Be Productive By Sally Wolfe What you’re best at…sits at the core of your passion. -Mary Karr, Liar’s Club and Art of the Memoir Is this the year you’re finally going to write your self-help book or memoir? Your business book? Your how-to classic? Your novel? Is there a way to know if it’s the right time—or the right year—to start a writing project? There are signs—five, in fact—that I’ve seen over and over in my 7 years as a book coach and editor. Sure signals that it’s time to lean your full weight on the spade of authorship—and dare to sink it all the way into the ground. The 5 Irrefutable Signs You Need to Start a Writing Project #1. Your idea or story refuses to go away. You see your book everywhere: in conversations with friends and family, in the movie you’re watching, on the page of the book you’re reading. It’s like being in love—the beloved has moved into your heart. #2. You feel like you can’t move forward with your other goals… … not until (and unless) you accomplish this one. Your book has become the No. 1 priority for you. You feel a fresh excitement and inner imperative. #3. People who know you are constantly asking you when you’re going to write (or finish) your book. Your personal or professional story has meaning for others. Perhaps your insight and expertise are needed in your field. #4. The manuscript in your drawer has come out of its coma. The pages you wrote last year or 5 years ago have awakened and are calling to you. You’ve read them over and realize they’re not half bad; in fact, they’re pretty darn good. With your fresh perspective, you’re ready to re-engage. #5. It’s time to leave your legacy. You’re nearing the end of a major project or career and want to assume control over the perception and value of your legacy, instead of leaving it to others. If three or more of these signs are present, the scales have tipped and you’re feeling ready—and empowered—to make the leap. Almost as soon as you decide “Ok, it’s time. I’m on the go-line,” a couple of things are likely to happen. You’ll feel like you’re on the way to the Emerald City where the Wizard of Oz is going to take care of everything and the book is going to flow out of you and write itself, and/or You’re seized and frozen by the thought: “What if I can’t do it?” I’ve watched aspiring authors react differently to this alternating wave of elation and terror. Enthusiastic If you’re the enthusiastic, go-get-’em type, chances are you’ll dive in and start piling up the pages, all the while telling yourself, “I’m writing a book – so let’s write it already!” These are typically the authors who realize six months later that what they’ve produced doesn’t have a structure, and they don’t know how to fix it. Cautious If you’re the cautious, thoughtful type, you might start by researching. I once worked with a writer who had created a bibliography of works in her field, read them assiduously, and summarized and categorized each one according to how it related to her topic. She was terrified of infringing on another author’s work, or being accused of not giving acknowledgment where it was due; likely a mask for her fear of getting started. Let’s look at another, more effective approach that doesn’t put you at the mercy of your wishful thinking or your unreasonable fears. Author as Product Developer When a company wants to introduce a new product, they put the idea through the wringer before they start building it. (At least, they did—back in my marketing days.) Here are some of the key marketing questions that top management and investors want the answers to before they give the go-ahead (and the money!): High Value: What problem does the product solve? What human need does it fill? And does it solve a problem that enough people need—and want—solved? Audience: Who’s it for, specifically? Unique Appeal: How is the solution different from products or services already out there? Specifications: What are the basic specifications (genre, content and structure) for this product (book)? Using the product development approach moves you into your confidence as an author in several ways. It: Validates the value of your book before you spend months (and years) writing and revising it. Keeps you from being sabotaged by fear and self-doubt because you have a plan Connects you to your core so you move easily into your flow zone Puts your book on the fast track so you can create your “best book” in record time. This doesn’t mean you won’t have days when the inner critic rears its damning head, or self-doubt threatens to stop you. But it does mean that those voices won’t have the power to disable you because you have connected with your vision and purpose. Do you feel ready to make a commitment to start a writing project? What’s holding you back? Please share your thoughts and experience in the comments! We want to hear from you.