How Writing 1000 Words a Day Changed my Life

Srinivas Rao
Sep 25, 2017 · 9 min read

I wrote at least a thousand words a day every day from the age of twelve on. — Ray Bradbury, Zen and the Art of Writing

When I interviewed Julien Smith for the first time in 2012, he had one of the most popular blogs on the internet. Of all the things he shared with me in our conversation, one thing he said stood out to me. I write 1000 words every day.

Shortly after that conversation I started writing 1000 words a day and it’s something I’ve been doing ever since. To say that the habit changed my life would be an understatement.

  • It’s served as a form of meditation, therapy, and clarity.
  • It led to a 2 book deal with a publisher and helped me to launch a career as an author and speaker
  • It’s enabled me to finish a 45,000 word manuscript in 6 months and write 100’s of articles.

This simple daily habit has literally had a six figure ROI. It’s changed my life and my career.

1. A Habit Born out of Necessity

  • I was writing 2–3 posts a week for my personal blog in addition to a weekly newsletter
  • I was being paid $1000 a month to write one piece a week for a client
  • I was writing a weekly piece for a blog at a startup that I owned a small equity stake in.

In order to keep up with the demand, I had to develop a system.

If I waited to be inspired I would be screwed

As I’ve said before, systems are essential to increasing your creative output. 1000 words a day became my system. Within a few months it was a habit so deeply ingrained into my life that it was like brushing my teeth. And that’s when things started to get really interesting.

2. The Art of Being Unmistakable

The first week it sold 300 copies and I considered that a success. But about three weeks later, a media circus erupted. When I check the rankings on Amazon, I noticed that my book was #1 in the entrepreneurship category. When I tweeted about it, somebody said “you might want to thank Glenn Beck. He raved about your book on his show today.” When I asked a friend she said “I don’t think you realize how big a deal this is, check your sales.” When I logged into the Amazon dashboard, I noticed that the book had sold 1000 copies in a day. Shortly after that I ended up being on the Glenn Beck show and my self published book became a Wall Street Journal Best Seller.

3. A 2-Book Deal with a Publisher

I recently rejoined publishing after working at online education startups, having just left Skillshare to join the Penguin Random House team. While it might seem counterintuitive, I came back just for this specific division that works and thinks differently than most of the industry — and is setting out to help entrepreneurs and changemakers with the stories, experiences, and motivation of people who have successfully forged their own path, people like Seth Godin, Guy Kawasaki, Ryan Holiday, Nir Eyal, Nick Bilton, and more. You are one of those people, and are top of my list of who to contact to work on a book together.

Writing in many ways is like planting seeds. You plant seeds today for the person you eventually want to become. After a few conversations, my daily writing habit resulted in a 2 book deal. The first book Unmistakable: Why Only is Better Than Best was released on August 2, 2016. And I’m currently working on my second book.

So how exactly do you incorporate this habit into your life?

4. Design an Environment Conducive to Writing

1) I read a lot of books

2) I have stacks of Moleskine notebooks

It’s likely that you’d notice something similar in the environment of anybody else who is a writer. When I ate dinner at Tucker Max’s house for the first time, the first thing that caught my attention was the sheer number of books he had. In Ryan Holiday’s post about maintaining a physical library you’ll see that he has multiple bookshelves that are filled from floor to ceiling.

5. Activation Energy and Success Accelerants

The simple hack for this is using a distraction free writing tool like Macjournal. Set it up the night before, so when you flip open your laptop in the morning, it’s the first thing you see. Then you just write. If you prefer to write with a paper notebook, put it out with a pen the night before. The simple act of putting your notebook out the night before with a pen increases the likelihood that you’ll actually follow through on writing.

Another variation of this hack is to write one sentence the night before, ideally right before you go to sleep. Write down somebody else’s words. Suddenly the page appears less daunting. This is one of the many reasons I always read before I write. Since your brain makes progress towards a goal based on how close it thinks it is towards that goal, starting with a quote allows you tap into the power of success accelerants.

6. Be Prolific

“All good writing begins with terrible first efforts” — Anne Lammot

It’s likely your early writing efforts will be lousy. Don’t be afraid to write a shitty first sentence. To this day only a small amount of what I produce on a daily basis is actually usable. But when you write 7000 words a week, you don’t need much to be useable. Say you write 1000 words a week that are decent. That’s 52,000 words. That’s one book in a year. Your cumulative output matters more than any individual writing day. If you want to become a better writer, start by becoming a prolific one.

7. Don’t Judge Your Work

8. Make it a Habit

On a related note- if you struggle with habits, I’ve put a guide together on optimizing productivity & creativity. Sign up for my newsletter here and you’ll receive it shortly.

9. Always Carry a Notebook

10. Learn to Recognize Patterns

  • A pattern I saw in my life was that waking up before 6am and meditating led to deeper levels of flow and focus. I also knew that after 10am things seemed to go downhill and after 1pm I’m essentially worthless.
  • I tend to experience flow most consistently when I give myself 90 minutes of uninterrupted creation time.
  • If I go more than a few days without sweating or exercising, my depression and anxiety tend to be exacerbated.
  • I saw that text messages that weren’t responded to after I sent a text were causing me anxiety. I turned of all notifications after this.

These patterns play themselves out throughout our lives. Not just in our work. They occur in nearly every situation. You might notice something as simple as a phrase in an email that always elicits a positive response. If that’s the case it makes no sense to deviate from that pattern.

You might think that adjusting to patterns might make your life repetitive and boring, but the opposite seems to be true. The beauty of recognizing patterns in your life is that it frees up your cognitive bandwidth for much higher value activities than trying to decide how you plan to behave for the day. Recognizing patterns in your life requires you to take actually take time, slow down and reflect on the results that your behavior is producing.

Understanding your own behavioral patterns and the results they produce is the closest thing to a “success” pill you could find.

If x causes y, then it would make sense that you choose the x that causes the y that you want. As you recognize patterns you’ll begin not only work more efficiently but work more effectively. By utilizing the patterns you recognize to develop processes and systems, you free your mind up to think creatively. If your mind is taxed with decisions like how long and how much you’re depleting your willpower.

One of the most valuable sections of the BestSelf journal is Lessons learned for the day. We learn tons of lessons every day, but without the discipline to capture them, it’s no better than if we didn’t learn them at all. In fact this idea of patterns was inspired by a lesson I learned yesterday which was that 90 minutes of deep work was my consistent sweet spot. Once I saw that pattern I started looking for other ones. As you recognize patterns in your life, you’ll go from a frenetic scatterbrained pace to one that is fast paced, focused, sustainable and generates momentum.

There’s a point at which any habit you adopt eventually becomes a part of who you are. You no longer have to think about it. It’s what James Clear refers to as an identity based habit If you see in me in a coffeeshop, at a conference, or anywhere else before 8am, it’s more than likely you’ll find me writing 1000 words. This is no longer something I just do. It’s who I am. In order for a habit to truly change your life, it has to become a practice, likely one that is lifelong.

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