I knew I wanted to publish my first book, and that learning to write every day was the key to doing it.
But, it wasn’t enough to know the concept.
I had to figure out how to keep my deadlines and finish writing what I started.
How could I write every day and balance having a job, two kids, friends and family who don’t write, and all the in-betweens?
I faced my biggest challenge yet.
If couldn’t face this one down, I’d never be able to call myself an author.
I’d never be able to look myself in the mirror again.
I Did What I Always Do When I’m in Trouble…
I turned to a book for help, in particular On Writing by Stephen King.
I figured this prolific author of over 50 novels could help me.
King writes at least 2,000 words a day, every day, including his birthday.
To me, 2,000 words a day looked like climbing Everest.
Thankfully, King recommends aspiring authors write every day and produce at least 1,000 words
In his book On Writing, he explains:
”As with physical exercise, it would be best to set this goal low at first, to avoid discouragement.
“I suggest a thousand words a day, and because I’m feeling magnanimous, I’ll also suggest that you can take one day a week off, at least to begin with.”
I thought about writing 1,000 words a day and felt dizzy.
I set the goal even lower and decided to write just 500-words a day. I could handle 500-words a day, couldn't I?
Now, 500-words a day felt achievable.
So, on Monday morning, I wrote 500-words, and on Tuesday I did the same too.
On Tuesday night, life happened.
My daughter (who was 6-months-old at the time) woke up at three am with a chest infection. We didn't get much sleep that night and the following day, I didn't write. I was just too tired.
I didn't write the day afterwards either, by the time Saturday rolled around, I'd only produced 1000-words.
I was sick of my writing mistakes, and I felt like a failure. Then, I discovered a neat writing trick Jerry Seinfeld relies on.
Jerry Seinfeld's Secret Writing Technique for Writing Every Day
Before Jerry Seinfeld became famous, he tasked himself with writing just one joke a day. Jerry knew writing one joke every day, would enable him to produce more material and master his craft faster.
So, Jerry got a large wall calendar and pinned it next to where he worked on his jokes.
After writing a joke, Seinfeld recorded an X with a red marker through the day's date. He did this each day, thereby slowly building up a chain of Xs that he felt reluctant to break.
The comic is a believer in the principle of small daily wins. Like anyone who has mastered a habit, Jerry understands that skipping one day makes it easier to skip the next. And the next. And the next.
Now, “Don’t Break the Chain.” is one of the more popular productivity methods in use today. He famously said:
After a few days you'll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You'll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.
If this daily writing technique helped Jerry, it could certainly help me.
How I Harnessed the Power of Small Daily Wins
This writing technique doesn't cost much to apply. You don't need to spend thousands of dollars on a fancy MBA or even commit to expensive and time-consuming writing workshops.
I couldn't afford any of those things when I was starting off.
So like Jerry, I bought a kitchen timer and a calendar for the month, and I hung it over my desk, in the office where I write every day.
I sat down, disabled my internet access, turned off my phone, and closed the door.
Next, I picked a single chapter from my book and set my timer for 30-minutes.
I wrote about a topic in this chapter without stopping to edit myself, until the buzzer sounded.
When I completed my 30-minute daily writing session, I marked an X through the day’s date on the calendar in front me.
I’ve never felt better about an X.
Each day I wrote, I marked an X on the calendar, until I built up a chain of Xs that I didn’t have the heart to break.
(This is a psychological trick I still use to write today).
In just seven days, I had written over 3,500 words of my book.
Granted, my words were far from perfect, but I’d got them out of my head and onto the blank page.
(You can do all of this even faster using speech to text software)
If you’re new at writing a book, that’s almost always the hard part.
Why a 30-Minute Daily Writing Session Is The Perfect Length for New Writers
A 30-minute writing session is the right amount of time if you want to gain momentum on your first book.
It’s not so long that it feels unmanageable, and it’s not so short that you won’t get anything done.
A 30-minute writing session is long enough to write 500-words, and it's easy to squeeze in a 30-minute writing session into a busy day.
- Write part of your book during your commute
- Write a chapter at lunch
- Get up just 30 minutes earlier before work to write
- Skip one of your favourite TV shows and write
- Cut out social media until you put in your 30-minute writing session
I don’t know about you, but I’d take 500 words over watching a re-run of Seinfeld (sorry Jerry!) any day.
What Happens When You Write Every Day for 30-Minutes
I’m sharing this practical writing advice with you because I want to help you finish your first book.
I want to help you call yourself an author.
If you build up a chain of 7 Xs, you will have written for 3 1/2 hours and at least 3500 words.
That’s more than enough for one or two chapters in your first book.
If you do this for four months, you will have written 60,000 words.
And the best part?
Although King's books are up to 180,000 words long, it just so happens 60,000 words is the length of an average published book.
But, what about editing and rewriting?
You can use a 30-minute writing session to work on a single topic, to edit a section of your book, or to do research.
The trick is to only work on one area of whatever you are writing for 30-minutes.
I’m not the only writer who uses this method.
I coached a writer to harness the power of small daily wins recently. Afterwards, he emailed me to say:
I tried setting a 30-minute timer the day after we talked and got a piece of micro-fiction written.
One of the best things I have taken away from talking to you is the segregation of writing from research. It has helped me a lot so far.
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