The One Thing

Cover of "City Slickers"


Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is? … One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and everything else don’t mean shit.”

Mitch: That’s great, but what’s the “one thing?”

Curly: That’s what you’ve got to figure out.

City Slickers

Last month, I chose to put my novel on the back burner in order to help the little Zirros finish strong at school. I was doing a great job of prioritizing the novel, but the fam– i.e., the job I signed up for before I embarked on this selfish nonsense journey of authorship– suffered.

Now the tassels are on the other side of the grad caps and it’s time to get back to work on ye olde manuscript. And I found a nice little book to get me back on track, called The ONE Thing, by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan.

“What’s the ONE Thing you can do this week
such that by doing it
everything else would be easier or unnecessary?”

OneThingThat’s the fundamental question posed by the real estate guru of Keller Williams fame. His answer: “Where I’d had huge success, I had narrowed my concentration to one thing, and where my success varied, my focus had too.”

Yep, pretty much sums up my experience. Five months into writing the beast, and I was on a roll. A fat binder stuffed full of prewriting prompts, exercises, plot notes, opening scenes, setting studies, character sketches, even watercolor sketches, and over 30,000 words (after editing!) of the actual WIP.

And then I hit the brakes. Not totally crashed, but stalled out. It was like switching from an automatic to a manual transmission, and I didn’t know how to drive.

But after cruising through this little gem at 200 pph (that’s pages per hour), I’m back in the driver’s seat. Only this time, I’ve got the kids buckled in and I’m committed to taking them along for the ride… even if it means I reach my destination a bit behind schedule.

How can I have TWO one things? Well, I can’t. But those kids of mine gotta ride shotgun, and the novel has to take the backseat. That’s the way I enlisted, and that’s the way I’ll finish the race. But the wheels have been turning, and here’s the map:

  • Beat the traffic. Getting up before the sun is the best way to get the book written, before my ride partners even need their first potty break.
  • Cows and Graveyards. We have a road trip game we play, where you count cows on your side of the highway, until a cemetery kills all your cows and you start over. With the co-pilots occupied, I can drive a little farther down One Writing Road before anyone thinks to ask, “Are we there yet?”
  • Pit stops. The lake, the park, games, a movie— even drivers need to stretch their legs, check out the scenery and get fresh inspiration. Every stop is a chance to rubberneck what pedestrians are wearing or overhear a tidbit of conversation perfect for one of my characters to adopt.
  • Scenic route. I won’t hesitate to take detours at my passengers’ request. Turns make you feel like you’re accelerating, so bends in the road may be just the ticket to keep the story moving forward.

5 thoughts on “The One Thing”

  1. I just heard today in one of the online seminars that …”we can have it all…just not at the same time!” So, I feel it is very wise of you to not give up on your book because of your previously scheduled momhood and instead open your mind to be on the look out for moments during your mommy hours that enrich the characters in your story… WOW! Yay for you 🙂 Alexandra


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