Just being creative, having wonderful ideas, and having bits and pieces of your project started are not enough.
You. Have. To. Actually. Finish. Things.
You know what I’m talking about. You’re creative. You have wonderful ideas. You have lots of wonderful ideas—too many, probably. And you have bits and pieces of these fabulous ideas started, and abandoned, all over the place.
When I pushed the final button to publish my first children’s book to Amazon last week, I might as well have been sending a rocket ship to Mars. At least that’s what it felt like, because, you know, I actually got it done.
It was a monumental effort
This book was a monumental effort for me, because I have just as much trouble finishing things as you do. I’ve been wanting to write a kid’s book for years. I’ve had the idea for this particular book for at least two years, and I’ve been actively working on it for over 12 months. Maybe more. I didn’t actually track it.
If you take a look at my book (link below), you’ll see that there’s not that much to it—the entire book has only 217 words and 17 simple illustrations. How could it have taken me so long? And in the next minute, if you have ADHD, you’ll understand that this is only one of my ideas. Only one of the projects I’ve been chasing in my head, on the drawing board, on paper, in the bowels of my computer, in my sleep, and in my conversations. I’ve got lots of other projects started in bits and pieces, too. Sound familiar?
So how did I do it? How did I actually follow through and finish my book?
It wasn’t easy. Many times I wanted to just let it fade away. But it feels so good to accomplish something like this—something I’ve always wanted to do—that I wanted to share it with you.
I’m just like you. I have a lot going on. Running a business, I juggle many things, and I can’t really afford, money-wise or time-wise, to shut down most other things to focus on one project, like my book. And I don’t just have this one business, where I coach ADHD business owners—I also teach strategic branding to graphic design firm owners with a partner, and run workshops. I also manage my 91-year-old mother’s care, which means I take her to all of her doctor appointments, and liaison with her doctors and caregivers. I keep track of her prescriptions, and shop for her. I see her for big chunks of every day. If you have done this, you know this can be a big, time consuming job as well. And, crazy as it sounds, I’m thinking of starting yet another business with my sister. Even though conventional wisdom is to narrow your focus, for ADHDers, the best we can do is corral our ideas a bit. We just have too many terrific ideas. You can relate, I know.
But I couldn’t let my life go by without writing children’s books.
I used the same strategies I teach to my coaching clients, for getting my book done
1. I blocked my time
If you’re familiar with any of my strategies, you know I love time blocking. Blocking out time on your calendar to work on specific projects—and not just for appointments—assures you’ll have the time set aside to get critical things done. I blocked in one day per week to work on my book, even if it got pushed to the weekend, and often it did. Some weeks I only got in a half day. And some weeks it got pushed off altogether. The challenge then was to get it back on my calendar and not beat myself up about missing it.
2. I got others to push me
I created forced accountability by showing and talking about what I was doing. There was no real deadline for my book, so it was easy to put it off for something “more Important.” So instead of keeping my work private for a big reveal, I left it out as I worked on it. My illustrations are a big part of the book, so I taped them on my walls as I worked on them. When friends and family visited, they saw the illustrations and asked about them. I talked about my project, showed my thumbnails, and described how I envisioned the finished project. This kept me accountable, as they would continue to ask about my progress, and I didn’t want to let them down—it was kind of embarrassing if I didn’t have anything new to report. Some of my friends and family are pretty pushy, I mean encouraging.
3. I invested in support
I learned a long time ago not to go it alone. Writing and self publishing are not my areas of expertise, and I believe in learning as much as you can about things you are interested in if you want to do well. I also believe in getting support to shorten the learning curve and not make expensive mistakes. I joined a paid children’s book writing and publishing group for the information, education, support, and brain trust I needed. It’s a fabulous resource and it bolsters my confidence to be among experts and other struggling children’s book writers.
4. I did a sticky note brain dump—or 3 or 4
Organizing my brain with sticky notes is one of my favorite strategies, and I’m not kidding when I say I use it all the time myself. I used sticky notes to organize the original story. Then I used them to organize the steps I would need to take to get the book written, and I continued to refine that collection of stickies as I worked. I have also done several brain dumps with my entire work load, including the book, side-by-side, so I don’t forget my other projects, and can work on them all concurrently. Things change! And my sticky notes change with them.
5. I continually prioritized my workload
Since I was already working with my brain dump and my sticky notes, I could easily prioritize my workload continuously. I could see when things were getting out of hand and one area needed more focus, forcing me to put the book down a few rungs on the priority ladder. And since I could “see” all of my projects visually, I didn’t lose track of the book—which meant I could pull it back up and block it in again when things quieted down.
6. I asked for feedback
Working by yourself can drive you buggy if you don’t find ways to get effective feedback. For me, that meant submitting my three top book cover designs to a group of my trusted friends and colleagues (as well as a few kids in my 3- to 5-year-old target audience and their parents) for feedback. I also had my grammar checked by English teachers and self-proclaimed grammar snobs. Others in my writers group have hired book illustrators and editors, but since I’ve been a designer and illustrator, and the book only has 217 words, I felt my friends and professional contacts met the criteria—and bolstered my confidence.
Using the above strategies, I did it! I was able to follow through. My book didn’t get finished by chance, or by luck, or by sheer determination. Even though my book had nothing to do with my “real” work, I was able to fit it in and I was able to finish it. It got finished because I put strategies in place to help me—the same strategies you can use to follow through.
You can find the digital version of my first children’s book, Moopy Wants a Kitty, at Amazon. The ebook is free to download on July 25 and 26. Please check it out and give me a review, if you like it. More reviews will help my book get found by more people.
You can also check out the Moopy Wants a Kitty website for a free download of the audiobook to read along.