Why are some writers five, ten, or twenty times more productive than everyone else? Like superhumans, they somehow juggle the chainsaws of everyday life, yet still manage to consistently finish book after book while others struggle.
Is there a method to their success that you can use to have your most productive writing year ever? Yes, and it’s much simpler than you think.
1. First, You Have to Own It: You Are A Writer
Recently, I asked the writers that I mentor online what is stopping them from realizing their creative goals. The responses were raw, and I could relate to every one of them:
“I’m not confident that my work is good enough.”
“I feel like a fraud.”
“I’m afraid no one is going to like it.”
“I just don’t feel like I’m a writer.”
I don’t feel like I’m a writer. Okay, hit pause for a second because this is the number one indicator of whether or not you’ll be successful as a writer.
Neuroscience proved long ago that belief is the core driver of the reality we experience. Like Henry Ford famously said, “Whether you think you can or can’t—you’re right.”
And whether or not you believe you’re a writer—you’re right. At this very moment, your belief is either propelling you or sabotaging you.
Here’s the truth that you have permission to full embrace: If you write, you are a writer. Period. The act of putting words down, no matter how good, bad or ugly, is the only requirement.
But you have to own it before anyone else will.
Over a decade of working in publishing I’ve come to know mega-bestsellers that have sold hundreds of millions. They all started from scratch, writing in their spare time, and many have told me that they “turned pro” when they started calling themselves a writer.
The real secret is that they turned pro long before they got a book deal. They called themselves a writer, owned it, and never turned back.
2. Set Insanely Specific Goals
Belief isn’t enough. It’s worthless, in fact, until we take action. What we do ultimately proves what we believe, which is why you must eliminate all ambiguity about what you want to accomplish.
It’s not enough to say, “I want to write every day.” Or even, “I want to write a book this year.” Those are aspirations, not goals.
An Insanely Specific Goal is,
“I will have a 90,000 word novel completed by 11: 00 P.M. on December 31. To make that happen I will write 500 words per day, from 9:00 P.M. to 11:00 P.M., for 180 consecutive days.”
There is a defined, measurable outcome: 90,000 words.
There is a specific deadline: 11:00 P.M. on December 31.
The Big Goal is broken down into small, repeatable actions: 500 words per day, written between 9-11 PM for 180 consecutive days.
There’s no hiding with this kind of goal setting. You know exactly what you’re aiming for, what you need to do every day to reach the end, and whether or not you were successful.
3. But Keep It Realistic, Too.
Our eyes are often bigger than our stomachs. NaNoWriMo is a great example of that. On average only 14% of those who begin actually finish. Having unrealistic goals is just as debilitating as having no goal at all. Nothing drains vital creative energy like discouragement.
When I began my first novel my daily writing goal was 2,000 words. At the time, I was working a full-time job that had nothing to do with writing, I had family commitments, and there never seemed to be enough time.
My 2,000 words per day pace lasted three days. Three. And then life happened. There were days I was lucky to wring 250 words out of my already tired brain.
The truth is, you don’t have to write 90,000 words. You just have to write 1,000 words 90 times. It’s the “you eat an elephant one bite at a time” model of writing.
If you’ve struggled with completing a project, whether it’s a novel or an article, set the bar low at the start. One page. 250 words. Make it low enough that you can win and experience that brief emotional high of finishing what you set out to create.
Just create something small, every day. Then, as you rack up wins, you’ll find that it’s easier to push beyond the boundary. Soon, you’ll be writing two pages, 500 words, and then a whole book.
4. Measure, measure, measure.
Accountability forces clarity. You can’t hide from the numbers, which is why I began tracking my daily word count years ago and tell other writers to do the same.
If we’re truly committed to growing as writers, we must face the commitments we’ve made to ourselves, otherwise we’re just paying lip service to our dreams.
I created my own simple method for tracking word count, but there are many apps available—like Strides, Lift, and HabitList—with automated reminders to help you stay on track. Whatever the method, the most important thing is to use it to honestly gauge your progress. It’s encouraging to see the cumulative word count add up, trust me.
Do you want to make this your most productive year ever?
It’s all within your reach. The secret to superhuman productivity isn’t a secret at all. It begins with knowing what you want, being crystal clear on how to get it, and then moving toward it.
Like Yoda famously said, “Do or do not, there is no try.” Reaching our writing goals requires facing the blank page and beginning often before we’re ready. Today, I want you to take action by practicing the following:
- Choose either to (a) write for fifteen uninterrupted minutes, or (b) write until you hit a specific word count goal (mine is 500 for today).
- Stake your claim and commit to that goal publicly in the comment section. Which do you choose—A or B?
- Share your victory. After you’ve completed your work, return and share your work with us. Did having a specific goal help you?