What are the secrets to becoming a number one best-selling author? Or is it really, “How do I find time to write?”
When teaching writing workshops or presenting at conferences, I’m asked, “What are the secrets to becoming a number one best-selling author?”
Even though my mother taught me not to answer a question with a question, I do it seeking insight into where along the writing, marketing, publishing process the questioner is.
These questions guide a helpful response and tangible marketing advice:
- “How many books have you written?”
- “How far are you in writing a book?”
- “Have you started writing your book?”
- “Do you have a book idea?”
I’m often rewarded with blank stares, head shakes, and shoulder shrugs. The first question indicates optimism, which shortly turns to confusion, because this question often comes from people who aren’t very far along the writing path. Therefore, this isn’t the right question at all. The question they meant to ask, needed to ask, is: “How do I find time to write?”
In the interest of fairness, the primary answers to: “What are the secrets to becoming a number one best-selling author?” are “Start writing!” and “Keep writing!” Some people think that’s sarcastic, and it may be, but it is nonetheless true and is the real wisdom sought.
As a writing coach, my number one job is accountability partner
About two thirds of my clients begin the process with complaints like:
- “I’m so busy, I just can’t fit one more thing into my busy day.”
- “I need help setting writing goals and then accountability meeting them.
- “I start writing and then stop. Next thing I know it’s months later and nothing’s written.”
We’re all busier than is probably healthy for us on a day-by-day basis. I know this is true in my life and in the lives of clients, friends, and family.
How often does this happen to you? Get to the end of the week and feel like nothing got done. Then ask: “Where did all the time go?”
One of the exercises I did myself, and now share with clients, is keep an hour-by-hour log of where the time goes every day during a typical week.
One wasted time discovery for me was 30 minutes Monday through Friday spent sitting in the after school pick up line, killing time playing on my phone. How could I recapture the time and still be there to pick up children at the end of the day? I started getting to the school 45 minutes before pick up time, with my laptop computer in tow. The results were five days a week to write. In a few months, I had the first draft of my book. By then this was such a habit, I had time to edit my book, too.
Other places to look to reclaim writing time are found in keeping track of:
- How many trips a week running to the grocery store for one or two things?
- How much times a day, and for how long, is spent sucked in social media?
- How much television gets watched in real time? Ever calculate how much time is wasted killing time during commercials?
After completing a log for a week. Review it for discoveries that might jump out as places where habits can change to reclaim the time for writing. If there aren’t clear answers, it may be necessary to log in 15-minute increments for a few days to determine if anything floats to the surface.
For example, I had a client who kept the one-hour log and nothing seemed out of place as wasted time. On the surface, it looked like he was the most efficient time manager on earth. Then he kept an every 15-minute log. Turns out he spent about 15 minutes every hour or two checking and responding on a variety of social media platforms, which had nothing to do with business. The ah-ha moment came in the discovery that during his awake hours between two and three hours of time got wasted, spent, invested (depending on your priorities) on social media. How much writing can get done in an hour a day? Two hours a day? One thing for sure is he can’t complain about not enough time to write anymore! It boils down to choices.
Word of caution: This exercise is private self-discovery. Don’t cheat and waste time by not being honest with time accounting. Results are skewed if the outcome is prejudged, so again, don’t waste time trying to make the results fit a bias. Just log the facts. This exercise works.
The fact of the matter is we’re each given the same 24/7. It boils down to how we elect to use the time. If writing a book is a priority, time will get prioritized to write it. Once the writing is done, editing follows and then the question: “What are the secrets to becoming a number one best-selling author?” can get answered in a way that provides tangible direction, action steps, and award-winning results.
Start a time log. Write down, in one hour increments, what you do each day for at least a week. Let it sit for a couple of days. Go back and look for patterns of time spent on things that are not life priorities. Or other places where writing time can be combined with tasks like sitting in a parking lot waiting.