I am currently in the grind of writing my second book. I’m working hard to stay focused and committed so I made a bet with myself and declared it to a friend of mine. If I don’t write for two to three hours every workday for the next 15 days (to get this writing engine really cranking) I’ll owe her $100 for each day I didn’t work.

This may seem like a crazy idea but I was kind of desperate! I need a way to stay focused and motivated because no one else really cares if I do this or not except for me. I have been reading Brendan Bouchard’s book, High Performance Habits. In it he gives three levels of methods you can take to motivate yourself when you need to focus.

The first level is positive reinforcement. I am way beyond this. I needed something stronger.

The second level raises the “anti” in negative consequences. Now this sounded intriguing.

The third level requires desperate action. Bouchard gave a personal example in which he declared that he wanted to lose 10 pounds. If he didn’t do so he would go streaking on his neighbor’s street. He proceeded to share this declaration with his neighbors. This seemed a little farfetched for me so I thought more about what could work for me. That’s when the idea of paying $100 to my friend Lisa, who is also a writer and understands the issues of dedicating time for this craft, occurred to me.

To help me in my task, I created what I call my “blue square of focus.” I needed something that could serve as a constant reminder of what I needed to focus on and why I am doing this so that I don’t go astray. So this time I took out my painters tape and proceeded to tape a 3‘ x 3‘ square on the wall of my basement, where I was working. This is a completely new method for me to focus myself! In the past, my kids would come downstairs and see on the walls an entire book laid out page by page, a storyboard of sorts. The story board for the first book let me visualize the how the pictures, words, and colors would work together. The second book, however involves a lot more writing and far less pictures at this point, which is why the blue square of focus is so helpful! It still lets me visualize and focus on what my attention should target in on.

This writing project is a different adventure than the first book and I’ve been spending much more time writing. I’ve had to think about and write out the processes that I’ve used over the years; I’ve tried to encapsulate the best of my best work. I sometimes get lost in it and have moved from the walls of the storyboard into my computer mind-mapping tool. When that became too cluttered, I moved the mindmap into Scrivner. This is what “real writers” use and the program is awesome! However, it was awesome to a certain point. I realized I had so much redundancy in my sections that I needed to revert back to my story board again so I printed all the pages out. I’m now in the midst of breaking it all down section-by-section, and consolidating, reworking, re-ordering, and synthesizing to make the book coherent. I can’t believe how much work this is – and I have heard about writers taking three years to write a book! I’m looking at another 10 days of heads down writing, I hope.

And I’m happy to claim that I did make it through 14 of the 15 days without having to pay any money – yes, I do owe Lisa a hundred dollars for that one day missed. The next days ahead of me are all about getting a manuscript draft to my writing coach, who is going to help me bring this book into the world. I need my blue square of focus now to help me so that tomorrow morning I will walk down to the basement and see the four pages I must edit next hanging on the wall. I can sleep well tonight knowing what I need to work on for tomorrow. What is in your blue square of focus to help you advance your purpose?