After hours and hours that add up to days and days that add up to many weeks of work over the last six months, I have finally completed the manuscript of my book. Lovingly and diligently, I have edited, re-edited, re-edited then re-edited until I have a piece of work that feels authentic to my story and my voice. It is something I am proud of.
There is one more step to complete before I can send it out to publishers. Having researched potential publishers and their submission requirements, they have one thing in common: they want a synopsis, a summary of the book in as little as 300 words.
How on earth do I summarise 90,000 words into 300?
I have a habit of putting things in the “too-hard” basket and so began a period of what I call, synopsination - procrastinating on writing a synopsis.
So why was I synopsinating and how was I going to move through it?
Often we hold back from going for our dreams because of fear. We are scared of failing. Some people are even scared of success because of how that could change their lives and relationships. My dream is to have my book published. That means I have to send it out into the world to be critiqued and possibly rejected. That makes me feel vulnerable - my book is my personal story and part of me. It brings up fears of not being good enough, of not being worthy. It brings up shame, a complex emotion we all carry and that I will talk more about another time.
So how to move through procrastination, from avoidance to action?
1. Acknowledge your fear
The first step is to acknowledge your fear or whatever it is that you are feeling that is holding you back. When we stop fighting how we are feeling in our bodies then the emotion loses some of its charge over us. Eventually, we can make friends with it and examine why it is there and what it is trying to show us.
2. Connect with your dream.
Allow your excitement about your dream to grow AND feel in your body right now what it will feel like when you realise your dream. By doing this, the energy of your dream grows stronger than your fear or whatever is holding you back and you become like a magnet. You are drawn towards your dream and your dream is drawn towards you.
This was one of the key practices that helped me move through my fear and doubt to walk the Via Francigena alone!
3. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
This was the motto of Australia's team competing in the 1984 summer Olympics in Los Angeles. It has stuck with me ever since I stuck a sticker of of Will the Koala with that slogan on it on my wardrobe door at age 8.
Once you’ve connected with your dream so you’ve got the fuel to drive you towards it, it’s just a matter of figuring out how. As one of my amazing teachers, Marie Forleo, says, “Everything is figureoutable.”
I was holding back because I didn't know what to include in the synopsis or how to go about getting 90,000 words summarised into 300. If you can’t ask your friends, ask Google. There is so much information available on the internet. I found a great article on a blog that broke down the synopsis by asking a number of questions and used Star Wars as an example.
4. Break it down into small steps.
Sometimes we get put off by how enormous a task seems but breaking it down into small steps can make it feel more manageable and achievable.
There was no way I could just sit down and write a 300 word synopsis. First, I needed to go back through my book and write a summary of each chapter. Then I answered each of the questions from the Star Wars synopsis guide. I deleted the questions and re-wrote it so it flowed, then edited it down to two pages and then edited it down to 300 words.
It was still a big project to get to the final synopsis but I broke it into 6 tasks that I completed one at a time until I had a final synopsis.
5. Start close in.
“Start close in, don't take the second step or the third, start with the first thing close in, the step you don't want to take.” ~ David Whyte.
That’s a verse from one of my favourite poems by one of my favourite poets, David Whyte. You can plan it all out but you still have to start. Take the first step now. Put due dates in your calendar. If you need to, find an accountability buddy who will check in with you and see how you are progressing.
6. Give yourself permission to do it badly.
Don’t let perfectionism stop you. You don’t have to get it right the first time. Try, try and try again.
If I set out trying to write the perfect book in my first draft, I wouldn’t have a finished writing it yet. I gave myself permission to write badly and I just kept writing without going back to review or edit my book until I had finished writing the first draft. Trust me, some of that first draft is very, very bad.
7. Celebrate and reward yourself.
Celebrate yourself no matter how small you think your achievement. Don’t let the shame-filled part of yourself talk it down. Reward yourself because you deserve it. You really do.
Sometimes incentives help. It’s not something I would usually do but the timing of my synopsis coincided with my need to buy a new computer as my over-loved 10 year old Macbook has been dying a slow death. So I struck a deal with myself: when I finished the chapter summary I could buy the new computer then when I had finished the synopsis I could take it out of its box and use it. Guess what? It worked. I had a new computer and a finished synopsis within 7 days.
Now the next step is to send my book out into the world and see if there is a place for it in the mainstream publishing world.
I’m interested to know what you are holding back from and why? What is one step you can take now to move through your own procrastination? Leave a comment on the blog or send me a message via my contact form. I’d love to hear from you
With love and courage,
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