A book is very much like a theatre play or a party. To the consumer it is a destination: “We are going to watch John Kani in Othello on Friday night…” or “I can’t wait to read the latest novel by Alex Michaelides.” It is a very different reality for the team that produces the play or the book or the party. For them, it is a journey. It is not something that just happens at a certain place and time. It is a creation that unfolds over an extended period of time. It takes planning and focus and commitment. Where the consumer can arrive and enjoy it in a single sitting, the producer needs to invest an extraordinary amount of time and effort into creating the event. And even in a world where self-publishing is becoming increasingly popular it usually isn’t just a single person responsible for the book’s production; it is a whole team effort involving many.
It’s why a production like a book doesn’t just happen. No matter how good your intentions might be, no matter how much you want to do it, there is a vast difference between intention and action and we are here to tell you how to transition from one to the other.
The people at Wikipedia put it nicely when they say that “intention is a mental state that represents a commitment to carrying out an action or actions in the future.” In short, it is an idea or something you want to do. Consider it a dream or an idea perhaps even a fantasy. Intentions are not bad things at all. We all know that the best ideas started as dreams. The key to success though is the ability to turn your dream into a reality – and that takes action.
Quite simply, action is doing something. Action itself does not necessarily translate into success, but without it, success is never going to be possible. Action is the ability to translate an intention into something real. It is the critical step that translates the language of the dreamer into the language of the doer.
A key part of being effective is realizing that action does not necessarily translate into doing things – that is being busy. Far too often being busy is nowhere close to being effective. Rather spend some time crafting a plan or a strategy and then looking to implement it. From a writing perspective, this probably starts with something as simple as a writing schedule.
Think of your book as a project and plan it accordingly, taking into account the things you know about yourself, your needs and your goals. But also be realistic in the creation of your project plan and do your research. For instance, Selfpublishing.com suggests that on average it takes a writer around 180 days to write the first draft of their novel. This type of research is very useful as a guideline for drafting your plan. Don’t think that you will be able to bang something out in two weeks but similarly, don’t let your schedule run into years. There is a fine line between setting yourself up for success and setting yourself up to fail. Don’t commit to too much and follow industry best practices and guidelines.
Make sure you allocate writing time during your most creative and focussed windows. For some that is first thing in the morning, for others, it is the last thing at night. Make sure you allocate time for recharging your creative batteries. And make sure that you share your writing plan with at least one other person. You need to have somebody else who knows what you are committing to so that you can be held accountable. That person should also motivate you.
In coming up with a writing plan, don’t only spend time allocating time slots for writing. Spare some time to think about why this is an important project for you. What do you want to achieve with this book? Why are you doing it? Is the goal simply to get the book out or is there more to it? If you have a good handle on your why, then it becomes a whole lot easier to tap into that and draw inspiration. If you forget these goals and motivations then writing can easily become a chore that you want to avoid. A good example of this comes from Masterclass.com where they say: “As long as you write, you are a writer. Giving yourself that label makes it official. It’s a confidence booster that motivates you to commit to the craft.”. If you know that being a writer is a big driver for you it immediately makes it easier for you to dial in and create that reality.
The process of getting a book to market has changed significantly in recent times, which is great news for writers. Technology like print on demand and book of one mean that everyone can get a book published very cost-effectively. In days gone by fear was a huge factor for many writers. They were worried that all their effort in writing the book would be met with rejection from publishers and that their work would never see the light of day. It was a very valid worry as Fiction-writers-mentor.com suggests that at best only 2% of all manuscripts submitted are ever published. But that is not the case any longer. Writers can now write with abandon knowing that their fate is in their own hands. Print on demand in South Africa is a reality and knowing this should take a lot of pressure off the writer’s shoulders.
Earlier we compared writing a book to producing a piece of theatre or hosting a party. In all these cases it is usually a team of people who bring it all together. As much as it is the author whose name goes on the cover, it is very unusual that a book goes from idea to reality without being worked on by a whole team. Even with self-publishing South Africa we are talking about people like proofreaders, publishers, editors and printers. As a writer, you need to build a solid team around yourself. Commit to them. Share your goals and aspirations with them and they will help you turn your good intentions into action. These are the people who prevent you from hiding and help you transition your dreams into reality.
Writing does not always come easy and the term writer’s block is a phrase that is easily recognizable for a reason. But one of the keys to getting your words out is simply to commit to writing. Just get started putting words on a page. They might not be great words or even the words that you want, but the simple act of writing is the start of the process. You can delete or revise or refine but commit to creating words. Great novels like Crime and Punishment or Great Expectations all started with words being committed to paper.
You are almost certainly destined to fail if your goal is to write a book. That is the dream and it is a great starting point. But understanding the difference between a goal and a dream is critical. The dream is the lodestar that guides you. A goal is something that is more tangible and which can be achieved in the shorter term. A goal is a battle while the dream is the war. Win enough battles and you will win the war. In short, make sure that when you are coming up with your writing plan that it is filled with small and achievable goals.
Writing and publishing a book is definitely not an easy ask. But it is achievable and very rewarding. In the words of Yoda, “Do or do not. There is no try.” This is probably as good a way as any to summarise the difference between intention and action. Plan properly and you can do it. Build your team and enjoy the experience!