The One Thing You Must Do to Become a Nonfiction Writer

focus on writing

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I could teach you a lot of things about becoming a successful nonfiction writer. Scan through the posts on this site, and you’ll find a plethora of topics I’ve covered to provide you with a nonfiction education. I’ve written about everything from article and book ideation and structure to pitching agents and publishers to platform and promotion. However, none of this matters if you don’t do one thing and one thing only: write. To become a nonfiction writer, you must write.

The majority of aspiring writers and authors complain that they don’t write. They tell me they don’t have time. Life gets in the way. Their emotions, beliefs and thoughts stop them. They feel stuck.


These are excuses. Plain and simple.

The most important thing I could ever teach you is how to write. I’m not talking about the craft of writing. Tons of people can teach you craft. I’m talking about learning how to stop making excuses and to start churning out manuscripts. I want to teach you how to become a productive writer or author.

Becoming a Productive Writer

“You’re one of the most productive people I know.” This statement is a compliment I receive quite often. I love to hear it, but I don’t always feel it’s true.

Yes, I do accomplish more than most people or most writers, but I could accomplish even more—and I’m working on learning to do so. Many of my writing projects remain undone. Like many of you, I feel I don’t have enough time to work on my projects. That feeling isn’t based in reality, however.

In fact, I have more than enough time. My so-called lack of time comes from a lack of focused attention. If I fail to place my attention on my priorities—and to keep it focused there—I don’t accomplish much at all. That leaves me feeling as if I don’t have the time I need to complete my writing projects.

Lack of focused attention causes me to spend too much time in my email box, on social networks, jumping from one project to the next, or finding ways to procrastinate. It causes me to spend time doing things that are not “on purpose,” or that don’t serve my goals, such as watching television shows that don’t enrich my life in any way.

Finding Time Isn’t Enough

We all have time to write—even you. You can “make” or “find” time if you try. For example, you can:

  • Cut out a few hours of television per week.
  • Spend less time reading or hanging out with friends.
  • Get up an hour earlier or stay up an hour later.
  • Use your lunch hour for writing.
  • Shorten two of your five weekly exercise workouts by 30 minutes to give you two half hour writing sessions or a one-hour writing session.

But how well will you use that time once you have it? Will you use it to write? That’s the question.

How to Start Writing—and Only Stop When You Want to Stop

And you must do this when you say you are going to do so. Sounds easy, right? Not so much.

As I admitted, I don’t always managed to accomplish as much as I’d like during my “work” time. But often I do—more and more often, in fact. On those days, I produce manuscripts in record time. And I produce courses, proposals, work for clients, and more, all in the amount of time I have allotted for the job. I do this by focusing my attention on the job at hand, and not allowing my attention to waver until I’ve completed the job or the time period I’ve set aside to work on the project ends.

Once you have committed a period of writing time, whether it’s 15 minutes or two hours, use this “APP” to help put the time to good use:

  • Attention: During your writing period, focus all of your attention on your writing project. Only write. Don’t check your email, answer the phone, or even stop to conduct research (such as to search for a URL). If you find your attention wavering, bring it back into focus. The only thing you should concentrate upon during your writing time is writing. Period.
  • Purpose: If you find it difficult to keep your attention on your writing, remind yourself why you started the project. What purpose did you have? Did you feel a sense of mission or a calling to produce this work? Find your “why,” and place your attention on this reason. You’ll find the motivation then to focus your attention on your work and complete it.
  • Passion: If you feel passionate about your topic, you want to start your project and work on it until it’s complete. When you place your focus on the job at hand, your passion kicks in and gives you energy to move forward. Couple this with your purpose, which provides direction, and you feel unstoppable. That’s when you place your attention on writing, and you find the work flowing quickly and easily.

At this point, you won’t need to force yourself to write. You will feel inspired to take action. Not only that, you’ll find yourself in “the zone.” In this state of mind, time slows and you accomplish amazing feats—in this case, you produce vast amounts of superb work in little time. As a writer, you can induce this state by focusing your attention on how to fulfill your purpose and follow your passion via your writing. This focus produces a state of inspiration. Once you feel inspired, put your attention on writing…and only writing…even for 15 minutes, you will write.

You may not need all three elements of APP. Many you only need the A (Attention). Or you may need to move through the first P (Purpose) or just the second P (Passion). It’s possible, though that you need to use the whole APP. Notice that each element requires A; you need focused attention.

Focus your attention on writing—and, if necessary, on why you write and on what inspires you to write—and you will write.

Try applying APP, and let me know how it works for you. If you need support as you do, register for my High Performance Writer course.  

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