By Rohi Shetty
Two men were chopping wood in the forest. One man worked continuously but the second man rested for a few minutes every hour. At the end of the day, the first man was surprised to see that the other had a much bigger pile of chopped wood.
“How did you manage to chop more wood than me, though you rested every hour?” he asked.
“While I was resting,” replied the other, “I was sharpening my axe.”
That’s why Abraham Lincoln is reported to have said, “Give me six hours to cut a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
In the modern world, we hardly use axes. So what is our most powerful tool?
Think about it for a moment…
When schoolchildren are asked which is the most powerful tool, they gave answers like power drills, rockets, robots, nuclear weapons, internet, computers, supercomputers, and so on. They are all right in their own way.
However, the right answer is…. the human mind, which has conceived and created all these marvelous inventions.
What does all of this mean for us writers in 2018?
Many of you have undoubtedly made resolutions for the new year. Perhaps you have decided to write a certain number of words every single day. Or you have resolved to blog once a week or publish a certain number of books or launch your first online course or gain 1000 email subscribers or more and better clients.
Thanks to the internet, the possibilities are endless.
Or perhaps you have resolved not make any new year resolutions. Instead, you may want to ”Go with the flow,” and let the universe decide your path for you.
Whether you have set goals for the new year or not, there is one magic formula that can help you to become a more successful writer in 2018.
And that phrase is: (drum roll)
I will write now wisely.
Let us break this magic formula into its fundamental principles:
This single letter defines one of the most important determinants of success in any field and that is responsibility.
In the words of Spiderman, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” You’ve all heard it, right? And it’s true. We are all victims, directly or indirectly, of powerful people who talk and act irresponsibly. No one would deny it.
And yet, as writers, we often don’t recognize that the opposite is also true. “With great responsibility, comes great power.” The more responsibility we take for our choices, the greater our power to exert those choices.
For example, look back at 2017.
• Did you write as much as you would have liked?
• Did you submit, publish and promote your work as much as you could have?
If you did, congratulations! However, I suspect you are in a minority.
Most of us didn’t. And that’s natural.
Writing is hard. We have to battle procrastination, perfectionism, fear of failure, distractions, lethargy, writer’s block, blank page syndrome, and so on. However, the bottomline is we must take responsibility for our failure instead of making excuses.
The flip side of responsibility
When asked in a job interview why he should considered responsible, Roy replied, “Well, in my previous company, whenever anything went wrong, everyone said I was responsible!”
Will stands for will power and self discipline but it also means to decide, to resolve, to make a choice. Your most important resolution is to make writing your top priority. The most effective way to prioritize your writing is to write first thing in the morning every day.
Rahul Badami, bestselling author of How to Change Your Life in the Next 15 Minutes, advises us to write continuously without stopping or editing as soon as we wake up. Transfer your thoughts onto paper, whatever they may be. And most importantly, he says, “Don’t check your smartphone before you have done at least five minutes of freewriting.”
The most common cause of writer’s block is facing the blank page with a blank mind. We need to plan in advance what we will write in the next writing session.
The reason why most of us find writing so difficult to do consistently is because we fail to break up writing into its three logical and distinct parts:
Jeff Goins applies this approach in his three-bucket system:
• Ideation: collect ideas as article topics or headlines
• Creation: write and save one of those ideas as a first draft
• Editing and completion: edit the draft and publish it
A word of caution: As far as possible, after you select an idea, complete and publish it before moving on to the next idea. Otherwise, your hard drive will turn into a minefield of lethal half-finished drafts.
Now means now. Not later today, not tomorrow, and certainly not next week or sometime in the nebulous future. Don’t wait until you feel less stressed. And, this point can’t be stressed enough, don’t wait for the right mood or for inspiration to strike.
Engrave on your brain, this quotation by the prolific English writer, Somerset Maugham, “I write only when inspiration strikes. Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”
The purpose of wisdom is to keep reminding yourself of the deeper purpose of your writing. Are you writing for money? To inspire others? To entertain them? Or to educate them? Hopefully, it’s all of the above. As Kahlil Gibran said, “Work is love made visible.”
However, wisdom is a double-edged sword for writers. To paraphrase Yogi Berra, you can’t think and write at the same time. And analysis-paralysis is almost an occupational hazard. This is most often manifested by the “editing while writing” miasma, which is the Trojan horse of perfectionism and writer’s block.
Editing while writing is as crazy an idea as brushing your teeth while eating chocolate.
This is why Anne Lamott advised us to write a shitty first draft and Hemingway said, “The first draft of anything is shit.” (However, Hemingway DIDN’T say, “Write drunk. Edit sober.” Don’t do it. )
However, you can’t dispense with the thinking, planning, and analysis. You have to edit and polish your first draft before you publish it. But wisdom and writing should balance each other – judicious editing should follow adventurous and uninhibited writing. The right way to do this is to use the plan-write-review-publish sequence.
The Writing Process: Plan ==> Write ==> Review ==> Publish
Use this magic formula to make writing your superpower in 2018.
Resolve to write, first thing in the morning, and complete the process from idea to publication.
Join the conversation:
What are your writing goals for 2018?
Let us know in the comments below.
1. Free video series by Jeff Goins and Tim Grahl: https://booklaunch.com/productive-writer-goins
Rohi Shetty is a doctor, health writer, and editor. Check out his Kindle books on Amazon and connect with him on LinkedIn and Facebook. If you want a free review copy of his book, Happify Your Life With Mindful Eating, write a comment below.
(15 January 2018)
Rohi Shetty is a doctor, health writer, and editor for hire. Check out his Kindle books at Amazon and connect with him on LinkedIn and his new Facebook Page. His latest passion is building Facebook Messenger chatbots.