For years I’ve wanted to write a book. Through various notes on documents I have a dozen different titles or topic ideas, and at least 5 book outlines. These are all ideas that I started on but never made much progress. Some ended up just being material for a blog post, but most of the ideas never saw any kind of completion.
Oddly enough I’m not alone in this desire or behavior. So many people talk about a desire to write a book, but very few actually do. Of the few that start, most are like me and never finish. The follow-through on the initial inspiration is completely lacking. So why am I depressing you with this?
Well, I have a solution. At least it worked for me. My book was released September 4th 2012. I’d like to share the simple tricks I used to write it.
First I established that the problem wasn’t with my ideas or inspiration, but really just with ability to get words down on paper. So I made a decision to focus on volume written until I was confident in my ability to write. Want to get good at writing? Then write.
Last year I designed and developed an iPhone app called Commit. The idea behind Commit is that if you want to get good at something you should do it every day. If you want to learn to draw then you will make more progress with 15 minutes of practice every day than you would by practicing in 2 hour blocks once or twice a month. So when you first launch Commit it asks you what you will commit to. The page reads like this: “I will ________ every day”. You fill in the blank and create your first commitment.
Mine is “I will write 1,000 words every day”. Then you set a reminder time (10:00 PM). If I don’t finish my commitment for that day by the time set it will send a notification to my phone asking “Were you going to write 1,000 words today?” If you already have marked it completed for the day then Commit won’t bother you… until tomorrow.
But that’s only part of it. Commit keeps track of how many days in a row you keep your commitment. After several days you start building a chain. By the time you have 15-20 days in a row not breaking the chain becomes part of the motivation. If I’ve written 1,000 words a day for 30 days, then I can do it today as well. So when that reminder appears on my phone at 10:00 PM I know I need to sit down and start writing in order to not break the chain I’ve worked so hard to build.
This chain continues to grow and the motivation to not break it increases. If you were to keep your commitment for 150 days in a row, do you think you would keep it on the 151st day as well?
But that’s not all there is to writing a lot of content. Sometimes you get stuck and can’t find the perfect way to phrase a thought. So you write and rewrite it endlessly, trying to make it perfect. That’s where this quote comes in:
“When faced with writer’s block, lower your standards and keep going.” - Sandra Tsing Loh
Striving for perfection is often what trips us up, preventing us from writing as much as we need to. Getting the idea written is most important since I can always go back and refine my words later.
For me the results from combining the quote and Commit have been astounding. Not only have I written a book, but also dozens of blog posts (this one included). I went from having a hard time writing one short blog post per week to easily writing 1,000 words per day.
I bet you could as well.
(Photo credit: Once Upon a Time via Shutterstock)