a number of ways to manage your time effectively while giving yourself a mental break. You’ll need to learn what works best for you. Some find the 20-20-20 rule helpful: every 20 minutes, spend 20 seconds staring at something 20 feet away. Others use the task managing app called 30/30, which features a timer that will alert you to take a break after a set amount of time. Most will see that giving yourself breaks will boost productivity, so make it a priority to set a timer and get out of your head.
- Don’t get stuck—move on if you need to.Imagine how long it would take you to achieve your word count goals if you spent unnecessary time getting everything perfect the first go around. Remember: you can go back later and edit your work. If you’re stuck on a word or idea, put an asterisk or italicize the word that you’re tripped up on and come back to it later. Flow is important! Make sure you are writing consistently and not getting stuck.
- Set good boundaries.Boundaries are critical, especially if you work at home where it’s easy to get distracted. Tell your friends and family that you are not to be interrupted during your writing time. Shut the door if possible, set a timer, and tell your family that this period is important so you mustn’t be called on to answer a question. This tells everyone you are serious about your writing time, and you will be available after you’ve achieved your goal for the day.
- Go somewhere else.
If it’s difficult to work at home, get out of the house and go somewhere you will not be distracted or interrupted. Go to a local coffee shop, library or book store and turn off your phone. Some people will find that they are more inspired when they get out of their normal environment!
- Do some brain dumping.If you’re having a hard time focusing, you likely have a million other things going on in your mind. Take five minutes and do an exercise called “brain dumping.” Write down every single thing that is weighing on your mind, whether consciously or not. Remember those “don’t let your pen leave the paper” tasks at school? This is just like that. When the things you’re writing starts getting redundant, it’s time to stop and get back to work.
- Overcome insecurity by declarations.Everybody struggles with insecurity, whether we like to admit it or not. If you’re entering into a project feeling like you’re not capable of doing a good job, stop and make a list of reasons why you are perfectly capable.
- “I am born to do this.”
- “My voice is powerful and it’s meant to be heard.”
- “If I don’t tell this story, it will never be written.”
Keep saying it until you start to believe it!
Scott Hogle recently wrote a book called Persuade: The 7 Empowering Laws of the SaleMaker, which he finished in just three months. Yes, THREE MONTHS. Not only did he make time in his days to write purposefully, but he did it on top of coaching his son’s basketball teams and working full-time as the VP of Sales for a radio station. It is possible to have a busy schedule and still finish a book in a short amount of time; you simply have to commit, set goals, and keep them.
No more excuses, it’s time to start writing!
Bryan Heathman is the President of Made for Success Publishing and the host of the Book Publishing Success podcast show. Bryan works with best-selling business authors, including NYT best-selling authors Chris Widener and Tom Hopkins, plus up-and-coming authors including Johnny Covey. Bryan is the author of Conversion Marketing, a marketing book on converting website visitors into buyers. Bryan’s Fortune 500 experience includes Microsoft, Eastman Kodak and Xerox.