How to undaunt yourself

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Do you need to undaunt yourself over your writing? Here are three tips I can offer from the one task that has always daunted me: bookkeeping!

While I’m no longer a procrastinating writer, I am a procrastinating bookkeeper. But I’ve just accomplished something remarkable. I got my records off to my bookkeeper before the end of March.

I’ve never managed this before.

As you may be to writing, I am to bookkeeping. I loathe the task with every fibre in my being. I delay, procrastinate, shilly-shally and generally drag my heels. I would rather go for a colonoscopy than do my books.

You may wonder what’s so damn labyrinthine – especially given that I have a bookkeeper who does the really hard work. Well, my books are complex. I work for a number of bricks-and-mortar based businesses, largely in Vancouver, for which I have to generate invoices.

But I also sell my own book, my course and my one-on-one coaching around the world. This means I have dozens of shopping cart and PayPal invoices, all of which need to be reconciled. I also pay subcontractors, such as graphic artists, web experts and SEO authorities. As well, I travel in the US frequently and have a US$ credit card and bank account, in addition to my Canadian ones.

If I didn’t first organize all this stuff myself, I’d have to pay my bookkeeper the equivalent of the gross national product of Micronesia. So, I put my head down and do it. Usually late. Always complaining about it.

This year, however, I am earlier than usual. And next year, I aspire to wrap up 2013 by the end of January 2014. On the theory that what’s helped me with my bookkeeping might help you with your writing, here are three pieces of advice.

1) I divided the big job into a series of smaller ones. In previous years, I had the unenviable task of going through 12 months’ worth of Visa statements and trying to find the receipt for each entry. Horrible! This year, I had done the first quarter’s statements in April, the second and third quarter’s in October. This meant I had only three months of statements remaining to reconcile. Easy peasy! For writing you might take a big report (or even a big story) and divide it into segments. You should also conceptualize writing as a variety of different tasks – thinking, planning, mindmapping, producing the first draft, rewriting and copyediting.

2) I established some good habits. In the past, I used to throw my receipts into envelopes. Now I have a binder filled with blank scrap paper. Each week, I scotch tape all my receipts to a page and scrawl the date across the top. In this fashion, they are automatically sorted into chronological order. For writing, you might develop a system for your note taking that keeps everything well organized. You could also produce a list of tasks for each writing job (see paragraph above) and cross each one off the list as soon as you finish it. Ice the cake by giving yourself a small reward for each check mark. Maybe a latte? Or 15 minutes on FaceBook?

3) I reminded myself about what had worked in previous years. The power of such memories always astonishes me. I realized how I’d been delaying organizing this quarter’s receipts because I’d remembered it as “such a big job!” But as soon as I got into it, I realized it wasn’t nearly as big as I thought. Even better, when I’d finished with the receipts, I also did the last little bit of record keeping for my income tax. I’d remembered how surprised I was last year by how fast and easy it was. This motivated me to do it right away. If you have had a longtime habit of always delaying your writing, you should work on building some positive memories about writing that goes well. Do that by writing for brief periods (say 10 to 15 minutes) five days a week. You’re more likely to like it if you have a positive association with it.

Finally, here’s one bonus tip that doesn’t apply to books but that might help your writing.

Turn off your inner perfectionist. While books do need to be perfect — the receipt for a September lunch must not go in the December pile and 1 plus 1 will never equal 5 – writing can be blissfully imperfect. Because, guess what? You can edit it into better shape later.

In fact, that’s why I became a writer instead of an accountant. Words can be tweaked. There’s more than one “right” answer. Words and stories are infinitely malleable.

And, besides, I’ve always been really bad at math…

Is writing something that daunts you? What are the tricks you use to overcome this feeling? We can all learn from each other so please share your thoughts with my readers and me by commenting below. (If you don’t see the comments box, click here and then scroll to the end.)

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