Update: In February of this year, an acquisitions editor at Penguin found this post and I’ve just finished a manuscript on the first of 2 books. The second book will be called 1000 Words a Day. If you’re interested in learning more, sign up for weekly newsletter.
About 6 months ago I found myself in a challenging situation. Writing has never been particularly difficult for me. But I was suddenly getting paid to write, which meant deadlines and expectations.
- I had to produce one piece a week for a freelance writing client.
- I had to produce blog posts for a startup that I held an equity stake in.
- I had to write a weekly newsletter for The Unmistakable Creative Podcast, the podcast that I’m the host and founder of.
- I had to keep writing for my own blog, and the books I wanted to write.
My production requirements had increased significantly and I didn’t wake up every single day with ideas for new posts, articles or newsletters.
If I waited to be inspired, I would be screwed.
So I decided, there was only one way I was going to be able to pull this off: write 1000 words a day. It had to go from being a task on my to-do list to a habit. What I didn’t realize is just how much that was going to change my life.
It wasn’t long before I figured out the necessary elements to easily write 1000 words a day. I would wake up every morning and I would just put my fingers on the keyboard. Most of what I wrote was garbage. It mainly still is.
But when I powered through the garbage(sometimes the first 200 words), I ended up with gold. I figured if I was willing to produce enough garbage, I would come with just enough gold to meet all my deadlines and expectations. In his book Unthink, Erik Wahl calls this creating for the trash can. If you create for the trash can, some of what you create will probably be worthy of being in a museum.
*If you’re interested in hearing an interview with Erik Wahl, click here.
In this process a few things happened.
Momentum kicked in. On many days I found myself writing more than 1000 words. Things just flowed. My voice got refined.
I’ve been blogging consistently for almost 5 years. I’ve learned from the best writers on the web. But through this process of 1000 words a day I found my voice. One of my friends said “the progress in your voice is like you’re 10 years ahead of where you were 6 months ago.”
I started to get withdrawal symptoms on the days I wasn’t writing.
- If I woke up hungover, I wrote 1000 words.
- If I woke up at a place that wasn’t home, I wrote 1000 words.
- If I had no idea, what to write, I put my fingers on the keyboard, my ass in the chair, and I wrote 1000 words.
- If I didn’t feel like it (this one is really important), I wrote 1000 words. Some of my best work was produced on those days.
If you do anything enough, it has byproducts
- My writing got me invited to speak at my friend AJ Leon’s Misfit conference, where I gave a talk titled the Art of Being Unmistakable.
- I compiled all of my work into a collection of essays called The Art of Being Unmistakable. I self published it on Amazon.
- I ended up creating my first poster titled 15 Principles for Living a Creative Life (which was born in one of my writing sessions)
- I learned how to be vulnerable, honest, and transparent without being a hot mess.
- I started planning a conference called The Instigator Experience. We opened up applications this week and in 24 hours received 50 applications for 60 spots.
And the universe delivered a life-changing moment. Glenn Beck found my book on Amazon, raved about it on his show and it went on to become a #1 Best seller, selling over 10,000 copies in a week. I even ended up making an appearance on Glenn’s show.
You could argue that this was a stroke of luck. And it was. But the quality of my words wouldn’t have been what they were when Glenn read it, if I hadn’t put in the work of committing to a craft. The only part of any of this I had any control over was showing up, and putting in my 1000 words.
Note: The Art of Being Unmistakable hit the Wall Street Journal Best Sellers List on November 7th. I didn’t even know until a friend told me because I was so caught up in writing 1000 words a day.
Developing the 1000 Word Habit
I received quite a few questions on twitter about how I turned this into a habit, so I’ve outlined some hacks below.
1. Using Activation Energy:
In his book The Happiness Advantage, the author Shawn Achor talks about how reducing the amount of energy it takes to do something increases the likelihood you’ll do it. Something as simple as decreasing the number of mouse clicks to do something will increase your odds of doing it.
The simple hack for this is using a distraction free writing tool like Macjournal. Set it up the night before, so when you turn on your computer in the morning, it’s the first thing you see. Then you just write.
Another variation of this hack is to write one sentence the night before, ideally right before you go to sleep. Then your brain can dwell on that idea. It also tricks your brain into thinking you’ve made some progress already when you wake up and see a screen that’s not blank.
2. Dealing with Writer’s Block
This is one of the most common challenges that I hear about from content creators. The simplest way to overcome this is to put your fingers on the keyboard and move them. Write whatever you are thinking. Don’t stop until the screen has 100 words on it. I don’t know why this works, but it does. Maybe it’s the principle of momentum.
3. The Willingness to Create Garbage
One of the other questions I was asked is how I know what to keep and where it will go. The way I see it, I just produce alot.
- Some of it will be good.
- Some of it will be crap.
But I’ll have so much to choose from that it can be used for books, blog posts, etc. That best selling book of mine was written using ridiculously long Facebook status updates.
Writing 1000 words a day changed my life. I don’t know how it will change yours. But I’d recommend doing it.
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