750 Words

Follow up on 750

A few weeks ago I wrote about a great technique that helped me get through writer’s block.

  • Make an attainable goal of writing 750 words every day. If you’re not a writer you can set a goal of spending 30 minutes on whatever your creative endeavor is.
  • It doesn’t matter what you’re working on. The important thing is that you get into the habit of doing it.
  • Now the key is to find a buddy to email everyday when you’re done. Don’t email your writing, just the word “done” to let them know that you’re sticking to it.

This feeling of accountability was really helpful for me because I like having a deadline. I found that it was easier for me to blog than to work on my creative writing because blogging is public, and my creative writing is private. People would notice if I stop blogging, but no one would notice if I stopped working on a short story.

Most people do not have it in them to be their own boss. We need assignments, deadlines, and reviews. But with creative work, you need to be the talent and the management.

Since I started this process I have written over 70 pages. At first it was extremely challenging to write 750 words (approximately 3 pages), but now I’m so used to blocking out that time each day that I end up writing over 2000 words a day on average now. I’m working on two projects and both of them were intimidating concepts, but I figured I might as well get started on them, because I had to write about something.

I’m so glad I started using this technique, and I hope it can serve you as well ūüôā If you don’t have a friend to do this with, you can use this website.

The magic of 750

If you were to hack into my email account you’d find something very strange. For the past three weeks my fiance has been sending me a blank email with the subject line: done. I respond with the word ditto. You would have no idea that this simple exchange has helped me to write over 20 pages about Albert Einstein and has helped Mike create music.

Three weeks ago Mike and I were kvetching about how hard it is to motivate ourselves to be creatively productive – even though that’s the one thing we really want to do. We realized that one of the challenges is that it really doesn’t matter if we don’t produce. The world won’t stop turning, no one’s going to yell at us, and we’re not going to get an F on our report card. The only one who cares is ourselves, and when we don’t work on our creative endeavors it leads to guilt, and then doubt, and then we sit and wonder if we really want to be writers/ composers/ artists at all. It’s too hard to rely on intrinsic motivation. What we needed was some gentle external motivation.

That’s when I remembered an article I read in O magazine months ago.¬†A writer made a pact with her friend that she would write 750 words a day, and when she was done, she would email her friend the word: done. She didn’t share the writing, just the simple fact that it was done. I didn’t think highly of the process when I read the article, but when Mike and I were trying to think of a way to motivate each other this came to mind.

Mike, who wants to compose music, said he would spend at least 30 minutes a day on it. I said I would write at least 750 words. We promised that we would each send each other an email when we were done.

I cannot tell you how much this has helped me. I had a very ambitious idea for a story, and I was too intimidated to start it. The first morning I checked my email and saw Mike’s done, I gritted my teeth and started writing. I had no idea what to write so I started writing about the character in my head. It’s been like this every day. When I get his email I reluctantly open my word document, but after about 200 words I’m totally engrossed. I usually end up writing far more than 750 words, but I still feel just as accomplished when I do the bare minimum – those are the days that I really didn’t feel like writing, so it means even more to me that I actually did it.

It’s a very small unit of work, but when done¬†consistently¬†it builds up quickly. The great thing about this tip is that you can do it with anyone since you’re really not asking them to do anything except receive an email from you once a day. If you start doing this, let me know how it goes!