How Writing 1000 Words a Day Can Change YOUR Life

A few years ago, I wrote a piece about how writing 1,000 words a day changed my life. This article led to a two-book deal with a publisher and became the basis for my new book An Audience of One: Reclaiming Creativity for its Own Sake. I have written extensively about how much this habit has changed my life.

The beauty of writing as a way to express your creativity is that it requires very little upfront investment:

  • It can be done anytime from anywhere
  • It can be done with tools you already have pen, paper, laptop
  • It costs nothing

Julien Smith was the one who got me into this habit of writing 1,000 words a day. When I interviewed him in 2013, he had one of the most popular blogs on the Internet, had written a bestseller, and worked with Seth Godin on The Domino Project.

He is now the founder of a venture-funded start-up called Breather. His results are more than a convincing argument for developing this habit.

Writing 1000 words a day is a habit with minimal investment and an exponential ROI, so let’s talk about how much it can change your life in this post.

Writing 1000 Words a Day Leads to Visible Progress

How Writing 1000 Words a Day Can Change your Life

Photo Credit: Sonny Ravesteijn

Progress is the antidote to perfection. When it comes to results in our lives, we tend to have an all or nothing mentality.

  • We hit the number or we didn’t
  • It has met our expectations, or it has not

But in doing so, we overlook or completely ignore progress. As a result, we shift from a growth mindset to a fixed one. Ignoring progress, however insignificant it might appear is cutting off a wellspring of motivation.

If writing 1000 words a day feels too ambitious or unrealistic, measure something else.

  • Measure the number of consecutive days you show up
  • Measure the time you spend each day writing

It is important to show the brain that visible progress is being made.

Writing 1000 Words a Day Gives You the Power to Tell your Story

person holding string lights on opened book

Photo Credit: Nong Vang

Your life is a story of events, circumstances, experiences, and emotions. But who tells this story? Is it your parents, peers, and society? Is it the gurus and experts you put on pedestals? Is it internet trolls who hate something you have written? Or is it a story you have written?

The habit of writing 1000 words a day makes you the author of your life story. You have to decide what to leave, what to edit, and what to trash.

Instead of doing life by default, you do it of your own free will. You form the expression of your soul according to your own desires. You begin to tap into the power to create your own reality.

Writing 1000 Words a Day Increase Your Productivity

silver iMac with keyboard and trackpad inside room

Photo Credit: Carl Heyerdahl

Writing 1000 words a day is a form of deep work that requires all your attention and forces you to avoid multitasking. One of the triggers for flow is clear goals. If you aim to reach a number of words, write a certain time, or commit to appearing for a certain number of days, clarity is enhanced and flow triggered, resulting in a drastic increase in your productivity.

Writing 1000 words a day Makes You Happier

woman in white and black striped shirt standing on yellow sunflower field during daytime

Photo Credit: Antonino Visalli

If you take the time to write every day, you can disconnect from the world around you and indulge in solitude. Even if you only create a short window of uninterrupted creation time, you will find that a writing practice can be incredibly therapeutic.

Professor and author James Pennebaker from the University of Texas has researched and written extensively about the impact that writing can have on healing trauma. In one of his studies, he found that participants experienced the following:

  • Long-term improvement in mood and well-being indicators compared to participants who wrote about control issues
  • Beneficial effects on immune function, including T-helper cell growth, antibody response to Epstein-Barr virus, and antibody response to hepatitis B vaccines
  • Improvements in grades
  • Find new jobs faster after layoffs and write about the experience.

This simple habit, which lasts less than an hour a day, can make us happier, healthier and more successful.

Writing 1000 Words a Day Changes Other Areas of your Life

Keystone habits are powerful because they have the potential to change habits in every other area of your life.

Shortly after I started writing 1,000 words a day, I read more books. What followed was a meditation habit and finally, this 8-step daily routine that helped me read 100 books a year, write several articles and two books.

Putting it into practice

person writing on brown wooden table near white ceramic mug

Photo Credit: Green Chameleon

Design the Right Environment: Half the battle to track every behavior is to design an environment that is beneficial to the person you want to be. If you set up the right environment, it will be much easier to track your desired behavior.

Reduce activation energy: The most important step in designing the right environment is to reduce activation energy, i.e. the number of steps you need to take to act on the desired behavior. In the case of developing a daily writing habit, the following 4 steps are the necessary activation energy:

  1. Find something to write with
  2. Find Something to Write on
  3. Decide where you want to write
  4. Decide how long you will write

You can easily reduce activation energy by doing a few simple things that all increase the likelihood that you will stick to them.

  1. Choose what you want to write the night before
  2. Decide in advance what you will need: a computer, notebook, etc
  3. Select a place where you write in advance.
  4. Set up all your writing tools the night before. If you’re using a computer, open a Word document or a distraction-free command prompt so that it’s the first thing you see when you open the laptop.

The goal is to eliminate as many steps between you and the desired action as possible. Although these activities may seem small, the fewer steps there are between you and your desired habit, the more likely you are to perform the habit.

Always have a notebook with you: I have said before that you should always have a notebook with you. Our ideas do not come according to a fixed schedule: Sometimes they come when we are in the middle of an in-depth conversation with a friend. Other times they come when we are stuck in a traffic jam or on a 9-mile stretch of road.

A notebook is a platform for your imagination. It allows you to sow seeds not only for your ideas but also for the person you ultimately want to become.

UTILIZE THE POWER OF SUCCESS ACCELERANTS

For anyone who doesn’t write every day, a blank page can be scary. Fortunately, the solution is simple: instead of starting with a blank page, start with a quote or something someone else has written.

Why does it work? It allows you to harness the power of the success accelerants. The brain makes progress towards a goal based on the perceived distance to the goal. When the gap gets smaller, progress accelerates.

For example, if the quotation or passage you start your writing hour with is 25 words, the perceived distance from the target is only 975 words. This simple idea was crucial to developing my writing habit. This is just one of the many reasons why I read before I write.

READ BEFORE YOU WRITE

Writing without reading is a bit like trying to cook without ingredients. At best, the stove is covered with pots and pans, at worst, the house burns down.

If you read before you write, you prime your brain. You give yourself ingredients. This will make it much easier for you to write 1000 words a day

The overwhelming majority of ideas I have for articles are the result of something I have read.

SCHEDULE IT

When you put something in a calendar, it is more likely that it will get done. When you put something in your calendar, it goes from something in your head that you want to do to a time-bound commitment. That’s why I believe that calendars, despite a combination of both, are more effective than to-do lists.

REDUCE THE SCOPE BUT STICK TO THE SCHEDULE

If we reduce the scope but stick to the schedule, our habits will not become an all-or-nothing proposal that ultimately leads us to abandon a new habit altogether.

  • Instead of writing 1,000 words a day, you write 500.
  • Instead of reading a whole book, you read 10 pages.

If you reduce the scope but stick to the schedule, you stay in motion. You build up momentum. And you experience progress. Progress motivates and at some point, the habit persists.

TAKE SMALL CONSISTENT ACTIONS

How Writing 1000 Words a Day Can Change YOUR Life 1

People often underestimate the effect of small consequent actions and do nothing instead.

  • From the desire to write 3 pages, they write nothing.
  • The desire to read a book becomes nothing.

It is easy to forget that small actions add up over time.

  • 10 pages a day for 30 days and you read a book.
  • One paragraph a day for a week and you write essays and blog posts

It is not a lack of time, but a lack of priorities that prevents people from doing so. Small, consistent actions also build up our ability to stretch. Small actions create momentum. Snowballs become avalanches.

We write off small, consistent actions because we can’t see their impact at the moment, but it’s a bit like trying to drive from LA to Chicago and wondering why we’re not there when we haven’t left our driveway

We forget that every day we have the opportunity to plant seeds, and some of these seeds will bear fruit. Our job as creators is to plant seeds. A page, a paragraph, a brushstroke, with each small act of creative expression, we lay the foundation for something greater.

Do not underestimate the impact of small, consistent measures. It is wonderful to dream and to have big visions, but all too often our big visions prevent us from doing the little things we could be doing.

How Long Does it Take to Write a 1000 Word Blog Post?

There are three main variables that determine how long it takes to write 1000 word blog post?

What’s Your Experience Level?

Like any other skill, writing 1000 words a day is something you have to learn. The more you practice, the better you’ll get. The better you get the faster you’ll be able to write 1000 words.

How Distracted Are You?

Nothing will make it take longer for you to write 1000 words than endless digital distractions. If you are constantly shifting tasks, switching between browser tabs, and checking email or social media, it will take much longer than it would otherwise.

If you want to increase your attention span, eliminate the competition for it.

  1. Block digital distractions using a tool like Rescuetime or Freedom
  2. Use a distraction-free writing tool like Notion
  3. Clear your desk of everything when you’re writing. Clutter can also be a distraction

If you do these 3 things, it will take you a lot less time to write 1000 words.

Are You in a Flow State?

According to Steven Kotler, when people are in a flow state, they experience a 500% increase in productivity. When I’m out of flow, writing 1000 words will 45 mins. But when I’m in the flow I can write more than 1500 words in a fraction of the time. The key to achieving flow is focusing on nothing other than writing 1000 words.

OVERCOMING RESISTANCE

All of us who write face resistance. Resistance comes in many forms: self-judgment, a voice of self-doubt, or the vicious critic who leaves us a 1-star review. To this day, the only review of mine I can quote by heart is from the woman who said, “I hope this guy is a better surfer than he is a writer.” Dani Shapiro echoed my feelings in her amazing book Still Writing:

Press many of us– including those you’d think might have moved beyond this– and you will discover that we can quote you the most painful passages from our worst reviews. We can give you a list of critics who are dismissive of our work.

Action is the antidote to resistance. With every further word we get on the page, we wrap this dragon of resistance until we lay it out and chop off its head.

Amber Rae once told me: “You want to accumulate pages, not judgments. So fill your pages with crappy first sentences and crappy first drafts. You have to fight the dragon of resistance every day, but if you keep coming back, you will be able to take it out quickly.

A daily writing habit is one of the simplest ways to regain creativity for its own sake and to harness the benefits of work for an audience.

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© 2019 Unmistakable Creative Podcast

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