This is the second article in a series of posts covering the topic of writing a non-fiction book as a business owner.
The initial phase of your writing project—putting forth the idea for your non-fiction book—tends to be straightforward. If the prestige of becoming a published author inspires you, you’ll generate ideas and devise a structure for your book very quickly. Depending on your personal preferences, and those will strengthen as you advance in your writing, you’ll choose to work either with a written-down plan or without one. Most importantly, however, a carefully designed outline is not worth much if you lack the ability to put it into action. The second article in this series, then, explains the procedure of consistent writing.
Whatever the scope of your book, composing it will try your patience and push the limits of your attention span, especially as a first-timer. Most non-fiction books typically have word counts upwards of fifty thousand yet you shouldn’t let that figure intimidate you. Over the past two decades, there has been a noticeable shift towards short-form content in people’s writing and reading. Adding up together the text you type in text messages, emails, blogs, and posts on social media over the course of a day makes for an impressive quantity. If you give some of those outlets up and focus on producing long-form content instead, compounded over time, a thousand words a day make for multiple books per year.
Nevertheless, a book project can become a monster in your mind that you keep procrastinating on even if you have no trouble turning in other work in time. The most devious pitfall of would-be authors is permitting their project to stretch and to be put off into the obscure future. Tweeting a deep thought allows you to receive positive feedback from your peers immediately but the reward from writing a book comes months down the line. Unless you are naturally drawn to writing and cannot get enough of it, you need to be very shrewd about managing and manipulating yourself to get things done.
A subtle psychological effect called Parkinson’s law lurks behind our inability to take on grand projects and bring them successfully to a close, and it governs human behavior in more dimensions of life than you know. As a rule of thumb, the time spent on a task inevitably expands to fill the slot assigned for its completion; in information technology, data similarly grows to fill the space available for its storage. Some of your peers likely spend all their income and save nothing, or maybe you yourself keep running out of space in your house to store your possessions in.
Countering this phenomenon takes some self-discipline and planning. In the instance of writing, setting artificial deadlines for intermediate goals yields the result you want. These intermediate goals can range from typing up a certain number of words to a finished chapter or a first draft of the entire work, delivered by a particular date and time. Most authors I know work with a hard deadline in mind, whether that be a submission date to their editor or publisher, or a personally set due date.
If you feel uncomfortable and stressed out working under time pressure, you can alternatively consider imposing a daily quota on yourself. That allotment can literally range from one sentence to one poorly written page to two thousand polished words. If you feel a creative spark on any given day, by all means exceed your quota—if not, still maintain the minimum. Writer’s block, by the way, can be overcome by stopping writing mid-sentence the day before. When you get back to your desk or your laptop the next day, you’ll generally remember how to proceed with the incomplete sentence and come up with more material by picking up your previous line of thought, as well.
Finally, a mention must be made in favor of removing distractions from your surroundings. Although certain authors find their words flow best when isolated from others, this principle pertains to the type of work you choose to do. While it is important to dial down all the social media, television, and other disturbances cluttering your mind, you must pay very careful attention to the type of work you do on a day-to-day basis. Do not get caught up in productive procrastination or managing the minor details of your project like picking fonts and formatting the document’s interior. The trivialities and the technicalities will solve themselves eventually, so make writing and research your primary focus, and treat all other work with suspicion until you are finished.
Anthony Simola is CEO of Simola Technologies Inc. He is the author of “The Roving Mind: A Modern Approach to Cognitive Enhancement.”
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Anthony Simola is the CEO of Simola Technologies Inc., and author of “The Roving Mind: A Modern Approach to Cognitive Enhancement.” Educated at Columbia University and Vanderbilt University, he now lives in New York.