I just finished my latest book. Hard to believe it’s my 7th especially when I think about my early attempts to write my first book. I was so excited to start. Then I read what I wrote. It was awful. I mean truly terrible. I tore up the pages, feeling defeated.
My yearning to write led me back to the computer time after time, only to repeat the pattern yet again. This went on for months. I’d rip up whatever I wrote in disgust and walked away in frustration.
Still, I longed to write. The book kept calling. But obviously, I had neither skill nor talent to do so.
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.
He: I just don’t have the time! It’s a hell of lot of work.
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. I took her words to heart and made a decision on the spot. I would put my tush in the chair every day and write until the book was finished. That moment of eavesdropping changed me from a person who wanted to write a book to an official author.
20 years have passed and I’ve learned a few more things about finishing a book. Let me share my 7 Secrets to 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. Ever since then, when I start a book, I find a friend for regular check-ins. 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 accept this notion. I thought a bad first draft meant I’m a terrible writer. Not so. The purpose of the first go-rounds are merely to get your ideas down on paper. The quicker you can spread out all the ingredients 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 hold it as wistful fantasy, a “someday I will” sort-of-thing. 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 or getting massages, 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 the chair, in front of the computer, every day and write! Even if it’s only 10 minutes. Even, 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.
I believe our dreams and desires are messages from our Soul, urging us to go where we fear, because that’s how we grow!