“Writing is a solitary occupation. Family, friends, and society are the natural enemies of the writer. [S]He must be alone, uninterrupted, and slightly savage if [s]he is to sustain and complete an undertaking.”
—Lawrence Clark Powell, author.
Cookbook projects are multi-step processes. Each project has a unique set of nuances and challenges. My goal for this blog post is to acknowledge the challenges and help you evaluate your commitment to seeing the project through to completion.
Commitment to your cookbook project is an essential ingredient for successful completion of all phases of the book – your book proposal, manuscript, and ultimate publication and book promotion. In the end, your willingness to commit to these all phases defines the success of your book. Below are several steps that can help you to commit and take action on your cookbook project.
Determine your path in the publishing landscape. As I discussed in a recent blog post on routes to publication, there are various options for publishing your cookbook. If you are not clear on your route to publication I encourage you to stop and take time to make this decision. Once you decide on your path, take time to learn and follow that path. Committment to your options on the path will help you ignore the shiny parts of other choices.
Dream big, but work small with patience. It’s ok to keep your end goal in mind and imagine how it will feel to share a copy of your book with your audience, family, or friends. But, once you imagine the excitement, thrill, or exhilaration, you have to be patient with the process. This is when it’s important to return to your next step in the process and do the work of the next stage well. With patience and deliberate actions, your cookbook will get written and published as you desire.
Enhance focus and concentration. Focus and concentration are harder than ever in our virtual- and social-media driven lives. I receive numerous texts, phone calls, emails, Twitter notifications, and package deliveries in the course of my typical work day. The outside world wants in even when I have the need to focus or concentrate. It’s up to me to commit to creating time and a place where I can focus and concentrate.
Create a space and place to write. Everyone has a different place where they like to write. What’s most important is to commit to a physical space and place to write where you are the most focused and productive. In that place, keep supplies handy and work diligently. My writing space is a clutter-free desk. At my side, I keep my iPhone (for the timer), my computer, a notebook, a pen, a candle, and reference books. The reference books are important to me so that I’m not tempted to go online to “research”. For me, “research” equals a rabbit hole and I get distracted with online research and am definitely not writing. Also during my writing time, I prefer quiet. I turn off music, notifications, and other distractions. When I show up in commit to working here, my work gets done.
Develop a writing routine. My writing routine anchors my progress on projects and this routine trumps mindset and topic for me. My commitment to a routine makes my productivity soar. If my routine is thrown off for some reason, my productivity suffers. My personal best time for writing time is between 8:00 – 10:30 am. It is during this time that I feel refreshed and energized and can set aside time to focus and write. I set my timer for 50 minutes and work. Then I take a 10-minute break and if time allows I may write for 50 more minutes. At the very least I know if my routine allows 50 minutes, 5 times/week, I can accomplish about 4 hours of writing time. For me my routines eliminate worry. Once my writing time has expired, I move on to other work I have to do related to my business and my clients. Some writing routines are based on writing a specific number of words each day, or a particular page count. In the end, it doesn’t matter how you measure your writing time, what’s most important is that you commit to a routine.
Define interruptions vs. emergencies. Interruptions are common, and it’s important to commit to managing interruptions whether you write in an office environment, a coffee shop, or at home. You set the tone for when and how others interrupt your writing time. Ideally, I structure my writing time so that I can write during the quiet hours of my day. For me, that is in the early morning. For you, quiet time may be in the evening after everyone is in bed or after other coworkers or employees have gone home for the day. If others are around when I write I usually wear headphones or earbuds to signal not to interrupt unless there is an emergency.
Adjust your mindset. It’s not uncommon to feel like giving up during the course of a book project. At these times enhance your commitment with positive messages such as: You can do this matter what. You do have enough time. You have enough talent. Your audience is waiting for your book. Your cookbook will help your audience. Your audience is excited to learn more about your topic. You don’t need permission to move forward. Repeat as necessary. Another mindset adjustment to remain committed to the project is to think thoughts that lead to energy-producing emotions such as I am productive, optimistic, energetic, focused, composed, and disciplined. Avoid thoughts that lead to energy-draining emotions such as I am confused, unsure, stumped, or overwhelmed. Positive emotions and energy are your friends. Tap into them.
Identify your obstacles. There are obstacles to writing a cookbook. Examples include day jobs, home lives, community involvement, children, and travel demands that keep us too busy. In addition, there are inner voices that leave us confused, unsure, and overwhelmed. Obstacles are present with any goal. Your job is to commit to the goal and work to overcome the obstacles. For example, when you identify the obstacle, “I can’t write this book because I’m too busy with my day job”, try to set a goal to wake up one hour earlier several mornings a week to work on your project or to set aside weekend mornings and double up on your writing time. Schedule doable goals, stick to your plan, and your obstacles become stepping stones instead of blocking the path.
Writers who are committed to their cookbook project make consistent progress and get their books published. They manage distractions and negative emotions. They are consistent and build their platforms and write their book proposals or manuscripts. Evaluate your commitment with this worksheet.
Cookbook author, editor, and Culinary Dietitian Maggie Green coaches aspiring cookbook authors during the pre-publication phase of writing a cookbook. If you want to write a cookbook, and wonder if you’re ready, download her 11-point checklist Am I Ready to Write a Cookbook?