The best story idea in the world won’t write itself, and, once you acclimate to the fact that your story is going to change as it fleshes out and hits the page, your next great hurdle is focus.
No great endeavor of any kind has ever existed without someone first deciding that the thing was important and, second, deciding to do something about it. But a project as extensive as a book takes a special kind of focus. It takes endurance. Runners train differently for endurance than they do for sprints. You have to maintain your energy, keep yourself going, keep the rhythm of the pace even when you feel tired. You have to have a reason to keep putting one foot in front of the other
Tony Robbins gives some great advice for staying focused, and I would like to share a piece of it with you. Maybe it will help us both to complete our race and our book.
Get a Vision.
Why do you want this? What does completing this book mean to you?
You have to know that answer, and it has to be a clear and compelling reason. ‘Should write it’ and ‘could write it’ don’t enter into this arena and will not win the day. You have to want to write this.
Think about it this way. This book is about a year’s worth of work, maybe more. If your story doesn’t excite you in the early stages, it never will. If you don’t love these characters, you’ve just assigned yourself to work with officemates that you don’t enjoy for the next year. Pick a project you love, characters that excite you. Then be prepared to rekindle that excitement any time it starts to flag because when you do what you love, the passion will propel you. It will pull you forward so you don’t have to spend the next year pushing yourself to put pen to paper.
Get the Right Tools.
This is more than pens and papers, computers and that super-awesome customized writing software. Robbins really honed in on having a map and having a mentor, and I think he’s spot on.
You don’t build a house without blueprints. You don’t play pro-football without a game plan, and you don’t fight a war without having a clear and effective strategy. A vague New Year’s Resolution to finally finish that book will just see you making the same vain resolution next year.
You need to look at the lay of the land. What is the landscape of the story you have to cover? What ambushes in your life and schedule lie in wait to steal your time and energy for this work, consuming those valuable resources like locusts? How will you overcome them? What does victory look like to you? Not just for the entire project, but for this month, for this week, this day?
And how do you know what works?
That’s where a mentor comes in. I’m not saying flood your favorite best-selling author with applications for apprenticeship or indentured servitude. However, do find a writer that is successfully doing what you want to do and figure out how they do it. Brandon Sanderson and many others are very active in trying to put resources into the hands of aspiring writers, sharing out of their own journeys. So find a writer who has made it to the top and is talking about it – be it on YouTube, on blogs, or in person – and listen. Take notes. Stand on the shoulders of giants who have gone before you, and maximize your own efforts.
And finally, for goodness sake, Get Yourself Together!
You can have it all together. The desire, the map, the mentor, the resources, but if your own inner baggage is keeping you from putting your butt in the chair and words on the page, it will all be for nothing. So check yourself. Are you again and again taking two steps forward and three steps back? Never making any real headway or doing good work only to throw in the towel at the finish line?
These come from all manner of internal resistance, and you are going to have to do some soul searching and resolve those issues if you really want this.
Maybe you’ve believed a lie. That you don’t deserve this. That you never succeed or that nothing ever really works out for you, so why try? That success and love or success and spirituality cannot coexist. Whatever.
Nine times out of ten, it is Fear. It’s a nasty beast, often subtle and hard to put words to, but this is just what you have to do. Put words to it. Identify the lie that your fear is feeding you, then put on a steel-toed boot of Truth and kick it in the teeth. Then get on with doing what you love.
You can have this. You can make it, and you can do it smart. You can focus smart. So let’s put down these excuses – the bag is too heavy anyway – and let’s do this.