Even though I have collaborated on a number of books, I have never written one myself. In 2014 I have completed the first draft of two books and am in the editing phase of both. I have learned a lot along the way and would like to share the key lessons with you.
Lesson 1: The discipline of project management helped greatly.
I am a project manager. When I started the process of writing a book, I treated it as a project.
The first step in the process was to select a topic for the book, among all the ideas that I had.
Having selected two topics, I then began to plan and define exactly WHAT need to be done, by WHOM and WHEN did it need to be completed. This gave me a good insight into the size of the task at hand, and given experience, I knew that it would be an even bigger undertaking than at first envisaged.
Then it was on to executing – research, writing, editing, rewriting. I am still in the middle of all this and it had been much more work than anticipated.
Finally, I know that it will complete – I will get to the end and there will be reason to be proud.
All of the above utilised the simple project management concepts of a simple life-cycle with a focus for each stage of the life-cycle:
- Selection – WHAT do I want to do and WHY?
- Define and Plan – mapping out the work in detail, sequence, simplify.
- Execute/Do – the grind, requiring persistence and good habits.
- Completion – know when to ship, celebrate, learn.
Lesson 2: People are a great ally.
I pictured writing as a very solitary pursuit. In some ways it is, but in other ways it brings you into contact with so many people who are willing to help. Through the process I have received more help than I could ever have expected from a diverse group of people, from friends and family, from people I met at conferences and from people who I have connected with through this blog.
The help that I receive from all these people has given me more energy to persist with my book. It has improved my focus, challenged my writing style, made me review my writing more critically, from the perspective of the reader.
I have to say a big “Thank You” to everyone who had helped me.
Lesson 3: The power of good habits.
To get through the work that is required to write a book, even a short book, take time and a large degree of consistent effort. Given the distractions that face us on a daily basis, this is a great challenge. How I overcame this challenge was by developing a daily habit of writing. Every morning, shortly after I wake, present myself for duty. Writing duty. It was not easy at first, but over time it has become a very enjoyable part of my day. When I miss it, I feel that I have not turned up fully on that day.
The habit has helped me to draft two book, which equated to 140,000 words. It has also produced this blog. And it had made everyday that I write a little better.
Lesson 4: Editing is more important than you could ever imaging.
And harder work than you could ever have imagine.
The editing process has and continues to be a very involved and rewarding process. Involved as the feedback that you receive makes you think about the message that you which to give and how you deliver it. With each batch of editing, you learn more and more about how you write and the impact, or not, that the writing has. It allows you to learn and adjust. In summary, it improves you as a writer.
It is also very rewarding. For me, the editing had been done by people who have generously volunteered their time and are helping me in a big way to get my books to the level that will allow me to publish them. I am so grateful for this and hope that I can pay these people back in some way.
Lesson 5: Invest in yourself.
This is not a lesson that just applies to writing. However, through writing I have learned that to develop a new skill or enhance an existing one, you have to invest time into the process. Reading good books. Connecting with people. Reading your own materials with a critical eye. Digesting editorial feedback.
Are any of you writing at the moment? If so, please add your comments below. Lessons learned, experiences, pieces of wisdom, or questions.