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How to write your book without neglecting your life

Writing a book is a big deal. It requires dedication, commitment, and persistence.

However, it doesn’t require you to retreat to a cabin in the wilderness and neglect your life for the foreseeable future (as romantic a notion as that may seem!).

I can attest to the fact that it is possible to write a book and maintain your life, because I did it. In 24 days, to be exact.

But, before you protest that I must be kidding (I’m not), let me add the disclaimer that I had been planning my book for a number of months, and had written other things (such as blogs) that I was able to repurpose for inclusion in my book.

So, I wasn’t starting from nothing.

I should also acknowledge that, generally speaking, I would prefer to write something than say it, so I am quite proficient at producing words on a page.

Plus, my career in academia provided me with many opportunities to fine-tune my ability to write quickly and efficiently, so that skill also came in handy.

Even though these factors may have contributed to the speed with which I wrote my book, I don’t believe they were the reason I was able to write my book without neglecting my life.

Here’s how you can write your book without neglecting your life (even if you’ve never done anything like this before:

1. Create a writing habit that fits with your lifestyle.

Many writing gurus will tell you that you must write every day. I disagree.

For many, writing every day feels impossible, and because they don’t think they can maintain a daily practice, they don’t even bother starting.

My suggestion is to create a habit that you can sustain. It may be daily, weekly, or something else. The frequency of your writing habit doesn’t matter: the consistency of it does.

When you develop a habit of writing regularly (at whatever interval works for you), you are training your brain to produce words on a regular basis. You create a level of automaticity when you form a habit, so the important element is the habit, not the schedule.

2. Create a writing ritual that feels aligned for you.

Creating a writing ritual will help facilitate the development of your writing habit and assist you to use your allocated writing time more efficiently.

It doesn’t matter what your ritual entails, but the most effective rituals involve more than one type of sensory input.

For example:

  • Auditory cues – listen to a certain song as you are turning on your computer and preparing to write.
  • Visual cues – place a visual prompt within view (I used a laminated copy of my book’s front cover) to remind yourself of what you are focusing on at that time.
  • Physical cues – do some stretches or make yourself a cup of tea or coffee, being mindful of the physical actions involved. Even a few deep breaths can be effective in creating a physical cue.
  • Olfactory – light a candle or burn some incense.

As with the writing habit – it doesn’t matter what the rituals are, so long as they feel right to you.

To ensure your writing ritual is maximally effective, ensure you have elements that help you transition into your writing time, and other elements that transition you out of it. That way, you create a container for your writing time, which helps you to snap back into your life, when your writing time is over.

3. Give yourself permission to write rubbish. But not too much.

This one may seem counterintuitive, but it is important. Giving yourself permission to write “rubbish” is actually giving yourself permission to not expect perfection in the first instance.

Writer’s block can occur when we sit and wait for the words to flow effortlessly onto the page. If we are editing and censoring our work before it is even out of our heads, it doesn’t take long to get frustrated at the lack of progress.

Instead, try writing (by hand or typing) whatever comes to mind first. You may experiment with different ideas or directions before you get some momentum.

Sometimes, I find myself typing the beginnings of sentences, disjointed phrases, or even just playing a bit of a word association game before I get into a rhythm.

This “rubbish” that often precedes the real content can serve as a bit of a clearing out of ideas and is ultimately helpful.

Usually what appears to be rubbish is actually the beginning of a coherent narrative that can be pulled together in a meaningful way.

There is a limit to this, though. If you find yourself producing many pages of disjointed ideas, with no clear theme or pattern emerging, you may wish to stop and reset.

Take a break and come back to it with fresh eyes and then see if you can find a coherent thread in your writing. If not, it may be worth calling it a day, and coming back fresh another time.  

4. Celebrate your progress.

The neuroscience of motivation has taught us that our brain’s reward circuits need regular reinforcement in order to operate effectively.

This means it is important to acknowledge and celebrate progressive milestones, rather than focusing exclusively on the end goal.

If you don’t allow yourself to celebrate your progress until you have your book in hand, your neurochemistry is going to go on strike and stop producing those wonderful hormones that keep you motivated.

There are a number of ways you can celebrate milestones. If you like quantifiable milestones, you may like to focus on wordcount milestones or completion of individual chapters as milestones.

Other celebration-worthy elements include:

  • your consistency as your writing habit is consolidated.
  • your commitment to the process, even when it feels hard.
  • your exploration of new and different ideas that you hadn’t previously thought about.
  • your re-examination of elements of your story or topic that have given you a deeper understanding than you had before.
  • the example you are setting for whoever is watching you as you persist with your author journey.

The opportunities to celebrate are plentiful and limited only by your imagination. It doesn’t actually matter what you celebrate – just make sure you do!

5. Seek support if you get stuck.

One of the reasons writing a book can take over your life is if you get stuck, either with the writing or the mindset elements of the process.

When this happens, it is not the time for stoicism or martyrdom. The longer you sit feeling stuck, the more resistance you will build towards moving forwards.

Seeking support from an author coach or mentor, editor, or fellow author, can help you find your groove again and serve as a catalyst for getting your book completed.

Yes, there is scope for solemn contemplation and independent pondering. However, your author journey doesn’t have to be a lonely one. It’s amazing what getting another set of eyes or ears on your situation can do to shift your perspective and identify a path forward.

If you are interested in learning more about how to get your book written without neglecting your life, schedule a free chat with me here: Book a call

Or, you may be interested in joining my upcoming FREE 3-part masterclass: From Pondering to Published – Charting your Author Journey. You can register here:

Here’s to writing fearlessly,

Xx Kate

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