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4 Tips for Getting Started and Self-Publishing a Book

4 Tips for Getting Started and Self-Publishing a Book

    I make a living as a professional organizer. You’d think that it would have been a cinch for me to get organized to write my first book. Unfortunately, when it comes to enormous new projects that I’m scared to death to do, I need more than my organizing skills to get me going.

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    I had known for years that I had a book in me. I believed that writing a book would be beneficial for clients who often left my seminars and speeches wanting more information. And, I’d even made some feeble attempts to get started. I kept getting hung up on the organization of the content of the book. I had so much information to share. I just couldn’t figure out how arrange it in a simple, easy to understand outline.

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    In 2009 I began working with Mark LeBlanc, a business success coach, to help me launch myself as a national speaker. In the first session he said, “I want you to write a book in 90 days.” After taking a deep breath I squeaked out, “OK, and how am I going to do that?” He replied, “Write 50 minutes a day five days a week.” I said, “I can do that. Can I still use Rock Scissors Paper as the title?” He asked me to clarify the meaning of Rock Scissors Paper. After I explained the meaning of the words he said, “Great! And, the three chapters can be Rock, Scissors and Paper.” With those words he gave me the solution for the organization of the book. I was off and running. The bulk of the content of the book was written in less than 90 days. And the finished product was in my hands 7 months later.

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    If you’re reading this article, I imagine you’re looking for some help to make the enormous task of writing a book less daunting and more doable. Here are four lessons I learned that may help you with your journey:

    1. Tell others, especially people who have already published a book, about your intention to write a book. You never know what kind of helpful advice you might get! Those of us who have been on the journey to book publication are happy to share advice and resources that could make your experience easier.
    2. Start with tasks that you can do. Doing anything will give you momentum to keep going. Writing a book is much more than writing the content. Other tasks include editing, layout, cover design and then choosing a publisher, not to mention marketing the book. Part of the reason I was afraid to really commit to writing a book was because the whole process from start to finish included so many unknowns. For example, I had no clue how to choose a cover designer or editor. But, I could look at other books of the same genre and make some decisions about the look and feel of my book. I found an organizing book with a cover and layout that I just loved. It gave me a model to use when I was making design choices about my book size, the cover and content fonts and layout.
    3. Consider blogging to get yourself writing and develop your content in small bites. Dan Poynter, the guru of self-publishing, first introduced me to the idea of “blooking”. Blooking is writing blog entries until you have enough content to organize it into a book. The idea of writing a whole chapter is pretty overwhelming, but writing two to five paragraphs is much more doable. Doing it as a blog entry and publishing it also gave me the opportunity to try out my content on interested readers before committing to a whole book.
    4. Ask others who have already self-published to share their resources with you. My coach, who had already published a book, gave me the name and contact information of his cover designer and publisher, and recommended a reputable editor. What a relief that was for me! I hate researching services! I liked the look and feel of Mark’s book, so I knew I would be in good hands if I used his resources.

    If you have a book inside you, don’t let overwhelm and fear of the unknown stop you from giving birth to it! Writing and publishing a book can’t be a solo project if you want to successfully complete it. Start where you can and be open to help from knowledgeable others.

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    Last Updated on July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

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