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Five Ways to Start that Book You’ve Always Wanted to Write

1. Read, read, read. There is no good writing without deep reading. Find books that mirror some aspect (stylistically or topic, for example) of what you want to do.

2. Carry a notebook, or use a digital note-taking system (like on your phone) everywhere at all times. The germs of ideas come when they want, not always when you want them to.

3. Research and use analogue or digital ways of organizing your content, from paper notecards to the program Scrivener (my fave), which allow you to group and re-mix clusters of ideas.

4. Find a work-flow (writing on weekends; or daily at certain hours; or a daily page limit) that works for you. Some people carve out time in every day to write; others carve out chunks of time (weekends, vacations) and write deeply and thoroughly only then. It’s not as important what you choose as whether you follow your own system, and are willing change that system if the first one fails.

5. Don’t just talk the talk. You can jabberjaw all day about the book you want to write, but in the end you have to sit down alone with the page (or computer) and get cracking. That doesn’t mean you can’t talk about what you’re doing, but don’t mistake talking about writing for actually writing.

Next: The mission-driven memoir: blending personal history and big idea.