Did you know that the most desired job in the UK in a 2015 study was an author? Surprised? Me too – I would have guessed ‘influencer’ or ‘actor’.
It certainly would be more glamourous.
When I first came across the study a few years ago, I was racing to meet the deadline for my second book, The Home, while looking after a new-born and a toddler. At one point, I was typing and nursing simultaneously as my two-year-old clung to my legs, using them as a racetrack for his cars.
I may or may not have showered that day.
But at least I had company. I used to find writing a book incredibly isolating, and I have been known to keep the Amazon delivery guy chatting on my doorstep for twenty minutes.
There was also the near-constant anxiety wondering if my writing was good enough along with managing the dreaded writer’s block and dealing with publisher rejection.
There were occasions when it was such a struggle, I very nearly gave up. Writing had always been my passion, my escape – how had I got to this point?
The mistake I made was relinquishing control of my mindset. I’d let it run riot (a bit like my toddler) and it had spiralled out of control.
Since then, I have made a conscious effort to work on this area. While I don’t get it right every day, once I started working on my mindset, I began to enjoy the work again. As a result, I felt more creative, and the words flowed more easily.
Whether you’re in the middle of writing a book or just getting started, here are seven ways to optimise your mind to produce your best work.
1. Protect the asset
If you’ve ever read Greg McKeown’s book Essentialism, you’ll know the phrase protect the asset. The asset is YOU. Producing your best work starts from within. You can’t expect to be creative if you’re tired, eating junk, and not moving your body regularly. Boost your brain with foods that include omega fatty acids, healthy fats, and antioxidants such as broccoli, fish, nuts, and berries. Get your eight hours sleep, stay hydrated, and do your ten thousand steps a day. You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes to your writing sessions.
2. Get clear on your why
Why are you writing a book? The answer to this question is what is going to nail your motivation – this is what will keep you going during the more challenging writing periods. Whether it’s to tap into your creativity, make money, support your business, or for prestige, get honest with yourself about why you’re doing this.
Understanding the ‘why’ behind your book is a foundational element of what I teach in Kick Start Your Book and plays a huge role in your ability to complete a manuscript.
3. Use one system
When I first started writing, my ideas and research were scattered. I had notebooks, desktop files, Post-Its stuck to my screen, random notes in Evernote, and A3 posters stuck on walls. No wonder I was confused.
Creativity needs clarity.
Choose one system and use it consistently. In Kick Start Your Book, I take you through different writing systems, highlighting the pros and cons for each (believe me I’ve tried them all!) to help organise and structure your book.
I would also recommend using the system you’re most familiar with – for me that’s a Word document. For you it could be Trello or an A4 notebook.
4. Understand the law of diminishing returns
Turns out that economics class was useful, after all. The law of diminishing returns is a theory that states that after some optimal level of capacity is reached, adding an additional factor of production will result in smaller increases in output.
This can be applied to your writing.
After a certain amount of time, whether that’s one, two, three or five hours, spending more time on writing won’t net you productive gains.
You’re better off going for a nap.
5. Surround yourself with the right people
We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with, according to motivational speaker Jim Rohn. I truly believe one of the main reasons I was able to write three books in three years is because I was surrounded by people who supported and encouraged me.
It can take time to find your tribe and if you haven’t found yours yet, a good place to start is with others who are also writing a book such as my online community for aspiring authors.
Joining a writing group, either online or in person, also helped with the isolation I felt. For more writing community options, check out this post, 5 Writing Communities You Should Join & Why.
6. Set yourself a finish line
Notice I didn’t say deadline here. As a writer, you know just how powerful words can be – including the ones we tell ourselves. A finish line gives off a much more positive vibe, especially if there’s a reward at the end of it. Writing a book is a marathon and knowing the end is in sight will give you something to work towards.
7. Find your zen – daily
We have never been so inundated with information – it’s even got a name: Information Fatigue Syndrome and a world-wide survey (Reuters 1996) found that effects include anxiety, reduced attention span, and difficulties in remembering.
Whether that’s walking, meditation, journaling, yoga, or an intense work out in the gym, make sure to switch off regularly.
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