Today is the final day of my 30 day Writing Contract. I typed up what I was going to complete towards writing my book, signed the contract, and submitted it to a friend, who has been keeping me accountable. I didn’t complete my contract to the letter, but I stuck to writing almost every day and learned some things along the way that I thought might be useful to others, no matter what kind of project you may be working on:
- Practice daily. My minimum time is fifteen minutes of book writing (other writing, researching and organizing files do not count towards this time). This keeps the momentum going and helps me stay connected to the story. I know from past experience that the longer I go between working on the book, the more time I waste rehashing what I already wrote — trying to remember where I was, and getting caught up in revising the same thing over and over again when I should be writing the next chapter. (You can replace “revising” with “reliving” in that sentence to have an “aha” moment.)
- Practice daily. I know I already said that, but it bears repeating. I figure that I rarely skip a meal. So if I can manage to eat every day, I can manage to write every day.
- If you miss a day, do not let it become two days. Because that will certainly lead to three days, and you will feel lousy about yourself. You may even give up entirely. Don’t do this to yourself.
- Embrace “good enough for now.” As I finish a chunk of writing, I print it out, put it in a binder and consider it complete – no going back and revising allowed. After the entire draft is complete, I’ll be better equipped to see the big picture and know what needs to be changed, tossed, added or put into a different order. Until then, as I frequently tell my dogs, “Leave it!”
- Don’t over think it. Sometimes it’s good to have an outline or think big picture. In my situation, whether it’s because of my personality or the type of story I’m writing, outlining and big picture thinking completely kill my ability to write.
- No thinking of excuses or reasons why I can’t write right now. “Gosh gee, I’m tired and I had a bad day, my favorite TV show is on, I deserve to be able to just sit down and relax and eat cake.” No, what I deserve is to finish my damn book!
- Do what works for you. I have learned what works for me, but it may not work for you. Experts, even really rich and famous ones, do not know what is the best way for you to accomplish _______. They can tell you how they lost weight, cured fear and anxiety, started a business, or wrote a book, and you can learn a great deal from this information, but in the end, you are going to have to try different things and figure out what works best for your own individual self. You are smarter and wiser than you think. Trust it and believe it.
- Be careful about sharing what you are working on. People can be mean and not want you to succeed. Or they can be encouraging and offer up “helpful” suggestions that confuse and muddle up the picture you had so clearly constructed in your head. Someone can nod yes and yet, there’s that tight smile and nervous laugh and boom! Doubt! Input can be helpful, but only after you are well on your way. It can be tempting to talk because you’re so excited and want others to be excited with you but don’t do it.
- Ask for help if you need it. That sounds contradictory but think of it this way, solid information is good — like someone telling you how to build a website or going to a yoga class to make sure you do the poses correctly. Opinions about whether you can be successful or have a good idea are bad. On the other hand, research about the market you are entering and your competition are good. And drawing up a contract with a friend to complete a certain amount of work in a certain amount of time is also good.
- You are going to need periodic catchup and rejuvenation days. Despite what I said about practice daily, life happens. You need to take some time to do whatever makes you feel sane and refreshed and ready to hit it again tomorrow. You need time to take in real life experiences that further feed your creative soul. You may even be okay with taking weeks or months off from your project. But if you’re like me, it’s better to take a one day break every one or two weeks.
- Something has to give. And it absolutely should not be the number of hours you sleep as that will cause weight gain, loss of concentration, and overall crankiness. This was the hardest lesson for me to accept. I have to strictly enforce that working on the book assignment for the day has to be completed before I can do anything else. What that usually means is that the book assignment gets done and all the other stuff doesn’t. Day-after-day, my taxes are not filed, my house isn’t cleaned, my photos aren’t edited, and I haven’t read anyone’s blog. And then I feel guilty, but I’m learning to live with that.
I’d love to hear if you’ve had similar or different experiences with your projects. I’m still looking for someone who has learned how to grow time!