Just Start

starting-line

Everyday I sit down to write. I rarely begin with an idea burning a hole in my brain. I’ve got nothing and I just start writing. If I am lucky an idea starts to come together. For me the process requires constant, repetitive, disciplined work. If I show up, the good ideas follow. It’s the work that creates the inspiration.

Eventually words become sentences become paragraphs and I don’t stop until I hit at least 750 words. I’ve stuck with it for two years. What began as a broken New Year’s resolution to write more has become a daily habit.

Just start. That mantra has been key for me the last few years in everything I do. Just write. Just run. Just meditate. Just exercise. JUST FUCKING START!

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I’ve got a serious inertia problem. Newton’s First Law of Motion states that a body at rest or in motion will remain at rest or in motion until acted upon by an equal or greater force. When my fat ass is parked on the couch eating Oreos, I blame Newton. At rest I am immovable, but in motion I can be unstoppable.

I pretended for decades that I was a writer, but never wrote a damn thing. I fussed over having the right tools. I set up a WordPress blog. I bought dictation software. I downloaded countless writing and productivity apps. I manicured my social media presence. But I still wasn’t writing.

One of my 2015 resolutions was to write more. I signed up for a series of daily writing prompts. It helped to a point, but it was a half measure. It wasn’t until February 8th of that year when I signed up for 750words that I made a commitment to change a habit. On that day I made the decision to JUST START.

Just starting every day took so much effort at first. I focused on one day at a time for a week, two weeks, a month, three months, six months and then a year. Somewhere along the way it became a habit, an almost instinctual part of what I do every day. Now the momentum of two years of daily writing is behind me, rocketing me forward. I will keep on writing because the pressure to continue is greater than the pressure to stop.

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This month I made the commitment to up the ante and publish every single day. I appreciate everyone who has read, liked, commented and offered feedback and support. I’ve missed one day because I was falling asleep at my desk drooling onto the keyboard. I failed to finish, but I started.

I would rather fail to finish than fail to start.

Failing Every Day

failure

I have been reading a lot of James Altucher lately. One of the things I admire is his incredible ability to ship. He has written 17 books, blogs constantly and is a prodigious podcaster. I started with Choose Yourself which was packed with remarkable insights and resonates with me both as a writer and consultant. This led me to follow his blog and look into his other books. Not everything he writes is brilliant, but he will unearth a smart idea in almost every post. His most recent book, Reinvent Yourself, is a wide ranging assortment of blog posts, learnings from podcast interviews and his takes on insights from big thinkers, all stitched together under the theme of reinvention. While not as powerful as Choose Yourself it is loaded with nuggets of wisdom.

What’s remarkable about James is his perpetual curiosity and his desire to ship constantly. Like Seth Godin he publishes something every single day. He does a new podcast every week and ships a new book as soon as the ink on the previous one dries. That’s how he succeeds. He is indefatigable and constantly reiterates his formula for success. He never stops throwing something new at the wall.

I succeeded in creating a daily writing habit. Over the past two years I have written at least 750 words per day totaling nearly 600,000 words, missing only one day out of the last 724. What I fail to do is ship. I write, but I don’t publish. The missing step is the step that will take me forward. I need to share my writing, but I don’t. I am the tree falling in the woods with nobody there to hear it, thus I don’t make a sound.

Fear, lack of confidence and inertia play a role in my reluctance. I am sitting on at least 130 posts that are almost ready to go. What will be the tipping point?

It may have been a message from an old friend.

By chance I inadvertently published a very raw post in draft form a few weeks back. Mortified, I scrambled to reverse the mistake. I deleted it on WordPress, but also trashed the automatic notifications on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr. The one thing I neglected was the email sent to those who follow my blog. My good buddy Marsh Gooch (who writes a terrific music blog) received the email and liked what he read. He asked me what happened because wanted to like the post, but it had disappeared. He said the post was “thoughtful.”

“I thought your goal for this year is publish. Then publish!” were his other blunt sentiments.

Seth Godin says not shipping is failure. James Altucher posts every single day and brags of writing 1000 words daily. Then there is me. WIth 130 drafts waiting to be set free I am holding onto 130 failures. Failure to communicate. Failure to share. Failure to ship. Failure.

So here is my revised resolution. I worry that good intentions will amount to nothing if I don’t tell anyone, so I will declare it here. I will ship one post every day in February. This will be 28 successes. The real success will be a new habit of shipping, not just in February, but March, April and beyond

The power of habit is an amazing thing. Three years ago I only thought about writing. I rarely exercised. Somehow I reached a tipping point with both of these and created strong habits. It was a combination of willpower, momentum and desire. I found time every day to write. I made time to exercise. Now I can;t imagine not exercising or writing.

So I’ve got 28 days where I must ship a new blog post daily. Let’s see where the next four weeks take me. I look forward to any feedback or advice you may have. See you at the end of the month and thank you for reading.

And thank you to Marsh for the gentle but powerful nudge!

That Time I Wrote 100,000 Words @750words At A Time

750 words history

I hit a major milestone last week. Since February I’ve written more than 100,000 words. Let’s put that into perspective. According to Amazon’s Text Stats, the median length for all books is about 64,000 words. I have written enough to fill one novel and am halfway through a second. While I doubt many of my words are novel-worthy, I know there are a handful of great ideas buried in all the debris. More importantly, I’ve developed as a writer and found a discipline that has eluded me for years.

I’ve always liked to think of myself as a writer. Witty, pithy, insightful, sure, but with NOTHING to show for it. Like many would-be writers I talked about writing, i thought about writing, I bought moleskins, notebooks, dictation programs, apps, but the result was always the same. Nothing! Maybe a half a page here, a blog post there, but mostly an empty page and a mindful of half baked ideas.

So one big goal for 2015 was to write more. For the last few years I set up alerts, systems, and tricks to get me writing more. Some things worked and others not so much. I managed to write once or maybe twice a week at best, but my natural inertia kicked in and I would find reasons not to write. I needed something drastic. Actually I needed two things. First, make the time and second, make it a daily habit.

To accomplish the first I waged war on my own busyness. I reduced my information and social media diets considerably. I found ways to eliminate digital distractions. And I put down my damn phone. I was able to write three or four times a week, but I still wanted more. I wanted to write every single day.

Then I found the solution, 750words.com. I wrote about it here a few months back, but with 100,000 later I need to shout about it a little more. I started In February, committing to write 750 words every day. AND, I wrote every single day. After fighting my own procrastination and laziness it was astonishing. Writing is hard work. Churning out words takes discipline and at first much of what I wrote was terrible. Too personal. Too mundane. Too repetitive. But at a certain point I got a rhythm. Pieces started to flow together. It may not be great, but some of it was worthy of posting on my blog, worthy of sharing and worthy of asking for feedback.

Some days I start with a rough idea. Others I already have a full post sketched out in my mind. Sometimes I just start writing and it begins to take shape. The ideas coalesce and 750 words later I am done. What is really critical is the discipline that has come with the act of writing. Initially it took sacrifice just to get my ass in the chair. Then it took work to write. Now it takes effort not to write. Whether I have anything to say or not isn’t important, it’s the ritual of sitting down, writing the first words and pushing through to the end. That’s the real moral to the story. Action. Writing. Results. Repeat.

750 words badges

It has been a total of 137 almost consecutive days of writing. I had a 118 day streak and then I spent a Saturday carpooling kids, cleaning the basement, mowing the lawn, running 6 miles and falling asleep at 9:30. When I woke up the next morning I knew something was horribly wrong. What was different about the night before? Then, it hit me. I didn’t write. I had fallen off the wagon, but I jumped right back on. It’s been another nineteen days and counting.

In the end, it’s not about success or failure, There are no awards or benchmarks apart from an occasional milepost that reminds me I have stuck to my resolution. My goal is not to make a living as a writer. It’s about a daily act, a simple ritual. Laptop in hand. Butt in chair. Four fingers and an occasional thumb typing away. The thoughts are mine. The words are mine. The discipline is a gift that I hope keeps on giving 750 words at a time.

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The Jobseeker’s Holiday Survival Guide

The Jobseeker’s Holiday Survival Guide

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Thinking is easy, blogging is hard

I was asked last week if i blog and after an awkward yes, I had to admit that it’s getting pretty dusty here at World on Shuffle headquarters.

So many ideas. So few blog posts. Nine months of crickets.

I keep an impressive list of potential blog topics. Many of them are quite fleshed out and simply require my hands on the keyboard. However, that seems to be the final stage of their existence. Some of them perish because they just aren’t very good ideas. Most of them die at the hands of Twitter, emails, Temple Run, Instagram, Plants vs Zombies or any of the many other seductive distractions enticing and serenading me from my iPad and iPhone.

Yes, I am addicted to distraction at times. Some of these detours are productive, but the blog gets dusty and lonely. Like talk, thinking is cheap. Thinking is easy, blogging is hard. It requires work and focus. Commitment. Action.

My pledge is to blog twice a week at the very least. Please feel free to remind me when it doesn’t happen. If I don’t respond I am probably tending to my son’s Zombie Farm and calling it productivity.