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Writing a book is an amazing feat of character.
As Hemingway said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
It takes guts, courage, time, sacrifice, and a whole lot of grit to write and publish a book, so this lesson is dedicated to strategies that will help you get those words on paper.
Find the right time and place to write.
My friend Donald Miller has a writing cabin in his backyard where he has written a few NYT best sellers. Okay, we aren’t really friends but we shared the stage at a conference in New York City a few months ago and he was the nicest guy so I’m going to pretend we’re besties.
But if you follow him on Instagram, you can learn about his writing cabin. It’s incredibly romantic, right? Writing a best selling memoir in your cabin.
Ah, if only writing a book was like that.
I wrote my book in the passenger seat of a Winnebago across multiple states. I wrote it in airports and in messages on my phone and texted notes to Heath that said: “don’t let me forget to add X to chapter two!”
I wrote wherever and whenever I could. It was incredibly messy and Heath and I got into more than one fight about the giant stack of papers and notes I kept strewn across our table as research.
The best time for me to write is first thing in the morning. I like to wake up, drink my coffee, and read a book on my Kindle. Sometimes I can barely finish one chapter before I’m onto cup number two and clicking away on my computer. Those are good writing days. The ones where you don’t check your email or web traffic or your social media. Your brain is free and clear to create.
But those mornings are rare.
More often than not, I read, then I do yoga, then I reply to Facebook comments and Youtube comments and scroll through Instagram wondering why thousands of people haven’t liked my latest photo.
And by the time I finally start writing, I’m spent! My brain is exhausted.
This may not be true for you, but I know it is for me.
Writing is a creative art form. Your brain can’t be free to be creative when you’re wondering why 27 people unsubscribed from your newsletter. Was it because they know you’re writing a book and want to preemptively separate themselves from you so they never have to hear about it? (Just something that keeps me up at night, NBD.)
There’s no perfect time or place to write. But finding the best time and place for you makes a difference.
Knowing mornings were best for me, I set a routine. Wake up, coffee, read, write 1,000 words.
Write every day.
Some days I wrote 3,000. Some days I just sat there editing yesterday’s crappy words. But I vowed either way to spend my morning hours focused completely on writing my book.
I didn’t wake up especially early, heck I didn’t even wake up at the same time every day. But I established a small routine helped me stay on track with the writing. Because consistency and showing up to create daily is what will get your book done!
Don’t worry about how much you write each day, just keep writing daily!
How to write every day when you’re SO TIRED OF WRITING.
Writing is exhausting.
I speak from experience, obviously.
So what do writers do when their fingers can type no longer?
We speak and let the robots transcribe our brilliance.
Personally, I like using the voice to text option on my iPhone. When my fingers don’t move as fast as my brain, I speak into my phone and let it transcribe my thoughts for me.
Of course, this option only really works with shorter paragraphs since voice-to-text isn’t the best technology yet.
Many authors go the audio transcription route. They walk and talk into their phones or recorders and then send the file off to be transcribed. Then they edit the transcription and have a whole chapter done. Badda bing, badda boom. (Services like Rev are good for this!)
I’m cheap, so I work in smaller blocks by recording voice to text. Transcription services like Rev charge a dollar per minute and can get pretty expensive depending on how much of your book you’re recording. You can also try hiring a transcriptionist through sites like Upwork to see if you can get a lower price.
If you need a break from typing but can’t skip a day of writing, try speaking your chapters into your phone.
Don’t edit while you write.
You’ve likely heard this before.
Don’t edit while you write.
This will kill your mojo and ruin your day and have you working on one verb in one sentence for three hours.
The fancypants reasoning behind this is that writing is creative and uses a different part of your brain than analytical editing.
But my reasoning is that editing your own writing kind of makes you feel like crap. It’s you telling yourself that your work sucks and it all needs to be re-written.
And if you let yourself do that during the creation process, your book will never get done. Editing-you will be so frustrated with writing-you for not being perfect and writing-you will be so insecure about editing-you’s criticism that it won’t be able to write for fear of failure.
Man, no one gets pissed at you quite like you.
If this is something you struggle with, you are required by law to read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. Specifically, the chapter called Shitty First Drafts.
Let your brain write freely for your first draft. Get the words on paper and worry about editing later. For now, just write.
Now like Hemingway said, writing involves a little bit of bleeding. Sweat and tears are also frequently involved in my experience.
Even though I wrote a practical guide with very little insight into my personal life, writing the book itself was an emotional and intimate act. Writing a book will make you feel insecure and stressed and frustrated and a whole slew of emotions—just ask my husband.
So creating an optimal environment while writing is key. In addition to time and place, you need to create a distraction-free environment to focus on your writing.
How to Limit Distractions, a list of possible ideas:
- Turn off your phone and/or leave it in a different room
- Turn off your wifi on your computer
- Turn on “Do Not Disturb” on your computer
- Add a “Newsfeed Eradicator” to your Facebook (it’s a free Chrome extension that has changed my productivity!)
- Close all other programs other than your writing program on your computer
- Use a writing program like Scrivener that has a “distraction-free” setting
- Refuse to check your email, to do list, Trello, or social media before writing
- Create a writing routine
- Write when no one is home if you like writing alone
- Go to a coffee shop if you like writing in controlled chaos
- Do all your dishes and cleaning before you go to bed so you have a clean space to work in the morning
- Meal prep
Actually, that last one sounds random but is KING.
You know what takes FOREVER? Cooking. And eating. And I love those two things!
Cooking meals ahead of time so you can reheat food easily was essential when I was in the weeds working on my book. Having easy ready-to-eat snacks was important too. (And all this is doubly important if you have a spouse or someone who relies on you to feed them).
I’m not going to pretend to give you advice on how to limit distractions if you’re trying to write a book with kids. Pretty sure that’s impossible and you should be given a trophy or a superhero cape if you even attempt it.
Heath’s bonus tip
If you need extra accountability to work on your book, publicly set your publication date and pre-sell copies of your book. While I personally think you should have your first draft of the book done before you start pre-selling, Heath swears this is the only way he ever finished his book. Because he really had to!
Writing is a complex and sometimes draining artform, but we love it. (As you can probably tell if you chose to read through this 1,500-word blog post!) If you’re working on a book, I hope these tips help you get words on paper this week!
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