Writing isn’t something that comes naturally to me (unlike my wife!). It’s a struggle, and at times it seems like a painfully slow process. That being said I understand how important it is for me to consistently write. I’m not an artist or a musician; the only time I get to create something is through words. Everyone needs a creative outlet, and for me that’s through writing.
In the past when I struggled to find the right words or felt unqualified for the task at hand, I thought something was wrong with me. I envisioned the world’s most talented authors just breezing through the writing process, words flowing with no effort at all.
Turns out this is a lie we tell ourselves. Writing something worth reading is a struggle for everyone. Steven Pressfield even wrote an entire book about this called The War of Art. Every writer, artist, musician, or any other creative needs to read this book.
Pressfield is an incredibly talented author. He’s the type of person that I would envision in my mind– effortlessly penning masterpieces with little or no effort. He wrote The Legend of Bagger Vance among numerous other bestsellers. Listen to how he describes his writing process:
How many pages have I produced? I don’t care. Are they any good? I don’t even think about it. All that matters is I’ve put in my time and hit it with all I’ve got. All that counts is that, for this day, for this session, I have overcome Resistance.
He spends the rest of The War of Art describing the many forms this resistance can take, how the resistance tells us lies about ourselves, how the only goal of the resistance is to prevent you from putting your fingers on the keyboard and start writing.
There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t, and the secret is this: It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write. What keeps us from sitting down is Resistance.
This resistance isn’t reserved only for writers but for painting, music, film, entrepreneurial ventures, and even a diet program.
Any act that rejects immediate gratification in favor of long-term growth, health, or integrity, or, expressed another way, any act that derives from our higher nature instead of our lower. Any of these will elicit resistance.
Friends! We instinctively know how true this is! Even as I’m writing this post I’m thinking how I narrowly escaped succumbing to this resistance. It’s 9:42 on Sunday night and it has been a long day. I spent most of the day on an egg-hunt with six crazy kids. I’m exhausted. I’m staring at a lengthy to-do list. I should tackle some of those projects instead of writing, right? Well today I overcame that resistance.
I know this resistance comes from within. It’s created by me. I don’t know why, but I always look for reasons not to write. It’s painful to get started. I never think what I write is good enough. There’s always something I could be doing instead.
Some days I overcome the resistance and sit down and write. I’m always so happy that I did even if I produced nothing worthwhile. I know that for that day I’ve won.
The disheartening thing is that I have to mount the same fight the next day. It never seems to get easier. Day after day, I have to figure out a way to beat the resistance.
Nathan Barry developed an awesome little iPhone app for helping me string together successful days. The idea is that you decide on something you want to accomplish every day. You plug it into the app and every day you mark it as complete it ads an extra day to the chain.
There is some psychology involved here because after you’ve built up a few days the last thing you want to see is the chain broken. It’s probably not much of an incentive to break the chain after 3 or 4 days but after 20 or 30 the last thing you want to do is see the chain broken and have to start over. I recommend you check out this app.
Like any endeavor where you have to cause temporary pain for later gratification (writing, dieting, etc…) it helps to constantly enforce just what that later gratification can look like. In my case, I find it helpful to read about the success of others who have committed to writing every single day.
- Nathan Barry has made a commitment to write 1,000 words every day no matter what. He’s been able to write numerous books and hundreds of blog posts. This commitment has been the foundation of his business which nets hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.
- Srinivas Rao talks about how writing 1,000 words every day changed his life. He makes the case that behavior matters more than outcomes and you have to be willing to create garbage sometimes.
- Chris Guillebeau tells us how to write 300,000 words in a year and how to make 2014 a year of writing.
If those don’t get you motivated I don’t know what will! But the problem is not motivation on day one. The problem is motivation and overcoming the resistance on day 5. And day 100.
On Writers Block
I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget his answer:
This is a fancy term for fear. I avoid it by not getting it. Because I write like I talk and I don’t get talker’s block.
On days when the words just don’t seem to flow, I think back to this quote. It’s been helpful for me. I don’t usually picture myself talking to someone but I do imagine myself texting with my wife. When I text I’m never lacking for words! Even if the words don’t sound perfect I still get them out there. You can fix it later. Just get the words out there.
You don’t get talker’s block, so there’s no reason to get writer’s block. You don’t get texter’s block, so there’s no reason to get writer’s block.
Nuts and Bolts Tips For Writing Everyday
If you don’t want anyone to see what you write, I recommend journaling in the Day One app. If you are going to write something that will eventually be published on a WordPress blog, I recommend you start writing in Draft.
Draft in particular has a subtle word-count in the bottom right hand corner of the screen. If the writing isn’t flowing just power you way through until you hit your number. Then close the program and rejoice that you beat the resistance for that day. Don’t worry if what you wrote is no good. That’s not the point.
Not Sure What to Write About?
If you’re a new blogger and just have on idea where to start I recommend you start with a blog series. In my opinion this is much more compelling than just a scattershot of ideas. It will also allow you to grow your readership quicker.
Last fall I wrote a 17 part series on travel hacking. Most days I didn’t feel like writing but the thought of not completing the series was unacceptable. It was a great experience, and I ultimately learned that I don’t want to write about travel hacking.
But in the process of writing that series I was able to grow a nice small following of about 500 email subscribers in my first two months of blogging. If I wrote about a different topic every day this wouldn’t have happened.
I’m not a good writer. I’m getting better, but I’m not good yet. But let’s face it, the hardest part about writing is not the actual writing. It’s getting started writing. It’s beating that resistance every day, month after month. That’s the hard part.
I’m convinced the rewards are worth it. Have you ever heard anyone say, “I wish I didn’t write so much”? It doesn’t happen. Just ask Nathan Barry, Chris Guillebeau, and Srinivas Rao if writing every day has changed their lives. I know it has mine.