I am amazed at the number of people who tell me that they want to write a book or they have started to write one but they can’t seem to get the time to finish it. Even this week I ran into someone who I had not seen for a long time and she told me that she has three books written or almost written and she has not made the final step to publish them. Every time I put out a book, people with books inside of them tell me what an inspiration I am to them and that seems to be the end of the story. This week I’m here to help.

Every Friday I get a weekly inspirational newsletter called Friday Forward from Robert Glazer, Founder and CEO of a company called Acceleration Partners. I really look forward to receiving them because I can always find a pearl of wisdom to apply to my life or receive confirmation that I’m doing something right.

Last week’s was about setting and accomplishing big goals one step at a time. He said: “Big goals, those things we say we really want in life, often sit on the horizon as an intimidating, seemingly impossible mountain to climb. We struggle to take the first step because we don’t map out our trek to the summit into smaller “chunks”.” Can you identify with that?

One of the big goals he mentioned was writing a book. Believe me, it’s not enough to just say “I want to write a book”. You will never get past that. I’ve shared in this column before about setting SMART objectives to achieve any major goal. I always do this when I’m writing a book of any significant size. At the outset I plan the number of words I’m aiming for, usually between 70,000 and 80,000 depending on the book. Then I set myself a deadline to complete the book by and divide the number of words by the number of days I’ve given myself and that gives me a target number of words to write each day.

Does that mean I always write that number of words every day? No. Some days I write more and some days less. On really bad days I don’t even write any. But what I always do, is push ahead, check where I am along the journey and never give up. Measuring and tracking tell me if I have to put in extra time to catch up or if I can ease off the pace. Writing takes time. Completing the book in you comes down to how you choose to invest your time. I choose to invest my time in writing.

I love how Robert Glazer puts this: “While one person gets on Facebook for 30 minutes a day, another chooses to invest that same time writing a book. At the end of three months, the first person is much wiser about their friends’ vacations and the food people are eating whereas the other person has drafted the first 30-40 pages of their book.”

My issue may not be Facebook, but it’s reading. Sometimes when I’m supposed to be writing, instead I am caught up in a good book and I have to remind myself that this person’s book is already finished while mine is waiting to be written. That usually gets me back to my computer quickly. What is your issue?

The most important part of finishing any big task or accomplishing any big goal is focus and discipline. Robert says: “Those individuals who get a lot of really impressive things accomplished don’t have more time; they have more discipline and focus. They chip away at their audacious objectives one day at a time and the effect is compounding.”

The other aspect that’s very important is motivation. What is your motivation for writing a book and how strong is it to get you to move from the idea of writing to actually producing a finished manuscript?  For me, I love writing and my motivation is to write books that will either educate, inspire or give my readers a few hours of enjoyment; hopefully all three. I am also very driven to finish what I start so that motivates me to keep going.

Vaucluse, my latest novel, was somewhat of a different kettle of fish. It took me two years to research and write. The reason being that it was not as straight forward as writing my usual fiction because it was a fictionalisation of a historical character and required hours of research, which was not all forthcoming at the same time. Sometimes I also had to re-write parts when I discovered new information.

One such incident that stands out for me was when I had written a whole section about my main character preparing the first slave register for Vaucluse and I had dated it May 26, 1817. Then I got an email from historian Robert “Bobby” Morris telling me that he was in the Archives and found a deed where my character, Henry Peter Simmons, was in England and had manumitted three slaves on that same date. Needless to say, I had to re-write. So there will be things that happen to delay you but if you are really motivated, you will get back on track and finish. The “secret” is to do a little bit every day, every week and every month and you will finish it.

To borrow Robert Glazer’s quote from the article last week: “Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they were laying bricks every hour.” –John Heywood

Start laying your bricks.

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