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The creative process steps behind my book + happy birthday!

Last week was Fitness Reloaded’s second birthday! Happy Birthday!!!

I actually celebrated FR’s birthday by blowing two candles on a single piece of cake. I didn’t want to buy a full cake because of the 2000+ calories in it, hence the celebration with a single piece šŸ˜‰

Here’s what happened all through last year at Fitness Reloaded:

  • Traffic grew by 550%.
  • I published “Surprisingly…Unstuck“, the Healthy Habits Bible, that has been downloaded over 15,000 times.
  • I dominated the Windows 8 market with my 6 fitness apps, ranking #1 in paid Health & Fitness apps for quite a while šŸ™‚
  • I created my flagship online course, Exercise Bliss, and get to hear results like “I always wanted to exercise, I felt guilty for not doing, and now is the first time I have been exercising consistently daily!”

Here’s what I have learned through the last year:

Exercise Bliss
Exercise Bliss member area design
  • Video editing.

    Here are a few examples of my latest videos. Compare them to, e.g., this one. You can see that the difference in quality is huge. Image quality is better, sound is better, even I am more confident.

    I used a DSLR camera, bought a white background, a Zoom H4n recording device, brand new Final Cut Pro X, and…books about film-making. I wrote about this in detail at Think Traffic.

  • Web-design.

    Html and CSS is about to become second nature. Just in the last 12 months I have re-designed Fitness Reloaded 10 times!

    No, I am not talking about small changes. I am talking about complete re-designs. Well, the hard work pays off. That’s how Exercise Bliss member area looks so cool. Just take a look at the screenshot on the right.

  • Productization.

    I knew that I needed to create a course like Exercise Bliss, i.e., a course that would help people become regular exercisers…for life! But what material would exactly would get in the course? How would the course be structured?

    E.g., the Body-Mind-Habit structure might seem intuitive now, but I had to actually come up with it. It wasn’t intuitive when everything was a blank page and the content all scattered in my head…

  • Confidence.

    When I read last year’s birthday post, I cringe. I write things like “Ok, I may not be a habit-focused university professor, but (yes I will dare to say it) I am good.” Whaat? I was afraid to admit I was good at habits because I was insecure. The truth is I was really good, that’s how I started writing a book about it just after FR’s birthday, yet at that moment I couldn’t clearly see my worth.

    Maybe this humble tendency is an engineering left-over, after all I am an engineer and we are all taught how to have high standards and be modest. Yet, there is a difference between modesty and insecurity…

  • Creative process steps.

    Last year was full of me creating. Whether that was writing a book, coming up with a new design, or structuring the content of Exercise Bliss, I was in creative mode. I learned how to manage having multiple ideas at the same time, and having to prioritize what to do first. Especially starting 2013, I was not in the “business” of doubting myself or worrying about the future. I was in creative mode, period.

  • User-interface design.

    Creating mobile apps needs a different way of thinking than desktop applications. Then, designing a website needs a lot of thinking about conversions. With practice you learn to be faster at discerning what works vs. what doesn’t.

What about me?

  • I graduated from my MBA. Hooray! I now have one Bachelor, two Master degrees in Engineering, and one MBA.
  • Last year I reported I was a consistent exerciser. I am happy to do the same this year. I work out 4-6 times a week for the last few years. Even though my routine may change, from going to the gym to being lazy at home, I don’t miss workouts…because I like how I feel afterwards. And I like moving. And I like getting stronger and leaner. I see exercise as a form of insuranceĀ (e.g., Aviva) – you protect yourself against the future, and it feels good to know you are doing that.
  • I ran multipleĀ mindfulness experiments and made a decision that has changed my life: When I catch myself doing things I don’t like, I stop. I have two choices. I will either not do the task, or I will find a way to do it and like it at the same time. That’s my happiness rule.

You see, too many times we feel that we’ll be happy once we achieve a goal. We act as if being happy now while we are still working for the goal is impossible. That’s so NOT true. We can be happy now AND later.

You can think “Oh no I need to work out”, or “I’m excited to move my body!”. You can think “I need to do the dishes, bummer” or “I can’t wait to see the house clean”. I am taking a divorce with the happiness paradox, and I hope you will too.

Now here’s the answer to one of the most common questions I get: How long did writing my book take me? How did I have the discipline to Ā write it and follow through?

The creative process steps behind writing a book

CREATIVE PROCESSĀ Step 1: An idea

A year ago, last July, I didn’t expect that I would be an author in a few months. Yet, there I was in October having launched a 200-page book about habits! Surprisingly…Unstuck was born!

Since several people ask me how I wrote the book, here is my creative process.

I never ever planned to write a book. I started off thinking I would write a 20-page guide about healthy habits that I would sell on Amazon for $0.99. Then, 20 pages became 40. Then 40 pages became 80. And on and on it went, until I reached 200 pages.

The book took me two full months to write. Yet the truth is that I already knew what to write. I had already spent more than a year researching and writing about habits. It was my thorough preparation that actually made the book “flow” out of me. I already had so much to write, and that’s how the book went from a short 20-page to 200 pages. That’s how it grew 10x!

CREATIVE PROCESSĀ Step 2: Refining an idea

Knowing so much about healthy habits made me feel that 20 pages on why motivation and willpower do not work with healthy living was not enough. I was telling people that self-control was not an option and citing research studies that proved it. Getting more motivation was also not an option, and also proved by science.

YetĀ since I was busting the two most common myths in fitness, I felt compelled to actually tell people what to do.Ā How can they make exercise or eating right a habit if they cannot rely on motivation and willpower?

So I kept writing. I described how deciding to go from not exercising to three times a week is radical change, why it’s hard to make it a habit, and what to do if you indeed want to go for it!

I also talked about how starting with two reps of, e.g., squats a day, is a ridiculously small step that is much easier to become a habit, and how it sets you up for success [btw, this is how we start off in my course, Exercise Bliss].

I also talked about the drawbacks of each choice. Radical change sounds exciting. Ridiculously small steps don’t even make sense if you don’t know why they work so beautifully, let alone sound exciting.

At that time I had already given an overview of all the action plans that exist out there. But once I did that, I had to also give specific strategies to make change happen…

Boom, even more writing for me.Ā By now, you must understand why the book kept growing in size!

CREATIVE PROCESSĀ Step 3: Implementation

I would write every day. I felt productive when I was writing 1,000-4,000 words a day. Some of my time went to thinking how to best organize the content, which section goes where, etc.

Unfortunately, publishing is not just about writing. I also had to use an editor, design the cover, and market it. I used odesk for editing and designed the cover myself. At the time, I felt I didn’t really have time to market it, as I was in a hurry to create my fitness apps for Windows 8. At that time Windows 8 was new, and I wanted to be first in the market.

Some people ask me how I held myself accountable. The answer is that I didn’t need to do that. Even though I was an MBA student at the time, I was determined to write the book. I was determined to keep writing until I felt I was finished. Was I discouraged that the book kept growing in size? Yes, I was. Especially since the Exercise Bliss idea came to me while I was writing the book. I couldn’t wait to finish the book and start working on Exercise Bliss!!!

Yet I knew that stopping the book to start something else would only cause me further confusion. I have enjoyed the benefits of following through in the past, the benefits of finishing what I start, so I now to try to get them as much as I can. And that’s what I also did back then.

CREATIVE PROCESSĀ Step 4: Celebration

In less than 10 months, Surprisingly Unstuck has ranked #1 on Amazon at least twice. It has 25 reviews and a 4.4 star rating. More than 10,000 people have read it. If you haven’t yet checked it out, then you must do so. Even if you don’t have a kindle, you can download the Kindle app to your computer, tablet, or smartphone for free. Click here to see what others are saying about the book.

It feels great to have something out of your hands. Even though you might feel that you will never be finished…enough, it is still a wonderful feeling to give birth to something new.

Phew…I am done with this year’s re-cap. Next week I’ll be back with a high intensity training workout routine…so stay tuned!

Feel like you want to wish me Happy Birthday? Then, contact me here. No seriously, I’d love to hear from you, and I will reply back.

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