It was around August 15, 2008 and I should have been in the process of finishing my book. A Word document stared me in the face with a bunch of chapters filled with random blog posts, quotes, disconnected paragraphs and a few usable pages. I felt like one of those poor souls on the Hoarder shows, paralyzed by stuff and ideas all around me, but unable to move from the sheer terror of the task.
My daughter was still under a year old, and I had the weight of my family’s income on my shoulders since the construction market in Phoenix was in the 4th Circle of Dante’s Inferno.
So I did.
“I can’t do this,” I said. “It is too big. I am totally overwhelmed, and I am never going to get this done.”
“Of course you will,” she said. “Just break it into tiny little pieces that are so small that they are almost insulting. Do you think you could write one paragraph?”
“Yes, I think I could do that,” I said. “But I have sixteen chapters to write! I will never finish on time!”
“Then put that as your goal,” she said. “Don’t worry about your 16 chapters for now. Just write a paragraph each day, and be sure to reward yourself for doing so each day. At the end of the fourth day, give yourself a bigger treat.”
Feeling better that my writing hero had confidence I would finish, I agreed to her crazy process and went back to my Word document.
I started with one paragraph. It was not pithy, profound or crisp. But it was a paragraph, and I felt a tiny weigh lift from my chest.
I kept writing each day. Paragraphs turned into pages, which turned into caffeine-fueled 14-hour days of flying fingers, writing, copying and pasting.
I turned the book into my publisher on October 31. The next day, my editor Emily sent me a lovely email.
“Congratulations, you did it!” she said. “Now, can you cut it by 30% in the next two days?”
Amazingly, cutting content that I had sweat over for months was a breeze. I could feel the book take shape as we hacked off meandering stories and unnecessary sidebars.
I think about this experience often as I set new goals, including writing another book.
Once you define the goal that feels right (and I gave you some tips on how to do this here), start really, really small.
Big Hairy Audacious Goals Sometimes Give You Hairballs
Get out of debt by 2013 starts with alphebetizing your bills and setting them in date order.
Writing a book starts by opening up your word processer, naming the document and creating the cover page.
Getting on Oprah’s Life Class starts by calling a local gym and asking if you can deliver a 15 minute talk to its members.
Tiny Steps Win the Race
Final thoughts here: (See directly on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g9lwwGWedtk)