I used to be a time management enthusiast. I say “used to be,” because time management eventually stopped working for me.
How I became an accidental author It all started with an email. It was the kind of email that would trip up most spam filters. I wasn’t being offered millions of dollars from an offshore bank account, true love, nor improved performance in bed. I was being offered a book deal.
I had never thought of myself as a writer. In fact, I downright hated writing as a kid. I remember reading about how Stephen King said that when he was a kid, he was “on fire” to write. I remember saying to myself, That makes no sense! Who on Earth would enjoy writing?
I had never thought of myself as a writer, but I had fantasized about being an author. I guess that means I didn’t think so much about writing, but I liked the idea of having written.
As I considered taking this book deal, I talked to everyone I knew who had written a book. They all warned me that writing a book is extremely hard work, with little chance of success. One author simply said, You’ll want to die!
But, I figured, how hard can it be? So, I signed my first literary contract.
How I tried to write a book, when I didn’t know how to write a book I didn’t have any idea how to write a book, so I did it the only way I could think of: through brute force time management. I simply needed to find enough time to write this book.
So, I used every time management technique I could think of. I put writing sessions on my calendar. I developed a morning routine that would get me writing first thing in the morning. I “time boxed” to try to limit the time I would spend on parts of the project. I fired my clients, I outsourced my meal preparation, I cancelled dates and turned down party invitations. I did everything I could to focus all of my time on writing my book.
But it still wasn’t enough. I spent most of my day hunched over a keyboard. I felt actual physical pain in my stomach. It felt as if rigor mortis had taken over my fingers, as I struggled to write even a single sentence.
Sure, I had the time to write my book, but I wasn’t getting anything done.
My case of writers’ block was so bad that, a few weeks after signing my book deal, I accepted a last-minute invitation to go on a retreat to Costa Rica. With a signed contract in my file drawer and a deadline breathing down my neck, it wasn’t the most logical thing to do with my time. But I desperately hoped that a change of scenery would work some kind of magic on my writer’s block.
But a few days into the trip, I still had nothing. Zero! Zilch! My contract said that if I didn’t have my manuscript twenty-five percent done within a few weeks, the deal was off. So, unless a miracle happened, I would write a check to the publisher to return my advance, and I would humiliatingly face my friends, family, and readers to tell them I had failed.
Does that sound like a lot of pressure? It was.
The chance encounter that changed the way I thought about writing productivity I wanted to feel sorry for myself, by myself, so I went for a walk. I was dragging my feet down the gravel road in Costa Rica, with my head hung down. How could I be so foolish?, I asked myself.
Not only had I signed a contract to write a 50,000-word book, with little writing experience under my belt, I had wasted time and money going on this retreat.
Just then, I heard someone call out. I looked up, and saw a man on the next road over waving big in my direction, with his entire arm, ¡¿Como estááááás?!
I had noticed this man earlier in my walk. He was gripping onto the simple wires of a fence, leaning back in ecstasy, singing to himself. I had felt vaguely embarrassed for him, assuming he didn’t know someone else was around.
I looked behind me, trying to figure out who he was waving at. But there was no o