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How to Write 300,000 Words In 1 Year

How to Write 300,000 Words In 1 Year

How to Write 300,000 Words In 1 Year

For the past three years, I’ve written at least 300,000 words for publication.

It’s not that difficult, and you can do it too—it mostly requires an ability to focus. If you don’t have this ability at first, fear not: it’s a learned process.

Why Write?

Someone once said, “I hate writing, but I love having written.” I tend to think you have to love at least some of the writing part too, but I get the idea. In my case, I write because it makes me feel good, and because I feel like it’s what I’m supposed to do.

If you want to write consistently and thoroughly, you must learn to make writing your job, regardless of whether it has anything to do with your income. It must be what you think of at different times throughout the day, even when you’re doing other things.

You may have heard the advice about carrying a notebook everywhere and writing things down as you think of them. This advice falls into the category of “extremely helpful tips that almost no one follows.” Trust me, it helps: I have my notebook when I ride my bike, when I go to a restaurant, and with me on the seat of two-hundred airplanes a year. Never keep anything in your head—keep it in the notebook instead.

Once you start recording information, you’ll likely find that ideas are not the problem. For most writers (or anyone doing most kinds of creative work), execution is the problem. Therefore, the framework I write from can be summarized in this quote from Jim Rohn:

“We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret and disappointment.”

In choosing to write, you must choose the pain of discipline. Good news: it’s not that painful, once you get used to it. You just have to make it more important than other things you could spend time on.

Make your art your obsession. Fall in love with it. Experience withdrawal symptoms when you don’t give it your attention.

Say no to other things so you can make art. Learn to view sacrifice as an investment. Writing is a joyful experience that will bring you comfort and satisfaction, but you must put the hours in.

Think about what you know how to do, and write down all the steps that someone else should take to do the same thing. Spend your vacation outlining the novel you’ve always wanted to write. Start a blog, even if you abandon it later.

Do not worry about quality, especially when you’re getting started. Quality will improve as you put in the hours. (For evidence of this fact, read the first year’s archives of almost any blog, including this one.)

Worry instead about getting your words in. Wake up early, stay up late, use that notebook you are carrying, appropriate those ten and fifteen-minute breaks in the day with nothing scheduled.

When you finish at night (or whenever you pause for a while), try to end in a place where you know what you need to do when you return to it later.

Why 300,000 Words?

In my case, I want to write 1,000 words a day, six days a week. I often write more, but rarely less. The 1,000 words a day is my own metric—yours may vary, but it’s a good one to steal. In the end I’m not necessarily concerned with exact figures; it’s just that having a number helps me to keep working.

Also, 300,000 words ensures I can write a book every year, 100+ blog posts for AONC, 50 or so guest posts elsewhere, at least 2-3 business projects that require a lot of writing, and a few long-form essays or magazine pieces. I don’t count emails (200 a day) or short entries for social media sites.

***

I wrote most of this post when I was stuck in the Nairobi airport last month. Kenya Airways is actually a decent airline—on an hour-long flight to Rwanda, I was served a full vegetarian meal in Economy Class. In the U.S. I am upgraded to First Class 80% of the time, but I can’t even request a vegetarian meal in advance.

But I digress—the point is, while the national airline is nice, Nairobi Airport sucks. Sitting around for four hours, I knew I had two options:

a) keep whining to myself about it

b) use the time well

I knew I’d feel better if I used the time well, so I sat down and wrote. I made myself do it, camping out in a sea of people. There were no outlets, so I worked fast to conserve battery power.

I wrote 1,200 words, and then I wrote another 500 words for something else, and then another 500 words for this post. Four hours went by and I boarded my flight to Jo’burg feeling great. I was behind on my emails as usual, but ahead on my art. I drank bad red wine (shoutout to Kenya Airways again) and didn’t feel guilty about taking a short nap on the way down to South Africa.

I hope some of you write 300,000 words over the next year—then you can write the post about how 300,000 words was easy.

Most important: Love your art and it will love you back.

###

Image: Brandice

117 Comments

  • Betsy Talbot says:

    I like to think of it as the choice between the pleasure that lasts a moment and the pleasure that lasts long-term. Knowing that you’ve written something that impacts someone else is a high that can’t be replaced by all the lazy or unproductive things I could be doing (though I DO reward myself with fun after I’ve been productive every day!)

    Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Christine says:

    I really like this post, especially this:

    “In choosing to write, you must choose the pain of discipline. Good news: it’s not that painful, once you get used to it. You just have to make it more important than other things you could spend time on.

    Make your art your obsession. Fall in love with it. Experience withdrawal symptoms when you don’t give it your attention.”

    Thanks for the inspiration.

  • This is inspiring. I’ve been blogging for nearly a year now, and have been rediscovering my childhood love of writing. I now have two different sites for two different sorts of subject matter, and am planning a third!

    However, my challenge is to start applying this to my other love: singing. I love singing, but I don’t do it every day. It doesn’t occupy my mind in the way that you describe here. And I want it to. So what is stopping me? Well, me, I guess…

    Thanks for the inspiration and the challenge.

  • Marian says:

    Brilliant post. The days when I write a lot of words I feel happier which makes me wonder about the days I don’t do that. And very wise of you not to include emails and brief social media in the word count.

  • Baker Lawley says:

    Fun post, Chris. It’s always neat to hear about other creative processes people use.

    I’ve been doing my own personal NaNoWriMo this month, writing a novel in a month and averaging about 2500-3000 words a day. It’s a lot more than my usual output, but it’s been fun to write so intensively (and I agree with the notion of letting the writing be less than stellar at first).

    One difference I deal with as a fiction writer is that I do a lot of rewriting and revising. After completing the first draft, I might only write 200 words, or even delete 1000 words, in the course of a day’s work. I have to remember that those days are just as valuable and productive as the days I write new work.

  • Tom Hicks says:

    I have followed the 1000 words per day since first reading a quote by Jack London and a similar comment by Hemingway. That has been for more than 3 decades. Writing books, plays, articles, and business essays while keeping a personal journal is a form of reaching out but equally important a way to explore the layers of self discovery. My books and journals if not read make great coasters and doorstops. I like the mystique of being a two bit undiscovered legend in my own literary mind, something quite Kerouac about it.

  • Jurgen Wolff says:

    Excellent points. When I started out, I gave myself time deadlines rather than word count. Big mistake! It’s too easy to tell yourself that looking up things on the web, reading the paper, and going to have a coffee all somehow are reasonable parts of the working session, whereas it’s hard to reationalize that 500 words really are 1000.

  • Farnoosh says:

    Love the writing challenge. The one thing I wonder about when I hear just the number of words, is the quality of writing. I know that Seth Godin says to just write, even if you will write poorly. Does it not matter what we write about, how we write it? I like to go for higher quality, original writing, my best work, and that comes slower. But when I was writing my motivation book in June, I have to say, guitar and violin music zoned me out and I wrote for hours. Good times and great advice, Chris, thank you!

  • Jeff Abbott says:

    Chris: I make a living from writing novels–which is rare–and even being disciplined enough to do that, I needed to hear this wisdom again. It’s important for every writer to be reminded of this choice between discipline and disappointment. This is one of your best blog entries, ever, thank you.

  • Maggie Dodson says:

    It’s Writing Monday today for sure, this is the second piece I’ve read on writing and contains more fabulous advice. Chris, your advice to carry your notebook everywhere is invaluable. The times when I haven’t got it with me and I’ve thought I will remember…………forget it; I struggle with a feeling, shadowy on the sidelines while I try to recapture the brilliance of the idea. Even the tiniest bag, purse, pocket-book (does anyone outside of the movies say that anymore?) can accommodate a slim volume and a pen/pencil – Ikea pencils are a godsend here – and anyway looking back over your writings always spawns another idea. That’s if you can read them of course. I am so impressed with the order in your notebook Chris that I have yet another goal……….to make the pages of my notebook totally legible as well as gleaming with written gold!

  • Akila says:

    Wonderful post. Last year, I wrote about 220,000 words — doing almost what you did — writing at least 1,000 words per day. I finished a novel, wrote 3+ posts per week on my main blog, several guest posts, and did a great deal of technical writing.

    This year, though, I am far behind. The reason: fear and stress. And a bit of procrastination. I keep saying that I’m too busy, but the real reason is that I’m afraid of writing a second novel and having it rejected. I’m currently shopping around the first novel and I am scared. I know that I need to read the book you just recommended about fear inspiring creativity to get me going strong again.

  • Spencer says:

    Perfect post. Timely as I struggle to mesh my daily income based writing responsibilities with my long term projects and such. I woke up with the thought that, “It’s all writing and you are fortunate to get up to do this today. Spread it out and write all kinds of stuff. Enjoy the day.” Then I opened my email to your post. Thanks Chris. I enjoy your work!

  • Steph says:

    This is the exact kick in the pants I needed this morning. I keep taking on more and more ambitious writing projects and then freaking out over the time commitment of doing them all- when in reality I spend a LOT of my “writing time” surfing the internet, reading blogs or literally just staring off into space. I’m working really hard now ot achieve the discipline I need to make everything happen.

  • I think most people who say they want to write but don’t write, get stuck because they want to sound like Hemminway in their first draft. It’s so true that the quality of writing improves the more we write. Thanks for some great Monday morning inspiration!

  • Brasilicana says:

    I’m one of the few people who actually does carry my journal around everywhere! Here in Brazil it’s normal to have long lines (sometimes 3+ hours if you’re doing anything legal/bureaucratic), slow buses, and other time that would be wasted if I didn’t utilize it for brainstorming and writing.

    The only problem is organization. I frequently find myself thinking, “I know I wrote about that… now where the heck in my journal is it?”

  • Candice says:

    Writing is like working out for me. If I go a day without doing it, I can’t sleep, I’m distracted–I just don’t feel right.

    Farnoosh – Good to see you here. As for writing poorly . . . I’m also a huge fan of REwriting. In my fiction work, I’m likely to work on a short story for weeks before it sees an audience. I love the revision process, and I find it makes my non-fiction writing stronger as well.

    Go write something!

  • Cindy Fortin says:

    Thanks Chris – I needed to read this today. I struggle with the discipline part of writing in part because it is not an income for me but I also know that it matters to me and I should make more time for it.

  • Brandon says:

    When I was in school, I was an English major at a writing intensive school, and I had papers, essays for exams, a complete thesis, and stuff I probably can’t remember. Needless to say, all of this in less than 6 months taught me how to write fast, write good, and write a lot. One idea I loved was Chuck Palahniuk’s egg-timer method. If you don’t feel like writing, set an egg-timer for a certain amount (anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour,) and write for that much time. If you’ve gotten into a groove and want to keep going, that’s fine, but even if you don’t, you’ve at least put a dent in it. This was how I was able to slog through a 15,000 word undergraduate thesis on top of the typical pile of writing an English major is expected to do. I also found it helpful to have multiple things going at once, that way, if you get tired of one thing, you can give yourself a breather with something else.

  • Faye says:

    Amazing how timely reading this post was for me. I had dabbled in a few artistic interests, including writing, but mostly in poetry form. The challenge is in disciplining myself and time management. Most days I can only focus on one thing, so going to school means everything else goes down the drain (conflict of interest)! Writing, as in all creative work, is a combination and fun and well, (ugh) work…

    This weekend our band was hired to play in a debut/birthday party. After more than a month of not playing together, we got back in a rush with little warm-up. Two of us had sore throats, but we had to do it for the money, which was a lot. I thought I was going to dread the night, but it was fun. Then I realized that I haven’t been that happy for almost a year… when I had been all over the place looking for enjoyment.

    The lesson: Rest is overrated; work is underrated. People tend to dread work (especially physical) but it’s really quite enjoyable, seeing/hearing/tasting the work of your own hands. Better than any vacation.

  • What you said about carrying the notebooks is perfect advice. I’ve been telling my students, for years, to go to the local drugstore or office supply store to buy mini notebooks — which I call “idea notebooks” or “idea catchers” — in addition to the standard-size notebooks. The mini notebooks fit into a purse or a pocket, or the pouch on the handlebars of your bicycle. You can stop anytime inspiration strikes and scribble down the idea. You don’t have to write complete sentences, just ideas. That way, as you pointed out, you’re never at a loss for ideas.

  • Mirella says:

    I really, really loved this post. The idea of carrying your art around with you all day, every day, no matter where you are, is so important to our sense of being alive and energised.
    I’ve been wondering whether I can carry my notebook around to every class in my new teaching job next year, but now I know I have to, and in every moment it will serve as a reminder of who I am and where I’m going.
    300 000 words in 2012? Challenge accepted :)

  • Matt says:

    Great post. I really needed it this morning. I especially liked the Jim Rohn quote. That is going on the wall.

  • Joshua says:

    For those (like me) that need an extra little push sometimes, try 750words.com. It’s an online journal that lets you build a streak of entries and awards you with fun badges for doing so. 3 days, 5 days, 10 days, 30 days, 100 days, 200 days – before you know it, you have a habit.

    My thanks to you, Chris, for the original recommendation and for this wonderful post.

    And Kenya Airways is indeed a lovely airline (reflective of the country it hails from).

  • You nailed it with this one. So simple, direct, and true. I am blogging, writing a memoir draft, and trying to build a social media platform at the same time. I need your discipline to let my email slide in order to write!

  • Thank you Chris. Your blog is one of few that I faithfully read. Something happens in the connection between writer and reader. That motivates me. The art of connection is delightful. I discovered five physical ways of creating connection: through voice, movement, words, stillness, and contact. Each can become art. When creative energy (loving it?) gets involved life feels extraordinary.

    I write daily. I wonder if the words I edit count. Editing might account for another 1000 words that no one will ever see. I love to edit!

  • Aaron says:

    300,000. At first glance it seem so overwhelming and yet 1,000 words a day seems so much more doable. Amazing what breaking down goals does for one’s perspective. I really like the idea of creating the personal metric. Something toward which we can aspire to and measure against. Great post as always.

  • Victoria says:

    I really appreciated your comment about not worrying too much about in the first year. I look over some of what I wrote in the early years of my blog and I cringe. But I leave it up there anyway. It is what is and it reminds of how far I’ve come and how far I have to go. Persistence and Progress – not Perfection. :-)

  • Shellb says:

    Ahhh the Nairobi airport. The people watching in itself makes for some great writing.

    :)

  • Very well said :)

    I can’t think of a single thing that’s advanced my business more than simply sitting down and banging out words on the keyboard. It’s not always easy (and the words aren’t always good), but it’s hard to go wrong when you put that kind of focus on content creation.

  • Liv says:

    I mostly have my notebook with me but on the occasions that I dont I make notes in my iPhone! Definitely not clever to rely on your memory (or not mine anyway!) 1000 words is a good daily goal too. A decent chunk but not too traumatising on difficult days!

  • Dan Miller says:

    Chris – love how you frame this. I’ve always enjoyed writing and find that it’s like brushing my teeth – I miss it and feel unclean if I haven’t done it. Unpacking the 1000 words a day as then giving a book, 100+ blog posts, etc is brilliant. Gives a clear end in mind.

  • Lisa Baldock says:

    Thanks for the inspiration. My experience as a professional writer is different. If I want to write 1,000 words a day, I first spend two days researching.

  • Amanda says:

    “Love your art and it will love you back.”

    that pretty much says it all … in 9 words :)

  • Steve Rice says:

    Chris, appreciate this perspective. I’ve been giving thought the last day or so to the ideas of excellence, being good, and being great (and the distinction between the 3). I’ve come to the realization that being remarkable is a matter of being remarkable consistently day in and day out.

    I heard a quote the other day from Simon Cowell, who said: “Being good at something takes time. That’s how it should be.”

    This dovetails nicely with your post. Thanks again for the clear observations.

  • Jill Salahub says:

    Chris, thanks for another great post. I do carry a notebook everywhere, or at the very least have access to a few sheets of paper. I’ve been known to write on napkins or the backs of receipts or even my arm when I am truly desperate.

    One more thing that I do which I have found helpful: give yourself a larger, long term goal or deadline, (besides the daily work). I am coming to the World Domination Summit in July, which gives me nine months, so for that nine months, I will be blogging, writing, and working away, every day, no excuses and no giving up allowed.

  • I once had someone pull my notebook out of my hands and chide me, telling me that “I needn’t write everything down,” because it was in my brain and I’d certainly remember if later either way. I politely finished the dinner with my companion, and realized that we’d never see eye to eye on this topic – I don’t think I’ve been back to dinner with them since.

    Suffice it to say, writing down everything is critical. I carry notebooks – mini moleskins – when I run, and sometimes I stop to write things down. I only wish I could also do this while swimming. Apparently in the water you have to just let your ideas run free.

    Brilliant post. Inspiring as always. Thank you.

  • Joe says:

    I’m always letting my day job and other obligations get in the way. I love to write, love to hit “publish”, but I seem to put the art on the back burner a lot. Because the other activities (read: paid) keep my head above water. Chris, I don’t know if I’ll ever put my writing front and center, but thanks for this post encouraging me to do so.

  • Julie Wise says:

    When I was writing my book, I committed to writing 2000 words a day, five days a week. And it was actually easy to stay committed once I started. Some days I had to drag myself to the laptop, but once there, I quickly became immersed in the world of my creation. If it’s something you love to do, you’ll find the time (although I will admit that ample amounts of chocolate also help keep me going!)

  • I have a similar goal of 1,000 words per day, and I have found the more fun and enthusiasm I bring to it, the better I write and the easier it becomes to produce content day in and day out.

    Deliberate, daily writing is the best investment anyone can make for their future.

  • Mark Brooks says:

    “Love your art and it will love you back” Such beautiful words. Thanks Chris!

  • Mary Jo says:

    Thank you, Chris, for this post and reminder. Esp. love Jim Rohn’s quote: “We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret and disappointment.”

    2011 kicked off with the theme The Year of Happiness, however, I soon realized I needed to get my “house” in order. 2011 will be closing as The Year of Discipline, in both writing and healthy living. P.S. Go fellow Nanoer’s! ; )

  • Donna says:

    Someone else may have said this, but doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, when some 200,00 people around the world set themselves to write a 50,000-word novel) in November is a good way to start the habit.

    And

    OCCUPY WALL STREET! (google it, if you don’t know about it yet)

  • Breda O'Keeffe says:

    Chris, your emails make me smile! I love this post, too.

    For those who are interested, the first quote in Chris’ post is (purportedly) from Dorothy Parker. I have that feeling, too. I love what I do, but some days writing is a slog. On those days, I remind myself how pretty it looks when published!

    Another great resource for writing inspiration is the book “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott. She has excellent ideas for writing and has a sharp sense of humor. She believes in “crappy first drafts”- with the idea that you just get words down on paper and edit later. It helped me on the days when I found writing a challenge during my dissertation (203 pages).

    Happy writing!

  • Andrew says:

    Yes! This post speaks to me! I was feeling pretty good about writing over 40,000 words in the last couple of months but now I know I have some catching up to do! Even just writing this comment makes me feel good.

  • This is so inspiring! I spend several hours a day writing and interacting with other bloggers, for no compensation beyond wonderful compliments from my readers. I recently graduated and am still looking for work, so I recieve much criticism from family about it, but writing is therapudic for me and I can’t imagine giving it up.

    In a world plauged by thoughtless rush, I believe everyone could benefit by slowing down and thinking, then writing and organizing those thought.

  • Chris, this is one of your best posts. I’m struggling right now with writing a book and dreading it, but once you juuuuussssst get started, it makes everything so much easier.

    Well done.

  • Anum says:

    Love that line, “love your art and it will love you back” So true!

  • DebOrah says:

    Writing a thousand words is one sitting is no problem, stringing them together into meaningful sentences and organized paragraphs isn’t quite as easy;) However I love this as a measurable small daily goal and will start tracking immediately.

  • Finlay Cowan says:

    “Take a notebook everywhere with you”.
    I couldn’t agree more… and I watch people glaze over when I give them the same advice.
    “Write every day…and be prepared to write rubbish… it doesn’t matter what you write… just write”
    I did that and sure enough it became a habit… my writing ‘muscles’ became strong enough so that it s now easy for me to write the good stuff. No one is going to want to read those 15 years of diaries I kept… not even me… it was all done to build up the writing muscles.
    The other thing I do is advise people to restrict themselves to 10 minutes writing a day… make it a rule.. “don’t do any more than 10!” I insist. Before they know it, they are desperately straining to break that rule… and they’re off ! Limiting yourself to a tiny amount of work (at the start) makes it seem achievable.
    The same goes for drawing by the way… except it takes even longer to master… about 10-20 years… you have to be prepared to do a LOT of bad drawings. Once you accept that, it saves you 10 years of feeling disappointed and angry with yourself – and you recognise each daily achievement for what it is – a step towards mastery of a craft.

  • Yikes how could you have been in my country and I did not know. I wish we could have met in the short or long time you were ‘held’ hostage. I have been an ardent follower of your blog. I was planning to do 100 posts in 100days but you have challenged me more. for the last three days I have been doing 1000+ words by the day. I am sure we’ll meet one of these days. The challenge continues.

  • Jana says:

    I think a lot of this advice applies to anything you might want to do really well– not just writing. If you want to be a prolific writer, master a foreign language, become a star musician, or what have you, you have to do just this: “Fall in love with it. Experience withdrawal symptoms when you don’t give it your attention.” It seems to me that anyone who’s really great at something is great at it because they’ve fallen in love with it and made it a part of them.

  • dianne wist says:

    OK…OK…I need to start writing. Your posts always hit me at exactly the right time. Giving me exactly the right message. Thank you!

  • Antonia says:

    Love the article because I love to write, a habit of love. But your journal picture was an added inspiration for me because this is where I need to discipline myself: the form of it, the shorthand, the clarity. Here are some questions I have for you. What are the most useful ways, and creative, to maximize journal writing? What your personal shorthand often consist of? How you make use of journals when you’re writing several kinds of projects? In all the articles, books I’ve read on writing, I haven’t read any writers comments on their journal keeping except to say they keep one, or carry one everywhere. Artist sketchbooks often have a similar beauty. My first thought was: Wow, the writing is legible and visually fun to look at, and can be quickly scanned. Thanks, for the post.

  • I hunkered down last year and did NaNoWriMo and managed to knock over ~70,000 words in 6 weeks. Was a great learning experience as to what is possible.

  • Osayi says:

    I’m currently working on my 300000 words!!!
    It’s not easy but it’s so worth it.

    Sometimes I go back to my notebook and laugh at the silly ideas, but most times I am surprised by how brilliant I am to come up with so many great ideas! ;-)

    Thanks for being an inspiration!

  • Yikes! I just got that scared kind of excited feeling that tells me this is something I need to do. Thanks, I think! ;-)

  • Brandon says:

    I love Sarah’s comment about wishing she could write while swimming. Almost as funny as the red wine shout out. ;)

    I recently embarked on a crowd-funding campaign for a film I’m working on. One of the pieces of advice I remember hearing on the subject was to love writing, because you’ll do a lot of it! That bit of wisdom is definitely accurate. Luckily, I love it or else this might be really overwhelming right now.

    Thanks for the break. Now, I’ve got more writing to do. :)

  • Sheila says:

    I always, always, always carry a little book with me (I call it a ‘catbook’) when I go out and I’m constantly writing in it when I have a spare moment and need to clear my head. It’s a constant presence in my back pocket or purse, like a pack of cigarettes is for a nicotine addict. If I don’t write at least something every day, I get cranky and sour. I don’t understand why more people don’t do this.

  • Nina says:

    Alright, alright….I’m gonna jumpstart the engine tomorrow. I have notes everywhere iPhone, iPad, Post it Notes, pieces of paper next my bed, in my purse, kitchen. Constant reminders that I need to sit my #@$ down and write. I have NO EXCUSES and more than enough content, but the discipline has been a challenge esp recouping from jetlag.

    Maybe I should find somewhere with no plugs.

  • Tristan says:

    A good reminder that setting a goal (even a moving one, whether it’s 1000 words, more or less) is a great starting point to keep focused. I’ll be trying to work on that. Thanks!

  • Tom Sawyer says:

    As an aspiring blogger just starting out this post is fantastic. I’ve bought myself a notebook though I often find myself jotting things down on my iPhone. I’ve set myself a goal for a post a day (without word limits) for the next month, and then hopefully will start to move into more detailed / longer posts as my routine gets better!

    Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Claudine Arthurs says:

    I’ve just completed an incredible 2 year journey around the world. While on the road, I started a blog…but I yet to even finish the first post! I’ve been going around in circles for months on what to write about, the fear of my writing not being perfect, of being judged yadda, yadda, yadda! But today, I draw a line in the sand…..

    A big heartfelt thanks for your post today, it was truly inspirational! I will commit to writing at least 1000 words per day and I will finally hit the send button on that first blog post by the end of the week! xo

  • Shirley Tomlin says:

    Chris, thanks so much for those 300,000 words! So many of them have inspired me.

  • misha herwin says:

    Fall in love with what you do. Sacrifice other activities. So true, so right and such a necessary reminder today when I’m bogged down with mundane things. This advice couldn’t have come at a better time.

  • Carmen says:

    Thanks for the swift kick in the butt! I agree with what another comment said: your posts are always timely.

  • John Liddle says:

    I feel the same about climbing mountains as your anonymous source did about writing. I really don’t like climbing them – it’s seriously hard work – but I love being on top of them and walking on the high ridges, so if I want the pleasure I have to do the hard work.

    And taking a funicular or being dropped off by a helicopter just wouldn’t feel right! The effort in getting there is the foundation for the reward.

  • Tyler says:

    Great post!

    I’d love to hear your process for how often you go back through all of your notes and what you do with them.

    I collect a lot of my ideas in a notebook too, but a lot of them just die in there. A lot of times I totally forget them because I don’t have a good system for going back through stuff.

    Probably a simple thing, but I’m always interested in hearing other people’s processes.

  • Sonia Marsh says:

    Chris always inspiring. Bad red wine? Does Kenya make wine or was it bad South African red wine? Love to write, but the killer comes with the revisions, especially for a travel memoir.

  • Carol Hess says:

    Ah, Nairobi airport. Remember it well. (Used to live in Kenya many years ago.) My ex-hubby got strip searched there once. Not fun. But I digress.

    “You just have to make it more important than the other things you spend time on.” Thank you for the perfect words I needed to read as I’ve been moaning and groaning to myself that I needed to get more writing done. It’s simple, Carol. Plunk your butt in a chair and write. Repeat.

  • Caitlin says:

    Completely convicting.

    Time flies when you fall in love. The things that you once thought were major sacrifices get swept under the rug. You let go and embrace something new.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  • Robert Filla says:

    I’ve been writing monthly columns of approximately 800-1,000 words for the last 17 years. It’s a bitch a times. And usually I’m very disappointed in the end product. But then, a month or so later, I go back and re-read my column. It’s always much better than I thought originally and, at times, surprises even me in its content and depth. I ALWAYS carry my notebook and camera. You just never know when that one great opportunity will present itself.

  • beth luwandi says:

    This is transition year for me to see if I can earn enough money to do what I love instead of spend all my time teaching others… Primo time for me to get this link from my lovely daughter.

    I’m reminded of my favorite professor’s answer to his own question between the difference between writers and non-writers:
    writers write.
    Funny how this post makes me hear him saying,
    “do the work, Beth.” Thank you!

  • moom says:

    I probably write more like 100,000 words a year and I don’t write every day in terms of writing stuff for final publication. But writing is one aspect of my work as a professor, so that makes sense. Doing the background research is a big part of the story and presenting and talking with people too. I do have goals of how many “products” I want to put out a year but not number of words or how many to write a day. So you can produce quite a lot of writing even without the traditional writer’s type schedule like this.

  • Where would we be without laptops?

    I just finished reading AONC, taking copious notes. Thank you so much, Chris, for putting so much inspiration and wisdom into the hands of semi-sleepwalkers like me!

  • Very much agree with your comment about descipline. Loved the quote above.

    “We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret and disappointment.”

  • Joe Valley says:

    Hell Yeah! You wrote this for me. I know it!

  • Frugal Expat says:

    Brilliant post! Thanks for highlighting this quote… It keeps me inspired.

    “We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret and disappointment.”

  • Richard says:

    So true Chris, writing is the smart person’s way to think things out which, I should do more often. Hence, I am writing this note to motivate myself to commit. Not sure If 300K is reachable but, I will make it a goal and perhaps I can attain close to that and improve from here on out. My trouble is having something compact to write in. I will be looking for ideas and if anyone has any, please forward outside of bringing a laptop with me which is not feasible for me to do.

  • Finlay Cowan says:

    @RICHARD – If its any encouragement… I was able to produce a graphic novel in a notebook sitting on buses, planes and trains. If its possible to draw on the move then maybe you can write just about anywhere ? From a tech point of view I tried writing on an ipad and an iphone but it didn’t work for me… it was physically too painful and I couldn’t get creative ‘flow’… have you considered writing freehand then having dedicated time at internet cafes etc ? I find this helps with my creativity… keeps me away from the screen and allows me to be fully ‘in’ the environment.

  • Donna Kazo says:

    Funny, 300,000 words seemed like a lot when I first read the title of this blog. But then I remembered, oh yeah, that’s how 1,000 words a day works out, 300 days a year. Since May 1, 1999, I’ve been writing “Morning Pages” as prescribed by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way and her other books. Longhand, with a “fast” ballpoint, three pages of college-rule notebook paper almost every day. These pages are not meant for the eyes of others, although I tell my daughters that they are allowed to read them when I am gone. These pages have helped me work through the deaths of both my parents and my husband, and our cats’ lives and deaths, my daughters’ school years, my return to college which resulted in my placement on the dean’s list, how to raise money for our nonprofit, ideas for paintings, articles, and a way to capture all sorts of small things which give juice to our daily round.

    What’s best is that they are a safe ground to sow small seeds of ideas, to grow them into ever-growing beanstalks, unfurling themselves into the clouds. At the very least, I can check in with myself, not let time pass unconsciously. I also like to type, and with all of my fingers too! But- Julia’s right when she says, just move your hand across the page, don’t worry about what comes out, you will surprise yourself with the quality as you are outsmarting the inner censor within. The more you write, the more you CAN write! Thanks again, Chris, for your inspiration and honesty.

  • Heidi says:

    I’m writing my thesis and this blog has definitely been encouraging. 1,000 words a day works for things that we love to write and things that we must write to move on to other, more fun things too. At this pace I’ll be done with a first draft by the end of the week. Thanks for your piece and write on!

  • Mike says:

    Chris, thank you for for this wonderful post. I read it at the perfect moment…when I needed to get past some hurdles towards writing goals.

    I love your saying, “Never keep anything in your head—keep it in the notebook instead.”

    You’re right about quality developing over time with repetition.

    Thanks for all that you do.

  • Rahmi Fitria says:

    It’s such a great article. I my self have been dreaming to write my own book. I hope I will be able make one at least:) Thank you very much for such an inspiring article, it really boosts my spirit to write more seriously.

    By the way, I see you have wide interests in your life from writing, business to travelling. What a colorful life you have! Very interesting…

    Once again, thank you Chris!

  • Amy Putkonen says:

    Thanks, Chris. Inspiring as always. I would write more but now I want to write-write, so I will leave it at that.

  • Kevin Turner says:

    This is a great idea. I have recently been trying to get 500 words a day, but this is a pretty easy goal. I like 1000, that’s a nice round number. I too am working between my blog, and a book I am hoping to publish. I am new to writing, I have been teaching for the last 10 years, but really enjoy the writing process. Thanks for sharing some of your strategies, even if I am already doing some of it, it is nice to be reassured. Also, thanks for making Portland look good! I went to Westview High School, and live in Salem. Really appreciate your work, always a great read!

  • Susan Hall says:

    I write daily at 750words.com the first thing in the morning. 157 days in a row and counting :)

  • Jennifred Jones says:

    So many people have interesting things to write about that others would love to hear about. Why do we feel what we have to ‘say’ is unimportant to others?
    I enjoy reading what others are thinking about, and am glad for the interaction it causes-letting us know we’re not the only ones going through similar thought processes.

  • I was recently inspired by an interview with Ray Bradbury who stated he also wrote 1000 words a day. That prompted me to push myself to a similar goal and I was, ironically, compiling my thoughts on an article about this when I stumbled onto your post. At any rate, thank you for all of the useful information on your site. Great book too!

  • Scott Mallon says:

    As someone who has been published in numerous magazines, several quite respected, I think it’s great to make a habit of writing. It takes discipline to write and to attempt to reach a daily goal but what is equally important is the quality of writing. Good writing is never easy IMO.

    I have a friend who claims to write 2000 words a day but I know his writing and much of it is garbage. Personally, I write dreadfully slow, 500-1000 words per day is my average and I try never to write after noon. In the evening I will take a look at what I have written and make minor edits. In the morning, before I begin writing for the day, I finish editing the previous days work. Seems to work for me. Every writer is different obviously and has their own method of churning out the words.

  • Penny Lane says:

    I love this post. I write every day because I LOVE it and don’t feel like myself if I go a day or two without writing. I’ve wanted to write a book for years and recently started a blog after abandoning two others years ago. I especially love this:
    “Do not worry about quality, especially when you’re getting started. Quality will improve as you put in the hours. ”
    That’s something I am working on, trying to kick my perfectionist tendencies that tend to paralyze me. One day and 1,000 words at a time I keep moving forward. Thanks for the excellent post.

  • Grace Okpo says:

    This is quite inspiring Chris. I just stumbled on your page and I’m thanking my stars for doing so! Been trying to write a book for ages but its being like rocket science trying to get organised! Your piece has thought me in a few minutes what I’ve needed to learn in years! God bless you

  • Anand says:

    I loved Kenya airways when I flew on it from South Africa (JNB) to London several years ago. Heard some great gospel type songs by Brenda Fassie on air. And the vegetarian meal was very good.

  • sam says:

    I flew kenya air for a vacation trip and it was a good experience.

  • jo says:

    i read that if you write 834 words every day for 60 days, in 2 months you will have written 50,000 words which is enough for your average book. I am half way!

  • I fully agree with what Chris has to say. But, what about the knowledge one needs to gather in order to write? How can we figure that in our schedule if we are writing so much a day, especially if your day job has nothing to do with writing.

  • Nick Wreden says:

    Everyone here has missed the boat. Writing is relatively easy. But quantity is not quality. What’s harder than writing is editing — boiling it down so that it says exactly what it needs to say in the clearest way possible. Case in point: I wrote 300,000 words of non-fiction in less than a year. About 3 years of near daily effort later, I’m still working to get it down to about 80,000 words.

  • Thank you for this post. I really needed to read this today. Coppyblogger says this about writing:

    If you want to become a better writer, you have to write, write, write, write, write, write and….write.

    Cheers,
    James

  • M Sharifuzzaman says:

    Thank you for the post. Since long ago, I wanted to write regularly and almost always failed,unless forced to by a deadline. I thought I could write regularly. But I really couldn’t .I always felt the “pain of regret & indiscipline”. Perhaps I need a mind-writer for me. As you mentioned , I agree with you that focusing is very important. Setting small targets with keep everything in notebook to keep you brain free ,maybe a good trick.

  • I love the idea, but where I get bogged down is in the editing process. I can whip out the words, but they’re certainly not ready for public consumption the first time out! I spend at least as much time editing and revising as I do on the original writing, and sometimes much longer.

  • I brenhines says:

    I have been using the 750words.com challenge where one commits to write 750 daily. i have been posted on the wall of change a number of times, so i’ve decided just to write because i feel like doing it.

  • Thank you for this wonderful piece. The wisdom herein is gong to contribute to my getting Down and Dirty and My Ass In Gear. I feel as though I invented the term, The Art of Procrastination. If I had, I would have at least begun a popular pastime. Something I can really do without — let the rest of the world speak for itself.

    Unless they are among the folks who subscribe to the notion that “The meek shall inherit the Earth” for that is all they can do and they won’t make a peep…

  • Kay Fudala says:

    I agree with the overall sentiment. It is hard to not think about quality, especially as you are trying to find your unique voice. I have been fine tuning my process for a while now and what seems to work is free forming ideas in notepad or on Evernote. When I am in the zone, I can refine those notes into a 1000 to 1500 blog post in no time. You must come to the blank page with a germ of a thought and how to convey it forcibly to your audience. Over time I have noticed that writing becomes an obsession in itself.

    Thanks for the inspiring post! I am a few years late in replying, but the inspiration is still as strong as it was when I read it first :)

  • Tiffany says:

    Fantastic article. Thank you so much for sharing this!

  • This is an excellent and inspiring article. I recently upped my daily word count after reading an aritcle about a girl who writes 2,000 words per day. 1,000 seems like a more attainable starting goal, so I think I will steal this metric from you! I currently write about 500 words per day, but it is not enough, I am behind on projects that are important to me to finish in a timely manner. Thank you for the advice, and I will let you know how it goes!

  • daniel says:

    I like this post because it reminds me the first time I wrote. Well, actually I typed it out on Word. I wrote 200 words. Over the course of 3-6 months I wrote 500 to 600 words. Next I wrote about 1000 words. I have only written 1000 words about 4-5 times. But for me it gets easier. Inspiring, and thanks for the post!

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  • Nur Costa says:

    That was an awesomely written post! Thanks so much for your advice. It was truly wonderful to read all those words.
    I am applying this 1,000 word-rule starting today. Thanks for the motivation! And keep shining!
    :)

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