Write Your Book: A Guide to Getting Started and Staying Productive

Female Writer at Desk

Today I introduce a friend and colleague who has taught me so much about setting goals, managing my time, and making one of the most important projects of my lifetime, my book, happen. Please give a warm welcome to business and life coach extraordinaire, Kaarina Dillabough. And feel free to ask your questions in the comments following this guest post. Now, here’s Kaarina:

Have you been thinking about writing a book…seeing it in your mind’s eye, but never setting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard? That’s like turning to the final page of an existing book and believing that you’ve read it, when you’ve never even turned a page.

Remember this: Nothing was ever created and perfected in the same moment.

And yet, isn’t that what so many people believe should happen?

That when pen is put to paper, the words should automagically flow perfectly to paper the very first time?

That’s not going to happen.

There will be angst. There will be disappointment. There will be struggle. And there will be flow.

Flow…the beautiful place where the stars align and you write with abandon and freedom…where your thoughts outpace your ability to capture them as quickly in writing, and you’re in the zone.

But first, you have to start.

It’s that simple.

You have to decide to write. Then write. Don’t just think about it, dream about it or talk about it. Do it.

And to help you get started, or help you keep going, here are some tips and steps you can take to get you from where you are now to finished product.

Don’t keep your eye on the prize – keep it on the moment

When you focus on finishing, you likely won’t get started. The idea of a completed book can be overwhelming, and sometimes you’ll put the cart before the horse. Questions like: will I self-publish? Where will I find an editor? How will I market the book? These are all questions that many people start asking themselves even before they’ve written a word!

Don’t worry about the “how’s” during the writing process. Focus on writing, each and every day. Be present. Write!

Remove/eliminate distractions

Turn off devices. You are not a victim of your devices, you’re a ruler of them. Put a message on your machine that indicates when you’ll answer calls. Do not be a slave to pings and dings. And that includes the monkey-mind pings and dings that say things like “I should really finish this first” or “I’ll just run out and do a few errands before I start” or any number of distracting things.

If you find it difficult to stay in flow and be fully present, you might want to look into some mindfulness exercises that will help you focus and stay clear.

Create a routine to set your focus

Especially if you find it difficult to simply get going, a lovely “settling” routine might be just the ticket. Maybe it’s a cup of coffee, a bit of pleasure reading, a short walk, meditation, preparing your workspace…whatever sets the space, in mind and physical working space to begin the day’s work in a positive, productive way…go for it!

Know your best time of day to write…then ignore it

If you wait for the best time, the optimal time, the “correct” time, you probably won’t write. There’s no right time to write except right now. How’s that for a heaping helping of right writes?!

Pile of Books

NO multi-tasking

As Confucius said: “If you chase 2 rabbits, you catch none.” It has been proven empirically that multi-tasking impedes productivity, increases errors and causes even more stress to the mind and body than what I call “sequential uni-tasking“.

As Dr. Edward Hallowell says: “Multi-tasking is a mythical activity in which people believe they can perform two or more tasks simultaneously.”

Set priorities, not a to-do list

I recommend a two-step process to identify the top priorities to be accomplished each and every day. Step 1 is to do a Mind Dump. Set aside some time each evening to note all the “stuff” that you think needs to get done. All the tactical, practical stuff that keeps you busy but not necessarily productive. These are often the “should do’s” and not necessarily the need-to-do’s.

Out of the Mind Dump kitchen sink, identify the top 3 priorities for the following day. These should be the most important things that will result in results, and keep you productive, not just busy. Think about each priority this way: when I do this, what significant, beneficial difference will it make?

Your writing is a priority. So that’s already one of the three. What other two things do you need to do that will result in results? Is it urgent, need-to-do or nice-to-do?

When you do a Mind Dump and set your 3 priorities each day for the following day, you will accomplish what’s important. You’ll be productive, not just busy.

Stop putting it off

Banish the procrastination monster and, like Nike says: “Just Do It”. Everyone procrastinates when the task seems too large or daunting, when one is scared or intimidated or the job simply seems overwhelming and unfamiliar. The best way to beat down the tendency to procrastinate is to set those priorities and do them.

Set targets, benchmarks and goals – then reward yourself when you reach them

It’s always advisable to break a large project or task down into small, meaningful, manageable chunks. Perhaps you’ll set a target to write ‘x’ number of pages each day. Maybe you’ll set a time limit that maximizes your writing time and injects appropriate breaks to refresh, regroup and return to task. You might want to try the Pomodoro Technique

Or not.

What we do know from adult learning studies, and what I know from coaching Olympic athletes: you can sustain focus for only so long before the body and mind are ready for a break. I do suggest time-blocking: creating and committing to uninterrupted time blocks to write, and then taking a break. And when targets are met, reward yourself with a pat on the back, a new pen or journal, a delicious treat or simply the knowledge that you’re on track and on target.

Remember: nothing was ever created and perfected in the same moment. Rome wasn’t built in a day. And nothing happens until you decide, then do.

Happy writing!

Make sure you don’t miss a post.


  1. Josh September 25, 2013 at 8:06 am #

    Aww procrastination, I know that creature far too well.


    • Kaarina Dillabough September 25, 2013 at 4:53 pm #

      Now JJ, I don’t see much procrastination in the writing department on your part. You are prolific! Cheers! Kaarina


  2. Vidya Sury September 25, 2013 at 9:55 am #

    How lovely to read this post, Kaarina. I’ve learned a few of these the hard way, yet I hold back. Just two days ago, I promised myself I would write every day without making an appointment with myself because I don’t see that happening until I go to bed, then I am too sleepy to talk to myself. I simply write when the urge takes me regardless of where I am.

    I love your concept of sequential uni tasking. I find it hard to focus because I make a to-do list. The days I make a priority list with just 3-4 things everything gets checked off. You are always an inspiration!

    Judy, so delighted to be here to read Kaarina’s post here! I was thinking of you yesterday when we played song-tag (I remember we exchanged comments about that some months ago!)



    • Judy Lee Dunn September 26, 2013 at 7:25 am #


      Great to see you here! My major stumbling block is still social media. Kaarina has given us all a little boost with the tips in her post. The challenge with me is the self-control thing, but I hear that once a new habit is made (I heard somewhere it takes 30 days?), it gets much easier.

      On the song-tag, I am ashamed to say that I do not remember that comment exchange. I could very well have bbeen part os something as cool sounding as song-tag, though.


  3. Kaarina Dillabough September 25, 2013 at 4:54 pm #

    Vidya my dear friend, so lovely to see you here:) No more to-do lists, because they never get tuh-dun, haha! Keep those priorities and stick to them. Decide2do then do:) Cheers! Kaarina


  4. Michelle Quillin September 26, 2013 at 7:04 am #

    Chock-full of great advice from the Queen of Productivity and Results, Kaarina!

    I see my weaknesses all over this post. Multitasking. To-do lists. Being ruled by the pings and dings. No routine.

    No wonder I can’t get my own book started!


  5. Kaarina Dillabough September 26, 2013 at 7:43 am #

    We just need to have a little coaching session soon Michelle: my compliments. Let’s spend 30 minutes together on a video Skype and banish those stumbling blocks and get you off the starting blocks and onto a new way of producing results. If you’re game for a little session, just let me know. I’d love to be of service. Cheers! Kaarina


  6. melanie thomas November 13, 2013 at 7:29 am #

    im a new writer actually i haven’t even started yet. I want to make sure i know how to be able to write the book without missing the important details. I’m one of those people who likes to hurry and get things done. This time though, i want to be able to see it through… any advice? i could also use some help on how to start my story


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