It’s known as not breaking the chain, and is usually attributed to Jerry Seinfeld. The idea is he would print out a calendar and put an X in every day that he wrote. Kept it going until he had a chain of X’s that was consistent enough to make him want to keep going so as not to break the chain.
Sounds easy right? Like something a teacher would use in grammar school.
Print out your calendar, go write for whatever length of time or number of words you decide, put a big X in the square, repeat the next day.
Trust me… after a few days of this you will find yourself not wanting to break that string of X’s. The visual is what’s working here, seeing your progress on paper will move you to just do something even if it’s only for 5 minutes so you can keep the chain going.
If you’re so inclined there are even apps that will track habits for you in this manner. Whatever you choose, trust me this works.
Now go hit print, put in an X and do the same tomorrow. Worst thing that could happen? Nothing.
He covers it all in a series of articles, his piece on the passive vs. active voice… insightful and thought provoking.
…like a business.
If you treat it like a hobby, a weekend pursuit, or something you do “when you can find the time”… it will show.
It will show in the lack of progress, the lack of people taking your writing seriously, and your own dissatisfaction with the whole process. If you’re not taking this seriously why should anybody else?
How to treat it like a business? Make a list of your job requirements… should look something like this:
– Show up on time
– Do good work
– Take it seriously
– Find ways to improve your work and yourself
– Set a schedule or time management process for your projects.
The best writers I know have a “work week” that would sound something like “I write on Tuesday and Thursday nights, and Sunday morning before the kids are up.”
Every day would be great and if you’re doing that you should be writing a blog so we can see how you do that. But for us mere mortals…
If this is something you’re serious about – get…serious…about it.
The final benefit? You will like how this feels. The biggest source of frustration usually comes from doing things we think will give us pleasure i.e. watching TV instead of writing, reading social media like it’s some kind of nutrient for the brain instead of writing, sleeping in instead of writing. As you’ve seen here before, it’s like going to the gym…tough to get started sometimes, but glad you did it…
As Dorothy Parker said, “I don’t like writing, but I like having written.”
We’re in a world where the great thing is that everybody has a voice.
The difficult thing is… everybody has a voice.
Anybody can say what they want when they want and get it digitally published, including what you’re reading now.
Here’s the voice you should listen to more than any of the others…
Stop doing what everybody is telling you to do.
So much advice, lifehacks, shortcuts, daily rituals… and on and on.
All generated by people that mean well, but don’t know you.
You know you, you are the best creator of your lifehacks, rituals, warm ups, routines, etc.
Do what works for you.
Know that everyone can benefit from a ritual, process, etc. Just not the same one as the person who wrote that article you just read.
Be yourself, and become your own guru.
It’s not one you can read.
It’s the one you write.
All the books out there have valid points, some many more than others. Your best teacher in the journey of writing a book is the journey itself.
Your mentor is the path, observe what it teaches you, let yourself get sidetracked, frustrated, excited and moved to tears, and when you write The End – you have written the best book on writing.
So instead of surfing for a book that promises whatever by whenever… go do what the greatest writers of all time have done:
Your underlying theme.
The structure, plot, essence and premise…all in one sentence.
Your job becomes so much easier if you know what you’re trying to accomplish. If you spend your writing time winging it as you go, sure…give it a shot. Many have and succeeded… but… having a light in front of you to keep you on point is like a guide in the mountains. Sure you could get there without him, but he keeps you on the path.
Furthermore, if you have a hard time boiling your story down to the essence of one sentence, maybe you don’t really know what your story is about do you?
The beauty of this is it isn’t a rigid structure that you have to follow, it’s a compass, you just have to stay on that heading…
Now go make your own path.
If you’re looking to organize all your notes, thoughts and ideas in chronological order with some sequence that makes sense to anyone who looks at it…
Maybe there’s a better way.
It should be messy.
Your best thoughts come to you in the shower (make notes before shaving), while driving (keep a small recorder handy), while watching a movie or reading a book. You get the idea?
Messy is productive…
Organized may lack passion – the disarray of scattered notes, clippings, post its and scribbles is the stuff of genius…
Don’t try to squelch it, embrace it.
My notes for the second book featuring characters from Run for the Money are like this, and I wouldn’t have it any other way…
Give it your all, and let the scraps fall where they may.