I just finished my 7th book. Hard to believe after what I went through with my first one. As excited as I was to begin that first time, when I read the crap I wrote, I tore up the pages, feeling defeated.
My yearning to write kept me coming back, only to repeat the pattern yet again. This went on for months. I’d rip up pages in disgust and walk away in frustration.
Still the book kept calling. But clearly, I had neither skill nor talent to write it.
Then one day, while walking down a bustling San Francisco sidewalk during rush hour, I overheard two people chatting behind me.
He: I’m so frustrated trying to write this book. I just don’t have the time!
She: I know! Everyone wants to write a book. But no one’s got the time. And that’s really what it takes—putting your tush in the chair until you’re done.
That stranger on the street could have been talking directly to me. That moment of eavesdropping changed me from someone who wanted to write a book into an official author. 30 years have passed and I’ve learned a few more things about Putting (and Keeping) Your Tush in the Seat.
1. Take the Weight Watchers approach: Have someone hold you accountable. For my first book, I teamed up with a colleague. I’d write. She’d edit. We checked in weekly to stay on target. Those check-ins were invaluable. There’s nothing like an accountability partner to keep you on track.
2. Kick Perfectionism out the door. Write shit. Then clean it up. It took me three books to finally get this. I thought a bad draft meant I can’t write. Not so. The purpose of the early go-rounds are merely to get your ideas on paper. The quicker you can spread all the ingredients out on the table, the sooner you’ll whip them into an often surprisingly delicious stew.
3. Don’t wait until you’re inspired. William Faulkner once said, “I only write when I am inspired. Fortunately I am inspired at 9 o’clock every morning.” I’d make myself sit at the computer even if many mornings, I’d just stare out the window, or retype one paragraph over and over again. I kept my tush in the seat, regardless of my progress. And once I figured out it didn’t have to be perfect, the writing became easier.
4. Hold tight to a grander vision. I approach each and every book as if it’s part of a Grand Plan. As if I’m supposed to write it. As if there’s one person who really needs to hear what only I have to say. As if, to quote Mother Teresa, I am a pencil in God’s hand, doing what I have been assigned to do. Seeing the task as greater than me helps dissolve my debilitating fear.
5. Make it a priority. There’s always time to do what’s important. The key: I had to make the book an important priority, not just a wistful fantasy. Writing had to take precedence over the myriad of other items on my to-do list. When the book became as important as spending time with my kids, even more important than working out, the momentum shifted and the writing took precedence.
6. Trust your desires. I had a poster in my office with the words of Richard Bach: “You’re never given a dream without also being given the power to make it come true. …Sometimes, however, you have to work at it.” I had a dream of writing a book, even though I’d never written anything up to that point. But the desire wouldn’t go away. Dreams do that. They keep nagging at you—and either you make it a priority and work like hell, or allow it to fade away.
7. Put your tush in front of the computer every day and write! Even if it’s only 10 minutes. Even if, no especially if, what you write is awful! Get up extra early if you have to. You’ll be amazed what a difference a few months will make.
Even if you don’t want to write a book, can you apply these tips to other goals? Tell me why in the comments below.