As a writing coach, I see writers make the same mistakes over and over again, when they attempt writing a book on their own. These mistakes are completely understandable and completely avoidable, if you just know what they are.
1. You quickly justify missing planned writing times.
Even if you don’t have an actual calendar or schedule of your writing time, you probably have a rough idea of when you could write—early in the morning, during lunch, in the evening, on the weekend, while on vacation—but you find it surprisingly easy to let yourself off the hook for the times when you intended to write but didn’t.
The reasons jump so easily to mind—not enough sleep the night before, unexpected project at work, kids’ performances or games, just feeling uninspired.
I’m not saying that you should feel guilty for missing a single writing session, and I’m not saying that you should be drill sergeant with your own schedule. I am saying that if writing a book truly is important to you, yet those justifications come too easily, then maybe there’s something deeper that you’re just not acknowledging.
You can spend years intending to write, missing those writing sessions, and quickly brushing the guilt aside. But that won’t solve the problem: You want to write a book, but you’re not writing a book.
Overcome this stumbling block: The next time you miss a writing session, ask yourself, “Is there something I could change or do better in the future to make it more likely that I’ll be able to make time for writing?”
2. You have created the familiar habit of not making progress in writing a book.
We humans are so beautifully predictable. We tend to re-create patterns in our lives, from generation-to-generation and day-to-day. There’s nothing funny about the first time you realize you said something with the exact same inflection as your mother would (“I’m becoming my mother!”), but you have to admit there is something a little funny about how we re-create the same problems in our lives, over and over again.
If you’ve been thinking about writing a book for longer than three months, chances are that you’ve already started to create a pattern of not making progress in your book. Every time that you think about your book, internally acknowledge, “Yes, I’d like to write that book,” and then don’t actually write, you are ingraining that habit of procrastination.
You will continue to not make progress, simply because you’ve unintentionally trained yourself to not make progress in your book. Heck, actually writing, finishing a chapter, and moving on to write the next chapter would be so unfamiliar that you might have a panic attack!
Overcome this stumbling block: set a small, achievable goal and do everything within your power to achieve that goal. Commit to writing 1,000 words in one day. Do it, no matter what, come hell or high water. Then, celebrate like it’s the most amazing thing you’ve ever accomplished. That’s the beginning of making progress feel familiar.
3. You compare your first draft to others’ published books.
You walk through bookstores, pick up those nice, thick books, and flip through the pages. You see an acquaintance posting on social media about the most recent #1 Amazon bestseller she’s published. You hear about some self-published author who’s just been picked up by Random House.
And those feelings of jealousy just rise up in you. Why do these other authors get all the lucky breaks? Who do they know or what do they know that you don’t? How could they have so much success, when their books aren’t even that good?
These bubbling thoughts are completely normal. You shouldn’t beat yourself up for having them. But they’re not serving you in your mission of writing a book, and comparing your journey to others’ journeys is the surest way to keep yourself in a negative spin cycle.
Overcome this stumbling block: Be grateful to the author whose book is doing well. Say, “Thank you for showing me what is possible for my book, when I’m ready to release it to the world.” The only reason you’re feeling this jealousy is because some part of you recognizes that this success is possible (dare I say inevitable?) for you, too. Bless the other person and be glad for their success. Trust that your own success is ready and waiting for you, when you decide to take up the challenge.
4. There are no consequences if you don’t write your book.
I saved this one for last because it’s the kicker. If there are no consequences for not writing your book, you will never write your book.
Overcome this stumbling block: Tell one person in your life that you are writing a book this year. Join a (serious) writing group. Invest in a course or coaching. Put your pride and some money on the line.
I wish there were an easier way, but you’ve got to have something at risk, otherwise there will never be a reason to push past the procrastination and finally finish writing your book.’