05/12/2011 05:45 pm ET | Updated Jul 12, 2011

What a Good Diet Can Teach You About Writing a Book

You set out to lose 20 pounds and you are excited, energized and can see your ideal physique just around the corner. You start out strong, you are making progress and then it happens, your motivation starts to slip, you are not making it to the gym as many times each week. You are not feeling creative about your workouts and the fun is gone. Your dream body seems too far away.

I know, I'm preaching to the choir. You've probably felt this way about weight loss and if you are a published or aspiring author you've experienced these types of highs and lows when writing a book. You can see the finished hardcover book in your mind. Just like with the diet, you start off strong. You're creative and your adrenaline is pumping, and then the routine of sitting at your desk sets in. The fun is gone and your book feels more like a pipe dream than an attainable reality.

I recently heard an interview Mike Keonigs did with The 4-Hour Body author, Tim Ferriss and it hit me. As Tim was describing what makes diets fail I realized it's the same thing that puts manuscripts at the bottom of a pile on the farthest corner of our desks. We are approaching them with a single plan in mind.

As Tim explained, "I don't think people need more motivation. I think they need more feedback and accountability. I don't have a tremendous amount of willpower but I do have good tracking." What he means by this is he uses certain online programs and apps to track his physical efforts, which gives him the daily awareness of how he's doing. In addition, Tim recommends that we don't just have one goal in mind such as looking better or fitting into a different pants size. "I encourage people to always have one appearance goal and one performance goal. One of the reasons people fail is they don't have a second goal, they need a performance goal." A performance goal might be running a longer distance or lifting a heavier weight. What this does for us is give us different measures of achievement. The scale might not move in a week but our ability to reach that fifth mile of our run is worth getting excited about.

The same dual-goal philosophy can be applied to writing (or more aptly finishing) your book. Sure, you can track your word count or page numbers and feel a sense of achievement from increasing those numbers but you can also measure your success from a performance goal of adding even more value to your reader. A way to do that is by developing a learning tool, or creating a mechanism for change in your reader. In essence, you are lifting heavier weights and adding better conditioning to your writing workout. These resources can be even more beneficial to your audience than the 1,500 words you added to Chapter 3, for instance.

So don't always think in terms of an appearance goal (finished manuscript) when you are writing a book, keep your motivation going by adding performance in the form of techniques, exercises and strategies for your reader. It's a fun and exciting way to add value while also adding content. With two goals in mind, you won't lose your mojo on the days you've only added 500 words to your manuscript.

To hear (or read) Mike's complete interview with Tim Ferriss go to