Write your nonfiction book before you retire

  1. Claim it. Are you doubting yourself or your timing? Stop. You showed up here, didn’t you? People don’t do that until they are ready. I get to be the fairy godmother saying, “Your wish is granted: you have permission to write it!” 
  2. Decide why it matters. What would being an authority in your field do for your career? The word authority comes from author. What would your message do for people you love? 
  3. Decide who are you talking to. It’s usually a younger, less experienced version of yourself. Connect with those people, future beneficiaries of your hard-earned wisdom. Start talking to them in person and/or online. 
  4. Find out what they need. Is it something you expected to write about? Something else?
  5. Describe the book you needed and never found.
  6. Notice where your book has been secretly growing. Copy relevant blog posts, social media updates, and soapbox e-mails into a file. Whenever you offer ideas or encouragement, add to the file.
  7. Grow it on purpose. Draft a potential outline and organize topics into a content calendar: write blog posts, articles, social media updates, podcasts, video, and speeches to double as book content. 
  8. Capture ideas in a file on your phone or a small notebook. Be an observer, gathering data, impressions, ideas, and words. The world conspires to deliver more of whatever you’re watching for. Search engines and social media do this by design, and it happens offline in even more amazing synchronicity. 
  9. Voice-to-text is your friend. When the passion flows, pause to start recording. Casual conversations, even car soliloquies, become some of the best first drafts. It’s easier and more effective for a developmental editor like me to organize and polish your conversation than it is to make too-often-painstakingly written material sound like you.
  10. Create your FAQs. What do people ask when they find out what you do? Search topic questions online. Create an online survey to test your topic with your beneficiaries.
  11. Schedule daily writing check-ins. Short is okay; consistency matters. A page a day equals a manuscript a year. More importantly, keeping dates with one’s subconscious helps it know when to show up. When we treat that relationship as our last priority, inner genius naps.
  12. Pray, meditate, seek divine connection in whatever form that takes for you. If an idea has chosen you, it comes with the help you need to bring it to life. (I hope this encouragement is one of those signs for you.)
  13. Create social support. You might join a writing group, exchange drafts with a friend by e-mail, meet at a cafe for work-and-ignore sessions, or have family quiet creativity time. 
  14. Reward yourself in small visible ways. Gold stars on a wall calendar? Daily streaks become unbeatable motivators.
  15. Plan larger rewards. Do you want to see a movie when you finish each chapter and take vacation when you finish the draft? 
  16. Remember who is waiting for you. Even if you never polish or publish it, a manuscript can become one of your greatest legacies, cherished by descendants for generations. And if you do share your hard-earned wisdom with the rest of us, how might our lives be better? How many tasks that crowd out your writing dream can make that claim? 
  17. Start humbly, enjoy the process, keep me posted. 

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