In August, I attended the Willamette Writer’s Conference. I returned full of excitement and eager to write. There was also a great deal of interest in my project from prospective agents and other attendees, once it is further along. Then I got back home, sat down at my desk, and froze. I couldn’t figure out what to do first. This project is so much bigger than my first book—interviews, case studies, research, and more research. The scope of it all was a little overwhelming. So, I regrouped and focused on my strengths. I made a big list of all of the pieces in the project. I created a calendar with target dates. And then I remembered how I wrote What’s Yours Is Mine—When a Realist Marries an Idealist a half an hour at a time.
The idea for my first book came in stages, which was nice since it took me a while to get used to the idea of being an author and then airing all of my dirty laundry to the world. My day job as a financial advisor occupied a large part of most of my days. To get at least 40,000 words down on paper, I had to be disciplined about writing. As I worked through the different stages towards completing my first book, I found that three different strategies helped the most.
As a financial advisor, I met with clients all over the area. I tried to make my day productive by lining up client meetings one after the other, but that isn’t how it usually worked out. I put together a writing kit to take with me so I could be productive writing when I wasn’t seeing clients. My kit included a three-ring binder with the pages of what I had already written and tabs to separate the chapters, a pencil case that held post-it notes, pencils, pens, and a sharpie. A small notebook computer completed the kit. The best part about the kit was that even if I was in a place where there was no power or internet, I could still write and edit. It would happen at least once a week, but usually more often, that I would be out and about with an hour or two free. I would find a coffee shop or library close to my next client appointment, take out my writing kit, and be constructive for that time. I am certain that I wrote at least a third of my book during those in-between times.
The second strategy for writing often was setting up writing dates with other authors. We would find at least a couple of hours to meet at a coffee shop and work on our respective projects. As an extrovert, this was really helpful for me. In general, sitting down at my desk by myself to write was difficult, as I’ve already stated. During our writing date, we would talk about where we were at with our project, including challenges and victories. We spent most of our time with our heads down and fingers on the keyboard. Every now and then, it was nice to have someone right there next to me to cheer me on or help me get over a hurdle.
The last and most important strategy was making sure that I wrote every day, even if it was only for a half-hour. Every day I would sit down at my desk at least once to write. I would set a timer for thirty minutes. The goal was to write as much as I could during that time. The best part was how I felt at the end of thirty minutes! If I got inspired, I could keep writing even after the timer had gone off. If no inspiration came and I couldn’t get in the flow, at least I spent those thirty minutes getting words on the page. I had accomplished writing every day, either way.
I’m committed to completing my next book, “The Sweet Spot Project,” which is about helping people find their own right way to handle their finances. Sweet Spot isn’t an investment book, but an approach to personal finance that leverages each individual’s strengths. The last few years have also included a lot of research into neuroscience, behavioral economics, and curating information into how we make decisions. My goal with this work is to help people understand how they can be good with money and to feel more confident about their financial decisions.
As I work on my next writing project, I find that I have to go back to these basic strategies. It also helps to remember to do the easy thing first. As I write, doing the easy things first, I will gain confidence and momentum. The further along in my project I get, the next hardest things will be more comfortable. Towards the end, I will have done so much, found so much momentum, how could I not complete this book!