I have heard it said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. 2014 for me was the year I let go of crazy.
For years I told everyone I was going to write a book. It was on my bucket list. My father was an avid reader and even dabbled in short stories for a while. Writing a book would satisfy some internal need to show him what I could do as well as serve my own needs. Plus I thought it would be cool to have a book.
As we entered 2014 I began to socialize the idea with others. If you read my other columns, you know that socializing your idea is a huge thrust of my thesis for starting anything. For me, it created some external accountability; I said it, now I have to do it.
For a few months I would sit down and begin writing for an hour or two, maybe a couple times per week. Knowing that I had to get about 100,000 words, I began to do the math on the completion date of draft one and started to get really worried. Did I have two years to complete this brilliant piece of prose?
That is when I realized I needed to create a different rhythm if I was going to complete my goal of writing a book. So, in September, I sat back and thought about what I needed to change to put myself in a better position for success.
First, I realized that I needed to write more each day and write more days of the week. Duh. Second, if I was going to write more (and my day job was off limits mostly), I needed to find the time elsewhere. Third, if I was going to squeeze serious writing time into my day--basically extending my work day--I needed to adjust my physical being as well. How very self-aware.
I am happy to report that I finished the book by my self-imposed deadline of December 31st and in doing so created a great writing rhythm that enabled me to meet my goal. When I look back there were three fundamental things that worked for me.
Adjustments to my physical me. I decided that I wanted to write for 1.5-2 hours in the morning before heading out to The Startup Factory. I also have a rule that I wont set a morning alarm unless I have to catch a flight. I want my body to wake up when it is ready. I also work out in the morning for 30 minutes. How the heck am I going to manage all of this? I headed to bed earlier and cut out my Jimmy Fallon time. The routine was basically wake up at 6am, work out by 6:30am, breakfast & showered by 7am, then wrote from 7:15am until 9:15am and in work by 9:30am.
Maximization of writing time. Before I embarked on the new writing program in September, I had a very rough idea of what I wanted to write about. That was not going to be good enough. I decided that I needed a detailed topic outline that enabled me to sit down and know what I was going to write about within a minute of sitting down. Prior to this I would re-read the previous 2-4 pages to get my mind back up to speed and build some writing momentum. So, I reviewed what I had written to-date as well as my rough outline and created a new very detailed outline where each section was no more than a one-hour writing segment. The result was a system where I could simply open up the outline and write about that specific topic until it was completed. I would never open up a section unless I knew that I could finish a draft of that section in that sitting.
Preparation of my environment. I love routine. Routine allows me to shed the little things and concentrate on the important goals. To pull this off, I needed to create an environment (people and place) that established a routine. We are lucky enough to live in a very cool loft apartment in the middle of Durham, NC and as such we don't have a separate room that I could dedicate to the task of writing. So I took over the walk-in-closet in the guest room. It's a simple place with just a table, chair, a large monitor & keyboard that I plug into and most importantly--it has a door.
With a place nailed down, I now needed to get the people environment set up. I jokingly share that I have two wives; Patty is my home wife, and Dave is my Startup Factory wife. In order to make this work, I needed both of them to be on board and supportive. Both of them would need to make their own adjustments based on my change of routine. So, I sat down and explained what I was going to do and got their buy-in.
For the better part of four months, I established a much different personal rhythm in order to meet one of my 2014 goals. No insanity there I posit.