I’ve wanted to be a writer for about 12 years now. And it’s a relatively simple field to break into: all you have to do is sit down and write every single day.
Simple enough, right?
A couple of weeks ago, I read this post by Nathan Barry and it convinced me that I needed to get back into a habit that I’d developed almost by accident several years ago.
It was 2007 and it was my first time participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), where you attempt to write 50,000 words in one month (it’s every November, btw).
In order to make the goal, I had to write every day. Which I did, and it was awesome.
When December rolled around, I figured I’d keep writing because I enjoyed it so much. And that’s where all the content for The Writer’s Coin came from.
In case you didn’t notice, I haven’t written there for a while.
Lucky for me, it isn’t because I don’t have the time: I’m still waking up earlier than I need to so I have the open time. But increasignly, I find myself catching up on email, looking at box scores, and trying to learn MySQL (yes, it’s boring).
And it hit me: I missed the creative process.
So I decided to follow in Nathan Barry’s footsteps and set a relatively small goal for myself: to write 1,000 words a day. Every day. No matter what.
It doesn’t all have to get published anywhere. It doesn’t have to be amazing. It just has to be 1,000 words.
That was two weeks ago, and already I feel very different. It’s kept me focused and has gotten my brain into a routine of constant brainstorming.
James Altucher has something called his daily practice, and he’s a big proponent of coming up with ideas every day. He claims that once you get into a habit, your brain will anticipate the need to come up with ideas and start working even when you’re sleeping or rarely paying attention.
Here are some quick notes on doing this for 14 days in a row:
- It’s important to share this with others. It keeps you honest if other people know you’re trying to accomplish a daily goal like this. It’s also good to give yourself a pat on the back every day that you succeed. My daughter has a chart where she checks stuff off like eating breakfast, packing her bag, brushing her teeth (she’s 4) and I added a space on her chart for my check. I only get it if I hit 1,000 words. If you want to keep track of my progress, I’ve been publishing small notes on Twitter each day I succeed.
- The sooner, the better. During the week, I get my count out of the way first thing in the morning, so I’m not stressed about trying to find time to do it. And it also feels great to accomplish something before you even get to work. It makes you feel like you aren’t just what you do at work, which is important.
- Share what you’re doing. Austin Kleon wrote a book called Steal Like an Artist where he spends a lot of time talking about how important it is to share your work. Not everything I’m writing is going to be published, but I think most of it will (eventually) and I’ve set aside some time to edit what I’m writing and publish it here on this site (or on The Stretch if it’s baseball related).
- Have a lot of different pieces going. If you only have one idea or one piece that you’re “working on” and won’t move on until you’re done with it, it’s gonna make things tough. I’ve woken up rarin’ to go and then opened up my piece on how the Cubs are like the 2011 Royals and thought: “Eh, this is boring, I don’t want to write about this anymore.” DANGER, DANGER! STREAK IS IN JEAPORDY! If you have a few things going at once you can just switch over to another piece and write away. That’s still the end goal: generate 1,000 words—don’t forget.
- Keep a list. Whether it’s on your phone or in a notepad, keep this with you at all times and jot down any ideas you have for writing topics. The bigger the list, the better odds you’ll have something you are motivated to write about 1,000 words about.
- Mix it up. I like having some baseball things to write about, some digital marketing stuff to write about, some research-y stuff to write about, fiction, and so on. Lots of different types of writing will keep my brain moving and will stave off boredom.
- Long and Short. So far I’ve been writing smaller pieces that average out to around 1,000 words. After editing, they’ll probably be around 650-700. That’s a nice, bite-sized length that I can easily digest and publish pretty quickly. Early on, I wanted to make sure I was publishing something. That I had something to show for the time I was putting in. It was a way to reward myself. These small wins are important and have helped me generate some momentum that I can use to start working on bigger projects that will take days and days of wrtiting 1,000 words. I’m starting small and building up to it.
- I’m a machine. I’ve gotten so good at this that I can throw down 1,000 words in 20 minutes. A few times it’s late at night, I’m tired, and I’ve had to drag my ass to the computer to hit my daily goal. And afterwards? I feel unstoppable. I could write 1,000 at 11:40pm and still hit my goal. The ego loves this.
I don’t know how many days in a row I’ll be able to manage this, but it’s been great to get back to my writerly life and have lots of new content to share. I hope that as the streak gets longer, it’ll make me more apt to continue the streak until—well—forever.
Boom—I’m a writer.
Image by PhotoAtelier