One thing has become crystal clear to me this year. Time has the power to change your life. It either works for you or against you. I’ve been able to harness the power of time this year by working on my goals every day. It’s that slow, steady progress that’s compounded daily to give me more content than I ever dreamed of making.
When I used to hear about an author writing a book in three months (their first draft), I would shake my head and think, “Wow, I could never do that.” However, when I look at my word count for this year, it’s somewhere close to 330,000 words and I think, “Yeah, I see how Stephen King can write a book in three months.”
That doesn’t mean I’ve written one. It means I now see that I could write one by applying the same slow, steady progress to a project. Once I feel like I’ve gained enough basic skill, I’ll tackle that, but not this year. I’m still euphoric over being able to make so much progress. I owe it all to the power of simple habits. If you’re a writer or want to be one, I highly recommend you look into building a writing habit. My daily goal is 1000 words and I’ve been able to achieve that most days. Although usually about now in my daily writing, I’m wondering how I’m going to get to the word count. How will I drag this thought on for another 750 words?
Just keep going every day
I honestly don’t know. I just keep going. I just keep doing it. One word at a time, one idea per day, and slow, steady progress towards the finish line, whatever that line may be. That’s always my goal, to just keep going, a little each day, and the compounding of that work will grow over time. Over a year? Yep, it’s already been more successful than I could have imagined. Over five years? I can’t even fathom how much I will have written in five years. I’ll be at my million-word count, the magic number in a writer’s mind that we’ve always been told it takes to find your “true voice.” So while I have a goal of writing every day, and creating content, that’s just a catalyst, a canvas, so I can display my work, get feedback and have a body of work to show for the daily grind I’m doing. The true goal is to find my voice.
I had to pick a goal that meant something to me. I wanted one that keeps me plugging away every day, but wouldn’t be easy, either. I needed to make sure my goal was something I could be truly proud of once I accomplished it. I also wanted something I could track. The million–word goal is something I can sit down each morning and chip away at. 500, 1000, 1500 words at a time, some mornings. Never less than 500, though. What keeps me going past the 500-word count is the doubling of the power of the daily routine. 1000 words instead of 500 words each day? That’s 365,000 words MINIMUM. Just by showing up and doing it every single day. I’ve also found that I can get deeper into a subject by reaching for 1000 words.
In my ebook, I discuss the power of the daily habit and it’s importance to writers. It’s not just me spouting this. A lot of great writers speak to writing every day as well. The best way to become a writer is simply to write. And write, and write, and write. Yet, for many of us, we sit back and say, “Someday I’ll write a book.” And that someday will never come. Most people don’t just wake up one day and write a book. It doesn’t work like that. That’s where writer’s block comes from. Once the habit is firmly implanted, it’s just a matter of charting a course to where I want to go each day. I’ll get there, I just need to know where I’m going.
What a way to start the day!
The best thing about the daily routine is it puts me in a good mood at the beginning of the day. It’s meditative for me. I’m able to wake and have my brain come online around the idea I’m chasing that morning. And when I’m done, because I’ve won yet again, I feel good about myself. The rest of the day may go downhill rapidly, but I did my daily work and I moved the needle forward.
It’s not about how fast I get there. It’s the steady progress that gives me courage and inspiration with every single word. Even now, where I’m bashing myself a little this morning for writing the same thing over and over and over, I realize that I’m working up to something. It always goes this way in the morning. The thoughts are here, although some days they’re just a little more stubborn or shy. That’s OK. I’ll wait. I’ll be here ready to catch them when they peek around the corner to check on me.
How much more can I do?
I’m applying this same method to two other areas of my life. I’m learning French and German, and I’m learning to draw. The languages are through an iPhone app, DuoLingo, and it pushes you to do 5 min of practice per day. So I whip out my cell phone before I go to bed when I’m tucking one of my cats in for the night. He likes to sit on my lap for 5 minutes each night I’m home, so I allow it, and I do my language lessons. I’ve been doing it for about 6 months, and I can say that I’ve got a solid start with French and German now. I’ve known Spanish since High School, but I’m not fluent. I really wanted to see how much 5 minutes a day progresses me versus traditional learning. So far, it seems decent. It’s a hell of a lot better than not doing it at all. I’m not sure it’s better than traditional learning, but it’s helping me learn without spending much time on it. I dare say the time is “free.”
The other subject I’m working on is drawing. I started drawing a few months ago. I grabbed a beginning drawing book or two, watched some YouTube videos on beginning drawing, and started bringing my pencils and a small drawing pad with me when I travel. I’ve gone from absolutely no skill to being able to draw this in under a month:
It’s not great, that’s not the point. Imagine what five years of drawing every day would bring me? I don’t draw every day yet, I just don’t have the time, or rather I haven’t made the time yet. But I think I’m going to try next year. It’s fun and if I get to the point where I can draw what I see in my head, then the illustrations that go with my writing will be even more unique because I won’t have to rely on stock photos like everyone else has to do. I’ll be able to create my own. It will also help me in my daily quest to be a modern Renaissance man, or polymath if you prefer. I don’t, I hate that term. “Renaissance Man” has a much nicer ring to it.
It all comes back to the power of time. It keeps moving, that’s it’s strength and our greatest weakness. I chose to start harnessing that power this year. My only regret is that I waited so long to do so. If you’re in your 20s, you can have anything you want, just start now, and move forward every day. Yes, it will take time. You will not get great overnight. But you will get better, you will get farther along each day, better than when you started. After a year, you’ll be amazed at your progress. I can’t wait to see where I am after 10 years.
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