How To Write 500 Words by Breakfast
Writer Jeff Goins suggests that he now writes with ease, quickly turning out 500 to 1500 words in less than half an hour each morning. How does it do it? With practiced ritual. Jeff writes on his website that he wakes up, runs a few miles, and writes a couple hundred word-- all effortlessly:
“Most days, because I do it every day, I get up and open my laptop and I write 500 words without even really thinking about it. They’re not great words, they’re not always publishable words, but they’re words. They’re words that I can edit, that I can tweak, that I can make better.”
Goins’ routine proves that we are capable of producing content daily, and that with routine and practice, it will become inherently better and less tasking. Consider this: To write for a publication you need a basis of 50-100 accessible articles already at your disposal. Furthermore, publications will expect you to write at least one strong and polished article per week. If you aren’t writing everyday, you are not taking advantage of your fullest potential to produce great content.
Here is a morning ritual that I recommend:
Morning is the best time to gather information. In college, it was a time to check emails and hope for class cancellations. Now it’s a time to read breaking news, check stocks, and view subscriptions. All of which generates thoughts, and really wakes our brains up.
Not only that, it encourages us to view written content that we admire. Athletes kept posters on their walls and goals on their bathroom mirrors, writers can do the same. By immersing ourselves in an early morning binge-reading session, we are subtly admiring both the content and the form of what we intake. Furthermore, our brains will be prompted to create ideas and generate responses to what we read.
2. Set a word count, not a timer
Ann Handley, author of Everybody Writes, suggests to set a word count, not a timer. “Make sure you measure your writing in output (words) rather than in effort expended (time).” By allowing ourselves to a quantitative finish lines, we are forcing our brains to meet a goal? Twenty minutes of writing could produce one sentence (Trust me, I’ve done it). Even worse, by creating a time limit we’re allowing ourselves to both feel pressure and procrastinate. Hourly workers do less work than salary workers. Why? Because they are under a finite time period after which they may leave. By setting a word count, you’re allowing your writing to feel task oriented, which will give you a greater focus.
That is what leads us to the third task, and sometimes the hardest, to think about what we want to write. Sit still for a few minutes and contemplate what we can contribute in text to the world. Consider the responses you would provide for current events and articles that you have just read. This is usually when I like to shower, write a topic sentence in my head, and think about the message that I want to convey.
Ann Handley suggests that when writing quickly, one must “cover their tracks.” When writing in as a part of a morning routine, I think its just as important to create your tracks. Create a plan in your head, so that when you sit down to the keyboard you can quickly write down three or four things that you really want to say.
This should be the easy part if you’ve done everything up til this point. People say to write is to suffer, it shouldn’t be.
5. Don’t edit
John Steimle writes on his website that he can’t stand to edit his work after completion, and that his unedited pieces, albeit containing an error or two, actually do better than his edited works. He says he has not figured out how yet, but it might have something to do with the raw personality than an unedited article possesses.
What we produce in first draft is usually too long and often repetitive. In our natural writing process we tend to talk the reader through the same argument we are answering in our own heads: Why am I writing this?
We shouldn’t edit right now. Routine writing is focused on brevity and expression of ideas. If we spend too long working on something, it will become tedious, and unrealistic for everyday practice. The idea is to wake up prepared to write, not to stay in bed because we don’t want to.
6. Don’t publish
Not everything we write needs to be publishable, and it doesn’t need to be published right now. The point of a daily writing routine is quick, consistent output. Putting the pressure on yourself to create something ready to publish will only disrupt your ability to clearly express all of your thoughts. Remember: editing is for later.
As Goins suggests, everyday practice is the best way to write effortlessly. I can’t suggest that every morning essay I’ve written has become an article or chapter, but every written word is one step towards better writing with limitless possibilities.