Commitment is a big word and a big responsibility. How committed are you in seeing your book come to life? Some of us sit on the sidelines wishing for things to happen. That will never work. To get things done, you need to have action along with intent. Only The Jerk and Forrest Gump fall into riches – it just doesn't happen in real life. You have to earn your stripes.
There is an old story about level of commitment: If you think of a breakfast consisting of bacon and eggs, which has the higher level of commitment – the chicken or the pig? The answer, of course, is obvious. The chicken contributes but the pig is totally committed.
The writing of such a large body of work as a novel and getting it to market means that the author needs to be fully committed. Others may have a stake in the game. They can provide support services such as editing, research, formatting, and business aspects of the publishing process but the author has the sole responsibility of being the creative person behind the keyboard. The author is the owner of their own destiny.
If you are that creative who wants to see their dream come to fruition, you have to build a reservoir of confidence and motivation that can keep you going when you don't think you can go any more. If you can learn a few things, they can keep you going when the path looks dark and dismal.
Much of your strength will come before the project has even begun.
1. Build A Habit
Habits are easy to form and really hard to break. Our habits come from the repetition. If you build the habit of playing the guitar every day for 15 minutes, that will become normal for you and you won't want to miss a day of it, because it centers you and makes you feel – well... normal.
Your habits, more than talent, more than vision, more than education, will be the determinant of your success. Practice habits that do not serve your goals and you will never get there. You can build a positive habit (reading, exercise, healthy eating) or you can build bad habits (smoking, over eating, laziness). So build the habits that will serve your purposes and not the habits that will inhibit your progress. Do the things that serve you and shun the things that do not serve you.
2. Don't Overextend Yourself
I have found that when I set an overwhelming amount of work in front of me, I am more likely to procrastinate, get discouraged, and not finish what I have started. Try to attack your task in smaller increments. We are always overambitious in anything we attempt. I know I am. I think I can get much more done in a smaller period of time. At first, I can attack the problem with guns blazing, and get running at top speed. The problem with that is that it's really unsustainable. I get really excited at first and that, at times, works against me.
So set yourself goals that you know you can sustain and reach. That will give you the confidence to keep going. If you find you can do more, by all means, do more. But start your production with a minimum sustainable level of effort. Your success, every day, will drive your habit and your habit will get your work completed. Always.
3. Keep Your Promises
The easiest person you can con is yourself. In the past, I would treat myself with terrible disregard. We break our promises to ourselves all the time. I quit smoking a hundred times before it finally took. I just kept trying.
Think about it this way: Take the word "try" out of your vocabulary. It is an insidious word that breeds failure. I have heard that if you say you're going to "try" something, it is like you’re saying to the world that you want credit for something that you have no intention of doing.
So, as it says in the Bible, let your yes mean yes and your no mean no. Make a considered decision as to your commitment before saying you will or won't do something. You will be a much happier person, because that "try" task will stick in the back of your mind for a very long time after you have really committed not to do it.
How many times have you put off that workout? How many times have you eaten more than you intended? How many times have you said you will try to do something and actually did it? Keep your promises and, most of all, keep your promises to you. This is very, very important. You have to believe that you are important enough to commit to.
4. Have A Fall Back Strategy
Things go wrong. Things always go wrong. As you've no doubt heard, they will go wrong at the worst possible time. Make the time to think of what you will do if you can't write today. Will you double your efforts another day? I wouldn't suggest that, because after a few days, you will be overwhelmed with the prospect of making up all that work. You need to know how to account for the time that you were unable to write.
Life has unexpected challenges and none of us are perfect. However, you can't use that as an excuse not to get things done. If you can't spend your allotted amount of time writing, then do at least something. I need to lay out for myself what that minimum amount of writing I can do each day. So, if something comes up and you can't do the one or two hours you were hoping for, you can shoot for that minimum writing time.
Today, I had an unavoidable distraction and I am writing in the front seat of a rental car to make sure I can get the time in that is necessary. Learn how to write wherever you are. You can grab 10 or 15 minutes anywhere you are. I use my iPad but a pen and paper work just fine. Steal every chance you get to generate words. Not all of them will be great but if you don't write them, they'll never exist.
5. Plan Time For Thinking
Writing is really heady stuff. Anything that gets into print had to exist in your mind before it came out in a cohesive well thought out form. But the seeds of germination take place in the down time while you're not writing. Plan some quiet time to let those thoughts take root and watch them grow.
Do not think that thinking time is the same as writing time, though. Thinking means nothing without action, and the action is the writing. While you're thinking, keep track of the ideas that come out of your head. Use an iPad, Smartphone or a pencil and paper. When you get an idea, write it down right away, because I can guarantee if you don't do something with the idea - it will be lost forever in the ether of your mind.
I make it a practice to spend part of the day sitting in silence letting the ideas flow through me like a river. When I think I have a good one, I'll write it down. I try to write down three new ideas a day. Not all will have legs but at least after I write them, I know they'll be there.
6. Review Your Progress Daily
You will never know if you're making any progress unless you devise measures for your success. It could be the number of words that you write or the number of dots you put on a piece of paper. The measurement is up to you. Make sure you have a clear goal in mind, take stock of where you need to be every day, and make it a point to check your progress at the end of the day. When you know where you are, you can set out the next increment of work ahead of you.
It's kind of like taking a trip from Dallas, TX to San Diego, CA. Get out a map and determine how much you want to accomplish each day. You may have expected to get to Albuquerque, NM the first day but you only get to El Paso, because the kids had too many bathroom breaks or you got side-tracked in the desert. So that night, you take stock. Maybe you drive straight through to Phoenix, AZ the next day or you can push on to the California border. You can make adjustments along the way. You need to take stock so you can make adjustments to your plan.
7. Get A Talisman
I don't much believe in hocus pocus, magic, or fanciful thinking. You absolutely need to do the work. What I do find helpful is to collect an artifact that can be a touchstone and remind you of the goal you have in mind. It could be anything from a rock, a stick, a lucky sombrero, a crystal, or a pet frog. It really doesn't matter what it is. You just have to make sure you can readily associate it with the project you're working on. Whenever you see it or touch it, you will be brought back to the determination, dedication and commitment you originally had for the project. We all need reminders and a talisman can be that reminder.
8. Learn The Process
I hear a lot of creative people deride processes. They believe the spirit must move, you must be visited by your muse, or you need to wait for your genie to appear. I've got news for you. If you aren't doing the work, your inspiration will never appear. Inspiration happens in the "flow" and you cannot get in the "flow"/"zone" without doing the work. So you should consider learning if there are any proven processes that can help you accomplish your mission.
There is a process to all things that we do. Whether you're washing dishes or building the next rocket ship that will save our species from ourselves. We follow processes, because they have been proven to work time and time again. If you learn the process, then when you begin to doubt your talent, you force yourself to progress anyway, or else you’ll start to wonder if you will ever create it. The prep work needs to be done before the implementation – only then can you make your masterpiece come to life. The process can show you that there is light at the end of the tunnel even when you can't see it. Learn a proven process and make it work for you.
9. Break It Down
Big things are really intimidating. They can get boring and tedious and unpleasant to do. If you break your project down into smaller chunks that can be accomplished in a day or two days, you will get to the finish line before you know it. You can put the intimidating behemoth aside and concentrate on only chewing the bite you have in your mouth. This will help you stay in the present moment and make the experience much better for you. Remember what you're trying to accomplish and that all of the steps along the way are necessary – even the unpleasant horrible steps. You can also alternate horrible steps with pleasing steps. That will give you something to look forward to.
You have to think summer all winter, and winter all summer. That is, when it's warm and nice, you need to gather nuts like a squirrel and build reserves for the cold dark months. When you're in the depths of a deep freeze, you can remember that the sun will again shine and your bones will again be warmed. Alternating your tasks can make life a lot easier.
10. Plan For Success
When I get into a project, it can feel like it will never get done. I can really get into a funk. That is detrimental to my progress and can potentially deride any forward momentum I have. Start from the beginning in a positive way by planning for success. Write, in a sentence, what you want to accomplish; then, a sentence why and when.
For example: I want to write a book about veterans and the different paths they take when leaving the service. I want to write the book to encourage new separating veterans make an easier transition from the battlefield to business and I want to finish by October 2015.
Write it down every morning before you start work on your project. It will only take a minute, but it will make sure you remain motivated and focused on the success you want to achieve.
All of these tips are designed to help you remain committed to your project, your book, or your masterpiece. If you practice at least a few of these strategies, you will be sure to make your vision a reality. Build your reservoir deep and consistently and use these tips along the way. They will have a profound effect on your progress and will reinforce your commitment to completing your project on time, on budget, and with the highest quality you can muster. So go forth and conquer the day. Day by day.