Writing is a commitment, and we don’t do it if we don’t make time for it. Want to know how to write 1,000 words every day around a 9-5 job? Guest author Matt Hearnden takes us through his process.
1. Stay Away from Drugs (TV and Social Media)
I’m addicted to Netflix. And Twitter. And Facebook.
I get sucked in. I lose myself. Nothing else matters.
Sometimes they’re useful. There’ll be an inspiring quote, or a helpful article, or I’ll laugh at The Office.
Most of the time I’m consuming stuff I don’t care about.
I catch myself and think, “What am I doing?”
Putting it off. Listening to fear. Refusing to decide what’s important.
I could be spending that time writing, reading, listening to podcasts, watching interviews with “successful” people, and coming up with ideas.
When I watch TV and browse social media, I feel guilty.
When I write, I feel alive.
2. Write Every Morning and Evening
When I had a 9-5, I got up at 6 a.m. every morning, even though I lived just five minutes from the office, and I read for 30 minutes and I wrote 250 words.
The first thing I did when I got home was write in my journal. Before unpacking, before eating, before relaxing.
I showed myself how important it was to me. I showed myself that commitment was my priority. I showed myself I could commit and was committing.
I’m grateful for the times I didn’t feel like writing because it meant I could make a choice about who I was.
I could write. I could not write.
I know what the Real Me would do.
3. Keep a Journal
I wrote, and write, in my journal every day. Before work, after work, during work. Yes, during.
I’d kept a journal before, but that was for therapy. I loved writing my thoughts down on paper, but they were raw and unstructured and far from deliberate practice.
Once I decided I wanted to commit to writing, I wrote every single page as if I’d publish it.
I have published some of them. I will publish more of them.
I think it’s some of my best writing. But (I hope) you’ll be the judge of that.
Writing in my journal helps me reach my 10,000 hours. It’s deliberate practice. It’s the fuel of mastery.
4. Never Go Out
We went to a pub and then to a bar. I drank a lot: cider, cocktails, and shots. I was drunk.
I woke up the next day feeling terrible. I was sick. I tried to sleep it off. I was sick again. Eventually I had no more sick in me and I fell asleep.
I woke up at 2:30 p.m. I felt better, but not right.
I usually wake up at 6:30 a.m., so I woke up eight hours after I usually wake up.
How much could I have got done? How many words could I have written? How many people could I have helped?
The pang in my chest is strong at times, especially on Friday and Saturday night. I envy people who aren’t on a mission.
For a few seconds.
And then I’m back to being me. The Real Me.
Back to being proud I’ve chosen to commit.
Does the Real You want to go out, or does the Real You want to stay home and work on what you love?
There’s no wrong answer.
There’s just your right one.
I was scared to do this for a long time.
“But I could spend more time writing! And reading! And coming up with ideas!”
I read about all these entrepreneurs who slept for four hours a week (all numbers approximate) because they just couldn’t stop working and they wanted success and if only they didn’t have to sleep because then they could rule the world.
A team USA trainer told the world how he received a call from Kobe Bryant at 4:15 a.m. to help him work out. They worked out for a couple of hours until Kobe allowed him to go back to his hotel and sleep. The trainer came back at 11 a.m., when practice officially started, and asked Kobe what time he finished.
“Getting your shots up. What time did you leave the facility?”
“Oh, just now. I wanted 800 makes, so yeah, just now.”
The trainer then wrote: “My jaw dropped. Mother of holy God.”
My point is, we love people who don’t sleep and yet humans can survive longer without food or water than without any sleep.
Is that insane?
Kobe’s made over $300 million during his career, he’s won five championships, and is considered one of the greatest players ever. So maybe I’m insane.
I can push through without sleep, but why bother? If I sleep eight hours a night, I’m more creative and have more energy — and, if nothing else, I like sleeping. I had a nap just now and I’m feeling energised, which has led to productivity, which has led to creativity. It’s also led to feeling good. Since when did that stop being enough?
The more I sleep, the easier it is to choose commitment.
I don’t believe in coincidence.
6. Come up with 10 Ideas Every Day
10 things about coming up with 10 ideas a day:
- Buy Become an Idea Machine: Because Ideas Are the Currency of the 21st Century by Claudia Azula Altucher. It’s 99p, so stop making excuses.
- I’ve been doing it for a couple of months or so and I’ve become noticeably more creative. Whether it’s articles, ideas for other people, what kind of idea list to come up with, I have the answers. It’s why I’m writing this post!
- It’s fun because it’s a challenge. The first few are usually easy. Then it gets hard. As Claudia would say, it’s like lifting weights. The first few you can do without problem, but then it gets harder, and harder, and the last one is almost impossible. But you do it. And you feel great for doing it. Invincible. It’s the same with ideas.
- It’s better than watching TV. After watching TV, I feel relaxed, but I feel guilty because I’ve probably just wasted time. After coming up with ideas, I feel inspired. That’s an easy choice.
- If you can’t come up with 10 ideas, come up with 20. Sometimes I have bad ideas. Really bad. I’m not writing that down, I’ll think. But it stays there. In my mind. Teasing me. Until I give in. Until I surrender. I write it down. The idea river flows.
- You have ideas about things you never thought you’d have ideas about. My friend’s girlfriend asked me if I had any ideas for how she could get into a certain industry. It was an industry I had no experience with, but I found myself getting excited about the different ideas I was coming up with. “Oh yeah, I hadn’t thought about that,” she said a few times while looking at me with wide eyes. What a feeling.
- You’ll be able to come up with the idea list “10 additional ways to stay committed.” When you do, send it to me.
- Your friends will be interested, but none of them will do anything about it.
- No one will care. People don’t think becoming an “Idea Machine” will make you money. Neither will watching TV four hours a night, but okay. Read the book and see what Claudia says about ideas and money. Also, google “James Altucher 10 ideas” and read his articles.
- Never do any of your ideas. Seriously. Write them down and throw them away. This is just practice. This is just to become an “Idea Machine” for when you — and I — really need it. If my saying this has made you think, “But I want to do that one idea I had,” still don’t do it. Now, if you’re thinking “but I have to do that idea,” maybe you’re onto something.
7. Love Your Excuses
Whenever I love something, I get curious about it. I want to explore it, to know it, and to “solve” it.
My excuses guide me. They show me what I’m missing. They shine a light on something I was pretending not to know existed.
I’m not in the mood to write.
I’m not trying to be a bodybuilder.
I didn’t want to talk to her anyway.
Is everything I think an excuse?
I used to stop at the excuse and feel frustrated I was creating it.
The only reason I make excuses is because I’m trying to help myself.
I’m trying to help myself not be scared, or protect myself from failure, or save myself from rejection.
There’s logic there.
There’s also unhappiness. Anger. Paralysis.
It’s okay to love my excuses, because excuses mean I’m trying to move forward.
It’s not okay to keep making excuses, because that’s telling myself excuses are more important than moving forward.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it now: I write what I need to learn.
8. Stop Making Excuses
I need to do my ideas list for today, so here it is:
10 Ideas of When to Write for People Who Don’t Make Excuses
When I had a 9-5 job, I’d get up at 6 a.m. — even though I lived a five-minute drive away — because I wanted to write in the morning. I wouldn’t write much — 100 words in my journal, maybe. But I started my day by not making excuses and I felt powerful.
I’d go downstairs to an empty room for maybe just 15 minutes and write about 100 words. If you work 200 days a year, that’s 20,000 words. That’s a book.
As Soon as You Get in from Work
Even if all I wanted to do was start watching The Office, or cook, or lay on my bed…I wrote. I knew how important writing was to me, and this showed it.
In Place of a Cigarette Break (at Work)
This way you commit to two things: writing, and quitting smoking. If you take a few cigarette breaks per day, and they each last about five minutes, then you could write at least 100 words in total. That’s another 20,000 words.
When All Your Friends Go out on Friday Night
Sometimes I’d feel a pang in my chest and I’d want to put my laptop down, get changed, and rush out to meet them. But then I’d ask myself, “What’s truly important to me? Getting drunk with my friends, or ‘beating on my craft?'”
Instead of Going on a Date
She lived about two hours away, but it was guaranteed sex, and she’s hot, so of course it was a resounding “YES.”
We never connected. I didn’t think I love spending time with her. The last time we’d seen each other at my house, in the morning, all I could think was, I want her to leave. The sex was good, but the conversation wasn’t.
If I had the choice between writing 1,000 more words or going on a date with any girl I know right now, I’d choose writing. Every time.
So I did. I texted her: “I can’t make it.” She texted back: “That’s cool.” To my future son: when a woman says, “That’s cool,” it isn’t.
You might think that’s sad. You might be right.
When You Have to Take Your Dad to a Hospital That’s Two Hours Away at 4 A.M.
I could’ve got up at 3:55 a.m., not showered, and driven there.
I could’ve got up at 3:45 a.m., showered, and driven there.
I got up at 3 a.m., wrote 250 words, and then we drove there.
It would’ve been so easy to not write. But I don’t write because it’s easy. I write because I love it. Maybe I’ll be successful, maybe I wont.
It’s already worth it.
Write 1,000 Words after Traveling Back from London and Arriving Home at 2 A.M.
I didn’t want to write. I really didn’t. Especially not 1,000 words.
But I’d made a deal with myself: 2,000 words a day. There’s no “unless” after that.
It was so hard, and I didn’t know if I could do it, but that’s the beauty of a journal. I wrote about how I didn’t know if I could do it while I was doing it.
I fell asleep a few times in between typing. Writing has never been as hard as it was then.
I did it.
Before Meeting My University Friends
I got up at 7 a.m. I left at 8 a.m. I beat the traffic. I got to Portsmouth at about 10 a.m. I parked. I walked to Starbucks. I ordered my iced coffee (I love iced coffee). I chose a table. It was busy and loud. It was hard to focus.
But I wrote those 1,000 words and I felt amazing knowing I’d written them because I showed myself how committed I was.
I could’ve got up at 10 a.m. Lazed around. Left at about midday. Got there at 2 p.m. Met with my friends.
I say I’m committed, but am I? That’s what I would’ve thought. I would’ve felt guilty.
I felt proud.
When I’m Exhausted from Being on Holiday and I Just Want to Relax
I was in the library earlier and I’d written about 300 words when I felt it.
The impulse to switch off.
“I can’t be bothered,” I thought.
So I stopped being bothered. I packed up, walked to the car, drove home, and slept.
After I’d written a few more hundred words.
I’m starting to love the moments when I can’t be bothered, when I’d rather be doing something else, when I’d rather be someone else.
Because I get to choose.
Writing is easy when I’m feeling motivated, because the words strut onto the page.
It’s when they hide, and stumble, and look around for help…that’s when it’s hard.
That’s when not being committed would be the easiest thing in the world.
But I didn’t start committing because I thought it would be easy. I wanted to commit because it’s who I wanted to be.
And now it’s who I am.
Watching TV was easy. Sleeping was natural. Swiping left or right wasn’t something I put off.
I wanted to start a business, and that I procrastinated on.
I didn’t think I was procrastinating, though. Well, okay. I did. But I’m good at bullshitting myself, so I believed it.
Well, what I’m good at is convincing myself I believe my own bullshit when, deep down, I know exactly what I’m doing.
I indulged it because I pretended procrastination was productivity.
I read article after article after article about being an entrepreneur.
100 reasons you should be an entrepreneur. 5 common myths about entrepreneurship. How you can work 25 hours a day as an entrepreneur.
There are worse ways to procrastinate, but wasting time is wasting time.
I was reading an article one day when lightning struck and lit up a part of me I’d been blackening.
“This isn’t that good. I think I could do better.”
I started writing a post every week or so and putting it on my Facebook business page. For some reason it didn’t lead to thousands of clients instantly — even though I was obviously so wise and articulate and entertaining.
But, still, I wanted more. I wanted to write for websites. Established websites. I wanted everyone to read what I wrote and realise how incredible I was and pay me money to save their lives.
I got on one established website, but I still wasn’t taking it seriously. I’d write about one post per month and submit it and usually it would get published.
Then I wanted more. I wanted to get on other websites. More websites.
Then I wanted more, again. I wanted commitment. To me. To my craft.
I wanted commitment because I wanted to get better.
I wanted to write deliberately.
I wanted to write 1,000 words per day.
I’d finally found something I wanted to spend 10,000 hours doing.
Something that made me bleed and get up early for and think about in the shower.
How do you get over that bad habit of procrastination?
You get into it.
10. Say “No”
To “networking” events.
To checking your phone.
I’m reading a book called Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown, and it’s already changing the way I look at life.
How much time do you waste? How much time do you spend doing things that aren’t important? How much time do you spend being scared of doing things that are the most important to you?
A lot. A lot. A lot.
Those would’ve been my answers even just a few weeks ago, and it was only when I started reading that book that I gave myself permission to give up the unimportant.
Up until a few weeks ago I’d check my phone every few minutes while writing.
It was unconscious. I’d finish a sentence and reach out and unlock it without even thinking.
Every time I say “no” to checking my phone, I say “yes” to focussing on writing. And when that happens, I write more in less time. It’s easier to get in “the zone,” in “flow.” When that happens the words gush like a river, over rocks, through mountains.
That makes me feel superhuman.
I’ll say “yes” to that.
11. Know Who the Real You Is
You’re reading this for a reason.
You could be doing anything else. You could be watching TV, taking a walk, playing basketball, scrolling mindlessly (like me) through social media, reading something else, laughing with friends, on a date, having sex.
But you’re not. You’re here reading an article about how to, finally, commit to something.
“I want to commit to writing.”
I wrote that in my journal a few months ago and felt the heaviness of pressure in my stomach.
But, then, it built in my gut and thundered to my face as a smile.
That surprised me.
I didn’t know the combination of excitement and relief existed.
“It feels like I’ve wanted something to commit to for a long time…and here it is.”
I remember telling my parents that and I remember feeling whole.
I was finally indulging the Real Me.
When you’re the Real You, what will you do?
12. Give Up
I didn’t know it until recently, but I’ve always wanted to give up.
I was desperate to give up, but I thought I was desperate to hold on, to be more, to be everything.
I was wrong.
I want to give up every day.
Wondering if I’m good enough.
Everyone else’s expectations of me.
Who I think I should be.
Being anything I’m not.
Being someone I’m not.
When I give up all these things, I get closer to being who I really am.
I’m never more committed than when I’m the Real Me because I know I’ll do what I want without fear, without judgment, without wondering if I’m good enough.
I’ll do it with love, with reckless abandon, with all of me.
When I give up, I feel lighter. I feel like there’s more space in me.
Only in that space can I decide who I am, who I want to be.
I want to be someone who commits.
I am someone who commits.
Lead image by Rennett Stowe