In our current culture of instant gratification, deciding to take on a project that you know will takes years to complete can feel daunting. Social media doesn’t help. It makes it look like others’ dreams are materializing overnight and that can certainly add to the frustration and maybe even make you want to quit. (Been there!)
As most of you know, I recently published my first novel after working ten years on the story. A few weeks ago I met another writer, Julianna Lembeck, who has spent the last several years working on a book that she just finished! (Yes, Julianna!) We got together to talk about all that goes into pursuing a project that takes a substantial amount of time and we’re sharing our experiences below in the hopes that they will help anyone wondering:
Where do I start?
How do I stay with a big project until completion?
On the day that Waiting at Hayden’s was published, a lot of friends texted me asking if it was the best day ever. While it was definitely exciting to see a book I’d worked years on hit bookstore shelves, the truth is it wasn’t any more exciting than the days I spent in coffee shops working on the story because I LOVE the work itself.
And for me, I think that’s the key to sticking with any dream. It shouldn’t feel like something you are constantly chasing. Sure there will be hard days where you want to quit. But more often than not, you will get a feeling while you’re doing the work that makes you not even care about the “end goal.” If your dream isn’t giving you that feeling, than maybe you haven’t found the right one.
I spoke about this in another post, but there really is no end goal. There are only moments that make up our lives and living the dream is the exciting thing. The joy from the completion of it is so fleeting. The day Waiting at Hayden’s came out, I was already onto something else. You’re not ever going to be done. So love your journey!
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Transforming a dream into reality starts with a little WHAT, HOW and WHY. Those of you familiar with Simon Sinek’s philosophy of Start With Why may know of these elements already and although he argues to begin with your WHY, for the sake of this particular blog, let’s actually start with WHAT.
The WHAT is the fun part. This is your dream/goal/endeavor/destination, if you will. In naming the WHAT, you’re articulating and fleshing out a particular outcome or result you’d like to end with. Get as specific as you want here. Do you want to write a book? What kind of book is it? Will you write it yourself or collaborate with another author?
Next is your HOW. How in the world will you actually write and complete an entire novel? Zoom out to the end – when is a realistic time in which to accomplish such a feat? Perhaps a year? Maybe two? And if so, then what must you accomplish each month, each week, and possibly each day to chip away at this endeavor? Part of your HOW might look like this “Write 20 minutes each day” or “Write 5 pages every week”.
Last but most importantly, know and understand your WHY. WHY do you want to write this book? Is it a soul-scratching thing – an idea that won’t leave you alone? Is it to establish your voice as an authority on a particular topic? Is it a marketing tool? Is it a way of giving back or amplifying your reach? No matter what the reason, it’s crucial to understand WHY you’re working on a goal because…
When the going gets tough. Or your roommate is overwhelming you. Or you’re tired. Or you’re sick. Or work is piling up. Or you know, life is just happening, it’s so incredibly easy to be discouraged and give up on the goal altogether. It will be times like this when you need to call forth your WHY in order to gain renewed clarity and focus on achieving this goal. The fact of the matter is people make time for things that matter, which is technically what the WHY is all about. WHY does this goal matter to you? How will it change you? How will it benefit you? What doors can it open? How will it make you feel? What kind of impact will it have? How will you view yourself once you’ve accomplished this goal?
Bonus tip: Write your WHY. Carry it around with you on a slip of paper. Tape it to your mirror. Have it as the background on your phone. Keep it close.
We hope this advice was helpful! If you have any questions, please leave a comment and we’ll answer below!