Pick Up the Pen: 3 Proven Ways to Get Writing and Finish Your Book

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Editor's Note:

Jon Acuff is a consultant, blogger, public speaker, social media whiz, and the author of Stuff Christians LikeThe New York Times bestseller Start, and The Wall Street Journal bestseller Quitter. He has sixteen years of branding and marketing experience with companies such as The Home Depot, Chick-fil-A, Bose, and Staples. Here, he shares three ways to finish writing your book.

According the New York Times, 81% of Americans want to write a book. There are approximately 240 million adults in America, which means 194 million people want to write books.

Given those numbers, we should have 194 million new books every year. Maybe that’s too aggressive. What if only half of those people finish their book? That means we’d have 97 million new books written every year. Perhaps that’s still too optimistic. What if only 10% of those people succeeded? We’d get 19.4 million new books.

Unfortunately, that’s not close to the number of new books every year. Currently, only 600,000 – 1 million books are written every year. What happens to the 193 million others? Well, they don’t get finished. They’re trapped somewhere in a laptop or a notebook or a head.

Not you, though: You’re going to finish your book.

How? Well, I commissioned a research study to help people like you and me. I learned what it takes to actually finish something you care about. I wrote a whole book about it called Finish. I think you should read my book, but just in case you don’t, here are three ways to finish your book:

1. Shoot for finished, not perfect.

Amazon has never sold a perfect book. They’ve sold millions of finished books. There’s a big difference between those two categories. I don’t know how to break this to you, but your book won’t be perfect. There are going to be mistakes in it. There are going to be things you would do differently if you could. There are going to be new ideas that show up the day you send it to your publisher. That’s OK. Nobody’s book is perfect. The problem is that if you make your goal to write a perfect book, you will never finish it. That’s the funny thing about a book; unless you have a hard deadline with a publisher, you don’t ever have to finish a book. You can edit forever. Don’t. Shoot for finished, not perfect.

2. Set smaller goals.

You’ve had an idea inside of you for years. Finally, you sit down to write and tell yourself, “I’m going to finish this book in a month.” You come up with a massive, difficult goal, believing the myth of “Go big or go home.” I want you to have big goals, I do, but I want you to start with small ones first. Don’t write 1,000 words a day. Write 100. Don’t try to finish your book by October. Finish by December. Our research with nearly 900 people showed that people who cut their goals in half were 63% more successful. I know that’s counterintuitive, but I don’t care because it works. Start with smaller goals.

3. Make it fun.

Remember that word, “fun?” That’s probably why you started writing in the first place. It was fun. It felt like running downhill. It was private and personal and expressive. Somewhere in the middle of finishing a book, things lose their sense of enjoyment. It becomes work. The grind is real. In those moments, you’ve got to add the fun back to the project. Maybe it’s giving yourself a reward for finishing a chapter. Maybe it’s reading a section to your friend who laughs the easiest. Maybe it’s writing a crazy chapter you know will never make the final book. The research shows that if you deliberately make your project fun, you’re 46% more successful. How fun is that?

I hope you finish your book.

I hope you’re one of the 1% of Americans who complete their dream.

I hope you write another, too.

But let’s not worry about that one right now. Let’s just let go of perfectionism, set some smaller goals, and make it fun.

That’s how you finish your book.