Writing a Book Takes Planning
“Plan your work and work your plan”
After finishing my MBA studies, I worked for two large organizations: Ford Motor Company and Boise Cascade Corporation. Ford had a very sophisticated human resources department. They had a career path for each of the MBA’s they hired. They did not share the career path upon hire, although it started to take shape after about a year. Experience at Ford Headquarters, out to a district office in one of 7 positions, back to headquarters, and then back to the field was the overall plan. After those moves during a 7 – 10 years, I would be ready for additional upward mobility, or not. I did not like the plan. My entrepreneurial juices were starting to flow and the path did not feel right for me.
One day I was out for a walk and I looked up at the name on the huge office building where I worked. It said Ford Motor Company. No reference to me and it never would. More than 20 years later, Lee Iacocca was the President of Ford when Henry Ford II fired him. At the time of the firing, Henry observed, “I never did like you.” I think I got the message 20 years earlier than Lee did. While Henry had no idea who I was, the future never looked bright. I had to find another plan, another career path.
Landing at Boise Cascade Corporation seemed like a better plan. It was younger, growing, and nimble. As a Product Manager for their ceiling tile product line, my first challenge was to develop a new plan and strategy for increasing sales and profitability of what had been a stagnant product line. The VP for the building products division gave me this advice, “Plan your work and then work your plan.”
I did and it worked out well. The next transition point showed up when I began to think about my career path there. I was given 6 new job assignments in the 5 years I was there and seemed to be on the fast track to Division Marketing Manager. Much to the chagrin of my wife, this was not to be the future trajectory or plan for my life. Those entrepreneurial juices continued to flow.
There is much more to tell and perhaps more will come out in the next book, but suffice it to say, God was moving me in a totally different direction. He had a goal for my life and I was just beginning to connect with it. However, a goal without a plan is just a wish.
So, what does all this history and experience sharing have to do with writing a book? Plans by themselves are helpful, it is the planning process that leads to success. This is true in book writing. It’s also true in life.
“I know the plans I have for you, plans for your good and not to harm you plans to give you hope and a future.”
This biblical promise is most often quoted when looking to our Creator for affirmation of His future for us.
Planning to write a book is the first step in the writing sequence, Here, planning is used as a synonym for deciding to start the process. The planning process then kicks into high gear, assuming the fear of starting doesn’t stymie you at the start.
Starting with the end in mind is an important concept to embrace. If you don’t know where you are going, any place will do. Let’s call this initial planning step, setting the objective. The objective flows out of your knowledge of the subject matter. So, if you are writing, or living, out a process that began years ago and you are a subject matter expert, it’s easier than if you have to research the topic or story before you can even begin.
There is a strategic plan that flows from the Big Idea. What is the Big Idea for the book or article you want to write? What is the Big Idea you want to live? The Big idea will drive everything else that comes next. If your Big Idea about retirement is to “do nothing”. It doesn’t take much planning and you can be instantly successful The downside is that there is not much meaning and purpose in nothing, so having this as a retirement goal won’t end well. A big idea with meaning and purpose involves others, not just yourself. It is the Big Idea that drives the writing process, as well as the living process.
Once the Big idea is fully formed and you've grappled with the what it takes to pull it off, you move to detail the tactical pieces of the puzzle. Here the question is what do you have to do in order to write a successful book beyond the Big Idea? Success in this arena is captured by one of my Dad’s favorite sayings: Success is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.
An intricate part of the writing plan is deciding when you are going to do your writing, where you are going to write, and how you are going to put the Big Idea into digestible pieces... Another good thought, by failing to plan and prepare, you are planning and preparing to fail. Yes, planning and preparation go together.
The commitment to the planning process is one of the most important decisions to make when writing a book, and planning the next steps in your career, or planning the transition to the next stage of your marriage. Judy and I just spent another weekend in the mountains going over our estate plan, our financial plan, and our life plan for the next stage of our lives and marriage.
Our Big Idea is to love God, encourage others, and spread the Word. Writing the next book is part of that plan. Sharing our life experiences is part of that plan. Doing our part to stay healthy is part of that plan. Actively working on our relationship is part of that plan. Speaking into the lives of others who can benefit from our experience is part of that plan. Just because we’ve celebrated 58 years of marriage doesn’t mean there isn’t still more work to do on our relationship, and lots of experiences we can share to benefit others.
Writing a book takes planning. From an idea to a compelling storyline, and then to the steps and the chapters that knit the point of the book together. At some point, all the pieces need to fall into place for the reader so that their Big idea can emerge from the messaging of the book. Others need to be impacted by what emerges from my life connecting with theirs.
My purpose for sharing some early career biography was to illustrate that plans emerge out of your own reality and seldom take the shape or direction you think they will. We learn about ourselves and others as the journey progresses. At some point, the storyline of your life starts to take shape, and you can begin to see God’s plan emerge. It is at the points of transition in our lives and the decisions we make at those points of transition, that direct our future. God's plan and our understanding of that plan for the next life stage, determine how our book of life will read. Is it a testament to His glory or just a reflection of our own?
Writing a book takes planning. Living our lives does too. Remember, our charge is to be faithful for a lifetime.
Founder and Champion of the Retirement Reformation
See the webpage of the RetirementReformation.org for information on The Retirement Reformation, the book as well as the movement. The Retirement Reformation Manifesto is a wonderful summary with 10 key principles. Join the movement and sign the Manifesto.