Sunday Musings #12 – Writing system update – do The One Thing

Posted on Feb 5, 2017 in Blog, Sunday Musings | No Comments

Hey guys,

Here in Berlin, Winter is in full force with snow, ice and sleet – a great time to stay indoors and write! A while ago, in Musings #2, I wrote about how set up a system that enables you to write every day and helps you getting closer to your goal of a finished manuscript (including how to build a writing habit, and how to manage all your commitments and still find time for writing). If you haven’t read it yet, I definitely recommend you going back and checking it out!

This week’s Musings are an update and further extensions of these concepts based on my thoughts on a book I recently read – “The One Thing” by Gary Keller. In this book, Gary Keller shows how focusing on your one thing can lead to extraordinary results. A great read with many actionable ideas that you will want to implement right away.

So today I will give you my main take aways from “The One Thing”, and how I am applying them to writing:

  • How to define your goals.
  • How to create actionable tasks from your big ideas.
  • How to plan your days to achieve your best outcome.

Do your one thing

The core believe behind “The One Thing” is that in order to achieve big, you have to go small. To achieve your biggest goals, you have to be laser focused on what’s important and what you should do next.
To get there, the book gives you a mighty tool in the form of one question:

What is the one thing I can do right now towards my goal that will make everything else easier or unnecessary?”

With this question, you work towards your purpose (your goal) but with the right priority.

Define goals that challenge and explore what’s possible.

So you should go small in what you do next – one thing only. But on the other hand, you should also go big in what you want to achieve. The goals that you set yourself should lead you outside your comfort zone – if you are unsure how you can reach the goal, then you have set it big enough.

So as a writer, this could include seriously increasing your word count, writing in a new genre or planning marketing activities to triple your sales.

Drill down.

One issue I always found with really big goals and ideas was the feeling of being overwhelmed, not knowing where to start and therefore not starting at all. “The One Thing” also has an interesting way to drill down to find your one thing you should be doing right now: drilling down.
You start asking yourself the question “What’s the one thing…” for different time horizons, and work your way down to the current moment, starting with your big goal or idea.
So what if your goal is to someday be a New York Times bestselling author? Then ask yourself these questions:

  • What’s the one thing I can do in the next 5 years to someday achieve my goal, and so that everything else will become easier or unnecessary?
  • What’s the one thing I can do in the next year to achieve my 5 year goal so that everything else will become easier or unnecessary?
  • What’s the one thing I can do in the next month to achieve my goal for the year so that everything else will become easier or unnecessary?
  • What’s the one thing I can do in the next week to achieve my goal for the month so that everything else will become easier or unnecessary?
  • What’s the one thing I can do today to achieve my goal for the week so that everything else will become easier or unnecessary?
  • What’s the one thing I can do right now to achieve my goal for the day so that everything else will become easier or unnecessary?

And now you know it: the one thing you should be doing right now to someday be a NYT bestselling author. One more tip: make sure you write down these goals, check in with them regularly and update them. It’s been shown in various studies that written goals are much more likely to be reached, so make use of the power of the written word!

Block time for the one thing.

The next point I want to highlight from “The One Thing” is a strategy to make sure you work on your One Thing. Too often, we get carried away by other things in our lives, small tasks, interruptions, social media, email, you name it. To avoid this, plan and block your time.
The suggestion is to block three types of time, in this order:

  1. Block your time off. That’s right, first plan when you will be on vacation during the year, when you exercise during the week and when you relax during the day. Only a rested and recharged body and mind will give you your maximum productivity.
  2. Block your time to do your One Thing. For us writers, that’s most likely time for writing. Or time for editing. Or whatever else is your One Thing to achieve your big goals. So this is an appointment with yourself, one that you should be fiercely protective of.
  3. Block time for planning. This is the time where you think about what your One Thing is on the different time horizons, and to block off appropriate time to do your One Thing. You can see this as a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly check in with your purpose and your priorities.

Last not least, one observation about when to work on your One Thing: you should find when you have your most active and creative time. That’s when you should be doing your One Thing. But consider that we only have a limited amount of energy and will power in a day, so for most people this will be rather earlier than later. Be a maker in the morning, and a manager in the afternoon – focused work first, all the other tasks later.

Read “The One Thing”

There’s much more to this book than I can share here – it should be on your reading list, so you can go small to live large.

Writing tip of the week

This week’s writing tip is more a mapping tip: Marc Turner gives his thoughts about “Putting Fantasy on the Map” over at Fantasy Fiction. He gives his thoughts on how to avoid mapping clichés, how a map is useful to both the fantasy writer and reader, and what to look out for when the map is printed (hint: think about the gutter).

So far, I’ve once included a map in my fantasy “Locked“, which you can check out here: Locked – Telluric Map. I’m a fan of using these maps interactively – as the Telluric Realm trilogy will expand to book 2 & 3, the map will fill up with markers where the story is happening.

Fiction read of the week

Call Me By Your Name“, by André Aciman, was the first gay story I read as an adult. It absolutely blew me away, it’s beautiful and haunting and I just love it. The prose is perfect–literary, but not too purple (in my opinion)–I was just swept away by it. It’s incredibly sensual and evocative. At the end of reading it, I couldn’t stop thinking about it – even years later I still have moments where I’m remembering a part of this story.

It’s not a romance by romance standards (if you are looking for guy meets guy and a simple HEA this isn’t for you), but to me it was the most REAL romantic story I’ve read.

One of my favorite books of all times. And… it has been made into a film that is due to come out in summer. I am so excited to see this fabulous story on the big screen!

Bits & pieces

Shoutouts to my friend & photographer extraordinaire Caroline Wimmer who pointed me to “The One Thing“. And while you’re at it, check out her website for her beautiful portraits!

Have a great week, and make sure to make time for your One Thing!


Books and resources mentioned in this bulletin:


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  • Disclaimer: All links to books in this article are affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price if you make a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost for you if you purchase the books via these links!

Session #11 – Nothing better than a beta reader!
Session #13 – A blurb to elevate your book pitch

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