Two years ago today – October 18, 2022 – I sat on a park bench overlooking a river. I was reflecting on what was next for my business. It was a calm and peaceful day. As it turns out, that was my last truly peaceful moment at work.
Because at that time, I decided to write my seventh book.
My previous six books were easy for me to write. In most cases, it was about six months from when I sat down to write before I had a finished manuscript.
With this next book, it’s been twenty-four months, and I am still working on the manuscript.
Part of it is my determination to make this my best book yet.
But part of it was due to my changing direction multiple times.
In October 2021, the book’s title was Invisible Problems (title #1). It seemed like a natural follow-up to Invisible Solutions. The intent was to help people uncover opportunities (rather than problems) that no one else noticed. To align more closely with the theme, I renamed it Invisible Opportunities (title #2) a month later.
However, I struggled to make it work and therefore moved to a different concept for the book.
At the pandemic’s start, I used the term “divot” to describe going deeper with customers by adding more value. A divot is a golf term that describes the chunk of grass that goes flying when you swing deep. I liked the term, and on January 13, 2022, I renamed the book Divot (title #3) and focused the content on the concept of going deep.
But something wasn’t right. After a full year of working on the manuscript, I wasn’t progressing as fast as I would have liked. The word “divot” backed me into a corner, and I couldn’t seem to get out.
Twelve months after the first name change, I ditched Divot. On February 8, 2023, the book’s new title was The Book with No Name (title #4). It was tongue in cheek, but I was not yet willing to commit to another title and end up disappointed. Although the book’s content was similar, I needed to rewrite everything to remove the divot concept.
On May 4, 2023, the book was tentatively renamed Pivotal (title #5). Fortunately, we have locked in on that as the final title. We are still just locked in on the subtitle yesterday. More on that soon.
And now, two years after I first sat on that river, I am finally “finished” with the manuscript. It was sent to the publisher on October 7, 2023.
Although this isn’t the final version, most of the challenging work has been completed. We are now transitioning to copyediting, cover design, layout, and proofreading. After that, it’s off to the printer.
Peace has once again returned to my business life.
There are several lessons I take away from this process:
- Avoid painting yourself into a corner too early in the process. Ensure you maintain enough flexibility to let creativity emerge.
- Don’t cling to something just because you’ve invested in it (i.e., sunk costs). Have the confidence to discard anything that isn’t serving you. I changed names multiple times, and I trashed the manuscript several times.
- Surround yourself with brilliant people. Part of the reason the book is taking so long is that I am getting input from a lot of people. And this has truly made the book much better. (my friend, colleague, and book contributor, Andrea Kates, added this to my list)
- Building on #3, trust your own gut. When getting feedback, the most difficult part was knowing which advice to accept and which to ignore. Although you want to listen to what others have to say and take it in as a valuable contribution, only you can decide what is best.
- Focus on quality. The subtitle for the book is only eight words long. But I have labored for months and months to get it just right. Words matter. Yes, done is better than perfect. But that shouldn’t be an excuse for producing a low-quality product.
Where have you experienced any of these challenges in your business? How did you handle them?