I’m always looking for a new way to prod myself to write.
The problem is that the various methods tend to fail after a short time, and I fall back into the tried and true pattern of making excuses for not doing what I want, and then, by default, doing what I don’t want.
Yesterday, I came across an interesting concept that might be more effective for me. John Muldoon had a link to Bradley Charbonneau’s blog that gave me a completely different way of looking at the problem of establishing a consistent writing habit.
John wrote a post about a writing experiment he did where the only requirement was to write something every day for 30 days.
Bradley took John’s concept one step further, and decided he was going to publish something every day – for 100 days!
At first blush, this seemed ridiculous to me.
Nobody’s going to write something every day, much less publish something every day, for 100 days. That’s just too much. There are too many reasons not to do it. Too many things that quickly line up to get in the way.
I have a day job.
The trash needs to be taken out.
The cat needs feeding.
My wife needs conversation.
My kids need attention.
I need coffee.
The bills need paying.
I need a break.
The car needs an oil change.
I have to go to the dry cleaners.
I need some sleep.
The idea scares me.
Wait a minute – how did that last one get in there?
Ok – if I’m really honest with myself, the entire list of excuses can boil down into that one statement. Writing with regularity is a frightening proposition. It means that I have to commit to something that looks impossible from the beginning. Which means that the chance of falling flat on my grill and inviting ridicule from everyone I know is pretty solid.
Bradley offered a great perspective on the problem of the ‘impossible’ task. It’s ridiculously simple, but we overlook it all the time.
How do you publish something every day for 100 days?
Easy. Don’t worry about 100 articles. Worry about one article – today. Win that small victory.
Then don’t stop.
Do it again the next day, but don’t worry about that day’s writing until that day comes. One article or post looks a lot less intimidating than 100, or even 30.
This simple concept might not have taken hold with me if I hadn’t already been working on losing some weight. A few weeks ago I decided that I was sick of being 40 pounds overweight, and I had to do something. A co-worker told me about MyFitnessPal, which is a free app for the iPhone that allows you to track your daily calorie intake.
I decided I was going to use MFP to drop that 40 pounds. MFP forecast that by keeping my net calorie intake below about 1500 per day, I could lose two pounds a week. One day at a time, pay attention to what’s going in my pie-hole, and I should see results.
Simply focusing on one day instead of the entire 40 pounds, I’ve dropped thirteen pounds in three weeks – and it wasn’t that hard. If the only goal I’d given myself was the end goal of 40 pounds gone, I never would have started. It’s too much to picture achieving when your pants are way too tight and you’re craving another cookie.
But by looking at the small, achievable goal – keep my calories below 1500 today – I’ve managed to make some pretty fantastic progress.
Writing is the same way.
Writing my novel is a joy to me, but it’s hard work, and it doesn’t always flow quickly. So the easy route is to just not do it – to just continue to enjoy the mental movie adaptation of my story in my own mind, and never do the work necessary to get it written down so that maybe somebody else could enjoy it too.
So instead of looking at the end goal of a finished, edited, published novel of at least 100,000 words, I’m going to focus on the easily attainable, small victory of writing something every day.
But before I could take the challenge, I needed to address two roadblocks.
Facebook is great for keeping in touch with friends and family, but it sucks about thirty minutes a day, at least five days a week, out of my available time.
Fizzle is a fantastic community of entrepreneurs that provides a great deal of inspiration, support and information for anyone trying to establish an online business – and without Fizzle, I wouldn’t have come across John Muldoon’s or Bradley Charbonneau’s sites – and I never would have tried this challenge – but I’ve been finding myself living vicariously through the success of other Fizzlers, and that had to change. I’m glad I’m a part of the Fizzle community, but I was just a spectator, not much of a participant. Not good.
So my personal wrinkle on the challenge is that whatever I write each day has to be written before I can get on Facebook or Fizzle. Only after I write a blog post, a section of my novel, or something else for publication am I allowed to do anything with social media.
If I want to check in with friends on Facebook – I have to write something first.
Learn something new or connect with other entrepreneurs on Fizzle? – sorry – write something first.
That’s the rules. This is the first installment. John made it 30 days. Bradley made it 100 (and counting).
I’ve made it one day.
Tomorrow I’ll make it two.
I just saw this on your About page, “As long as I write, I am still a writer.” Yeah, there’s that troublesome bit at the beginning, “As long as I write.”
You mentioned above “Writing with regularity is a frightening proposition.” and I unfortunately agree. I wish I were less scared of it, but I’m also scared of snakes. I think with fears like this you’re supposed to tackle them head on. It’s been a good nine (that’s a 9 and those are years) since my son was born and I’ve been off the wagon (or is it on the wagon?) for the most part since. 101 days ago I did just what you’re starting and said I’d write for 30 days. It’s been 101 and I’m still going strong. But you’re right, looking back, it looks daunting, scary, like a pit full of snakes. I envision a scene from Indiana Jones. But writing is even scarier. 😉
I love your own twist on it: no Facebook or Fizzle until you’ve hit publish. It’ll be hard at first (cold sweats, fidgety mouse … ), but here’s the exciting part: it’s going to get easier. At some point, it will be natural and you won’t fight it. In fact, there won’t be a fight left, it’ll have become regular, normal, a habit.
Thank you so much for posting this today. I hit 100 yesterday and although a friend bought me a beer at the concert we went to (thanks, Peter!) day 101 kinda hit me hard. Your post today is inspiring and gives me hope that if I can do it and I can help you do it, we’re well on our way.
I’m looking forward to #2 tomorrow.
Thanks for stopping by! When I wrote that line on my About page, I didn’t even realize I was defining my whole problem. Gotta write, or instead of saying ‘I am a writer,’ I’ll have to say ‘I used to be a writer.’ Your challenge clarified it for me and got me past worrying about how to get a whole lot of writing done. Now all I have to worry about is one article, one post, one session at a time.
You should add me to the list of people who owe you a beer. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the inspiration – thank you!
You appreciate the inspiration and I appreciate the thanks–no, really.
This is so important to me, When I wrote that line on my About page, I didn’t even realize I was defining my whole problem.
It’s important because it shows how writing, doing, creating, brings out what we might not have known was there. I love the California lottery (former) tagline, “You can’t win if you don’t play.” Sure, if you play, you might not win, but if you don’t play, you’re guaranteed to not win. At least get in the game, see what happens, see what rises to the surface. Just see what happens. But you have to want it and you have to do it. You have both.
You’re exactly right. If I never try to write, I’ll never produce anything. If I try, I may produce some crap, but I may also produce something great. Nothing to lose by trying.
Just wanted to drop by and say that your commitment is awesome. You can do this, and we will be in your corner.
I owe you a beer as well as Bradley – since your 30-day experiment started all of this! I’m really stoked to be doing something this positive toward establishing better writing habits. Sometimes all you need is a creative idea to help you focus. In this case, I got the idea from both of you guys, and I’m seriously grateful for it. Thanks for the encouragement!
Greeaat… Now you might convince me to start writing again. Glad to see that you are, anyway.
Get after it! It’s been too long, and you have some of the funniest stories that have never been told. Looking forward to the next one…