Back in 2007, I tentatively opened my shiny new textbooks at the beginning of a journey to complete a degree with the Open University. It was a hugely challenging and rewarding experience, both personally and academically, and 11 years after starting the first round of modules, I was finally awarded a Master of Arts in Music with Distinction.
One of the assignments that cropped up in every study year was an exercise in self-reflection. It wasn’t a particularly popular topic among many of my fellow students!
While all of our other essays required close interpretation and analysis of the provided texts, this one presented us with a blank piece of paper and challenged us to look at ourselves with a critical eye, to appraise how we approached the work, the effectiveness of our methods and the success of our outcomes.
Of course, on seeing the word ‘critical’, we were inclined to search for the negative. However, we were encouraged not only to face up to the things we were bad at but also talk about our strengths and the things we felt we were good at.
To be given permission to reflect on ‘how’ I was working was both revelatory and liberating. I uncovered some of my limiting behaviours but was also able to celebrate, without any self-effacement, all the things I was really good at.
This in turn gave me the confidence to believe that I could overcome the negatives and, as the Arlen and Mercer song goes, ‘accentuate the positives’ and ultimately achieve the success I yearned for after so many years of study.
Having worked with many aspiring authors over the past year, I’ve come to realise that self-reflection might also be beneficial to anyone who wants to get their book project moving.
So, if one of your ambitions is to finally write that business book, I’m going to give you give the gift of self-reflection. Here are some questions and suggestions to get you started.
Focus on your recent accomplishments. Don’t be too regretful or self-critical about the things you haven’t achieved or believe you have in some way failed at.
Consider where your writing skills might need a little boost and get some help.
Think about how you might encourage your brilliant, tenacious self along the way.
Gathering your ideas
What have you written this year? Reading it back, are you surprised how good it is? Copy it, along with any accompanying comments if you published it online, and save it in a new folder for your writing project.
What have you read this year that has inspired you? Make a note and take the reference for it as this will save you time when it comes to assembling your draft.
If you keep scrap notes and sketchy thoughts, gather these into the same folder. You never know when they may come in useful.
Skills and time
Audit your time. Where can you carve out some time from your schedule? Do you need to take something out of your diary to make the space or say ‘no’ to new things that aren’t part of your writing plan?
How can you make a start? If you’re prevaricating, spend time getting into the practice of writing in the quiet time after Christmas. Morning Pages (writing three sides of A4 without stopping) or the app 750words.com are great ways of encouraging you to write freely without editing or censoring your work.
What else do you need to do to make it happen? Acknowledge that you’ll never find the perfect time, place or space for writing – but do you really need those things? Simply make a start.
Tenacity and self-belief
Only you can believe in yourself and only you can write the book. But we often hold ourselves back through self-deprecation, humility or a feeling that no one will be interested in what we have to say. Writing a book isn’t easy and you need to overcome your fears or feelings of self-doubt and find the strength to see your project through to its successful conclusion.
Reflect on what you’ve overcome this year. The thing you were most afraid of or most anxious about achieving often seems so simple when you look back and see how far you’ve travelled.
As we’ve said before, writing is rarely a solo project. Who can you turn to to keep you motivated? Is it a writing community, a mentor, a publisher?
Finally, imagine your end goal. What will your book look like? How will you celebrate when it’s finally published?
By reflecting on your current self and visualising your future, you’ll find the confidence to write. All you need to do is start that first chapter. And I sincerely hope your journey to publication won’t take anything like as long as 11 years!