One of the things I’m most proud of this year is the fact that I wrote a first draft of a book in a 14-day challenge. I focused, committed the time, worked through my demons, and got it all out on paper.
My friends of the Story Detectives (coaches that help writer's get things done) warned me that a huge percentage of getting a book written had to do with mindset. But you don’t know what you don’t know until you’re in it. Even if you can rationally set out to not succumb to the negative inner voices that make you question whether you should even be writing a book in the first place, those kinds of thoughts can take up so much space in your head. Then, they can be paralyzing. I made it through the first part of writing the book (the full draft) and thought, “Oh, it should take me about two more weeks to finish it.”
Every time I sat down to edit, it was slow and painful. One of the first mistakes with writing is even when we know it can be an antagonizing but rewarding habit, we think it should be easy. I’m guilty of completely forgetting all of the work that goes into it, and what it takes to create something that fully expresses an idea, makes sense and is intriguing for the reader.
So, I was beating myself up for thinking that it should be easier and I just wasn’t getting it right. I was paralyzed by perfectionism; instead of being motivated enough, clear enough, to take the process one step at a time. It’s that moment when you simply need to do the work. I was basically expending unproductive energy on being hard on myself. I also had to keep in mind that yes, you can do something like write a book or create an online course in a short period of time, but life outside of that project is still happening.
In my case, instead of having the same freedom in my schedule to continue to focus the energy and make the time, I had an influx of changes - new clients, drastic changes to my schedule, and additional work in the courses I teach. I kept thinking I could just add another two weeks onto my deadline and simply buckle down and do it; instead of just realizing I wasn’t going to be able to continue to sprint forever. No one can. That's why it's called a sprint.
We do live in a time where we can get access to lots of things instantly. Often, we only see the results of someone’s work; not the raw, tough and gritty, grueling, time and work put into it. With this, we can create unrealistic expectations for ourselves when it comes to what it is we are creating.
Not everything is supposed to be a sprint.
In the Business by the Numbers course I teach with a colleague, we talk about categorizing work as deep dives or drips. Creation is a deep dive – or a sprint where you might take anywhere from a couple hours to a full day to create something. Editing, formatting for online, and asking readers to comment are all part of the drip--tasks that take a different kind of brainpower that usually take less time and tend to be needed routinely. Each project has both elements; you have to learn where to apply which skills and methods. The drip is more like marathon running and while there is much to be found and learned in that mindset about endurance and consistency, we have to be careful not to use that method as a way to impede our progress during the race (more on this later).
So no, the book isn’t complete. But it’s 85% there. I’m excited to finish it.* I had to take a moment, adjust my breathing, and get back to the work in a different way. When the creation is done, you have to be cognizant of the change in your pace of work and your method. Still be ambitious and shoot for your goal, but be aware that your energy levels and sense of time will change. This can be the most stressful part – the change - because if you don’t change how you are judging progress you'll create more stress and anxiety around feeling bad about not getting it done. This takes up way more space and time than you think.
I'd love to know where this might be happening for you. Is there anything you're beating yourself up about because it hasn't been finished yet and you've been using a sprint mindset? This might be something that is almost done, but you can’t seem to finish. Or it could be something where you have a gift and you can’t seem to engage. Also, where do you need to apply more of a marathon method? This could look like a 30-minute block of work for the next month to refine something, or maybe you need to change your deadline. Let me know in the comments!
* If you’d like to be one of my first readers to give feedback, I’m still offering it for half the price at $4.99.