The Book Project, Vol. 2

Comments 15

You probably think I’m procrastinating. (And you’re technically correct.) But in the context of my life, things are right on schedule.

This is how I operate. I’m not defending it, nor proud of it. It’s just a fact.

Remember that one time I pledged you’d want me by June 1? Because I said I’d be in good shape by then? I didn’t even start seriously working out and altering my diet until a week before June 1. I can’t be entirely sure you’d want me today, but it’s at least 200-percent more likely than before. You’re welcome.

In April of LAST YEAR, I told you about the book I am planning to write. And I do have several thousands of words written for it. It’s not like the workout thing, where I literally did NOTHING I said I would for a few months.

But, still. I’ve been putting it off. And that has to stop. Now.

My 500-Words-Per-Day Strategy

I won’t know I can do this until I actually do it, but there’s nothing particularly daunting to me about the prospect of writing 500 words a day. I think it might help.

My favorite writer James Altucher preaches generating 10 new ideas every day. (It doesn’t matter what for. It only matters that you do it.)

Bestselling novelist John Grisham has published 33 novels in 25 years because he commits to writing at least one page daily, and sticks to it.

Perhaps the most successful comedian of all time, Jerry Seinfeld, set a simple target for himself: One new joke per day.

It’s a productivity hack to harness the power of momentum and reap the long-term benefits of incremental gains.

Writes Cathryn Lavery in the Medium post that inspired this one: Persistence creates luck and experience.

I know it to be true. Now, it’s time to apply it to finishing this book project which I hope will lead to new ones.

I am a world-class procrastinator. I will NEVER publicly admit all of the problems that have cropped up in my life over the years because of my tendency to put things off.

I am the captain of the ADHD squad.

And I am a little bit childish in that I prefer to spend pretty much all my time doing whatever it is I want to be doing, and pretty much never wanting to do things that don’t fit nicely into that little Things Matt Likes silo.

I can continue to use those things as excuses and never achieve goals I set for myself, or I can make small changes and slowly but steadily inch my way toward the finish line.

The key takeaway from going through the StrengthsFinder program in May was the realization that I need to sometimes protect myself from myself and structure projects and parts of my life in ways that minimize the negative effects of some of my (less-than-desirable) tendencies. In other words, in order to finish this book, I need partners.

A friend and co-worker agreed to be the person to hold me accountable to writing 500 words per day. If she does her part, and I do my part, the book should be written by the holidays. I am grateful to have people in my life who want to help me with this project. Much like the workout thing, one morning it was finally time to move. For book writing, today is that day.

Improve at something 1% each day, and you’ll be twice as good at that thing in 70 days. Improve 1% each day, and at the end of the year you’ll have improved 3,800%.

All it takes is repetition and the will to say yes every day. And like working out and disciplined eating, I can do that.

Which is good.

Because it’s time to scare the hell out of Bruce Lee.

15 thoughts on “The Book Project, Vol. 2”

  1. Good for you! I would love to see you achieve your goals. Somebody smart told me that the best way to get over writing procrastination… is to write about it. That’s a bit amusing because I know I am more than capable of typing 500 words in about ten minutes… bemoaning how I will never manage to force myself to write 500 words a day. 😉

    1. My son’s bedroom isn’t very big. So when I bought him a new dresser in the spring and reorganized his room, a bulky baby changing table we’d converted to shelf space needed to be moved, and it was pretty inconvenient to get around where it had to be because it was so close to his bed.

      My mom was visiting this past week. And one of the days after I came home, I went into my son’s room to discover she had swapped that changing table shelf thing with my son’s skinny book shelf, which had been situated in this little recessed area in the room.

      Simply by replacing the bulky thing with the skinny thing, my mother had created this infinitely better space.

      For reasons I can’t explain, my brain doesn’t work like that most of the time. I never considered relocating the book shelf in order to solve the problem.

      Similarly, in terms of developing new habits and finding time to work on side projects, I think the trick is simply to find a new way to do the same things we always do, but just rearrange our lives in a way that makes sense but perhaps doesn’t seem obvious right away.

      I still have a ways to go. But I think the observation has merit. You don’t always need to change the pieces and parts or space.

      Sometimes, you just need to shuffle it all a little in a way that makes it work better.

      Re-imagining some little facet of our lives, and this simple little tweak can change everything.

      Remarkable, really.

  2. Hahaha, procrastination! Remember that time your gas got shut off cuz you kinda “forgot” to pay your bill? I’m laughing because the exact same thing happened to me just a couple of days before you blogged about it. I’m not making this up! I don’t know what your gas company is like, but ours will allow you to “forget” for a couple of months before they come with the big wrench to turn your gas off. They sent me reminders and I kept thinking, “Yeah, I gotta pay that. Oooo! Shiny bumper! …)

    1. Now, now. I didn’t forget to pay my bill. The gas company had left me a bunch of notices on my door to schedule an in-home inspection of my meter and natural gas lines. And because I’m me, I tried calling once, the office was closed, and I forgot about it. Even after they shut the gas off, it took me 48 hours to notice because it wasn’t cold outside and I don’t use much hot water living alone.

      But, yeah. You got it. That’s EXACTLY the kind of stuff that happens to me because of how I do (or don’t do) things. 🙂

        1. You were confused because one time I DID forget to pay my auto insurance and I was driving around with lapsed coverage for a while, and it’s a bona-fide miracle nothing terrible happened during those two or three weeks.


          I lucked out. That happens sometimes, too. But the lessons are less effective then!

  3. I can be disciplined about a lot of things, but writing is a tricky beast for me. Maybe because it’s a totally solo endeavor, or because I can’t schedule my creativity, or who knows what. That’s why I’m so in awe of my friends who have managed to write books.

    Have you ever thought of participating in something like NaNoWriMo? The entire program was constructed to provide support for writers trying to push out a book. I’d sign up this November, but I’m busy that month, doing whatever it is I do instead of writing.

    1. I’m super-lucky to have people willing to hold me accountable and ask about this. People have been asking about it for well over a year, and now I intend to be able to honestly tell them that I’m actively writing it almost every day.

      If I’m getting the project close to completion by November, perhaps I can use NaNoWriMo to get the finishing touches and rewrites put on it.

      We’ll see. 🙂

  4. Love, love, love this. You read my mind (or maybe my blog?) I am so with you. I’m such a procrastinator, or a distract-inator is probably more like it. Time to write, what’s that doing there?, hungry, butterflies are pretty, washing machine, huh? Repeat. But September is my new start. Setting a timer, setting goals. Meet you in December. (Holding you to it!) Can’t wait to read the final product.

    1. You and me, both. Let’s hope it doesn’t suck royally.

      I just finished about 600 words. Hopefully this can be a daily thing for the foreseeable future. Time will tell.

      Your support and encouragement are forever appreciated. I hope you know you can count on reciprocation.

      Thank you, Jen.

  5. I too am a Master Procrastinator. But if I have to write 1000 words today on the business strategy of a battery manufacturer, then I think you better get your 500 words out 😉
    Good luck!

  6. Have you ever thought about joining a writing group? I’m a member of an online critique group called Scribophile. You post work to be critiqued by other writers and you critique for people in exchange. I’ve found it hugely helpful. Not only in improving my writing, but in pushing me to get work posted to a certain schedule. Might be something you would find useful.

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