Let's say you do write most of the time, but you take one or two days off each week for any number of reasons. That's still a lot of writing. But consider this: at the end of the year, that's roughly 10 weeks, or 2.5 months' worth of days that you didn't write anything.
That's where Jerry Seinfeld's productivity tip "Don't Break the Chain" comes in.
Years ago, when software developer Brad Isaac was performing stand-up at open mic nights, he received his best advice ever from the already-famous comedian.
Seinfeld explained his method for success: each January, he hangs a large year-at-a-glance calendar on his wall and, for every day he wrote new material, he had the exquisite pleasure that can only come from drawing a big red "X" over that day.
Drawing those Xs got to be pretty fun and rewarding, so he kept doing it. Eventually, he began to create a chain of red Xs.
The idea was to never break that chain.
Not only does this approach program the body and mind to sit down and write daily – it also motivates you to continue that beautiful string of big, red Xs. If you don't write one day, you don't get to draw the X.
It doesn't particularly matter what you write. Blogs, articles, scripts, your memoir. It can be anything, as long as you're actively and routinely pushing yourself.
But let's say you're a screenwriter, and you take it a step further. You might decide that you only get an X for the days you work on your screenplays.
If you made progress on your scripts every single day for an entire year, how many could you finish? Two? Four? More? Now, imagine that you've finally gotten the ear of an agent, producer or director. If you don't break the chain for two or three years, chances are you'll end up with a script to please just about any buyer.
Learning from the pros is imperative in this business, but if you don't put their lessons into practice, it won't take you far. And while professional writers offer a wide range of ideas, they will all agree that discipline and determination must come first.
That means writing all the time. It means not believing in writer's block. It means turning off the television, silencing your phone, and finding some Shangri La that somehow does not yet have wireless internet.
First and foremost, it means making writing a major part of your life. To do that, you have to make writing a habit, just like going to the gym, eating healthy foods, or flossing - but harder.
There are countless excuses, most of them completely acceptable, which hold us back from writing. More often than not, it's our never-ending To-do lists that take precedence over our passion.
With Don't Break the Chain, writing, too, becomes a daily task that we have to cross off that To-do list. This method is a constant reminder that, if we want to succeed as writers, we must acknowledge our craft and respect the process.
The Writers Store was launched to provide writers with the tools necessary to help at any stage and in any medium of writing. That’s why we’re offering a free download of your own yearly calendar to print out.
Now, all you need is a pen – the color is up to you – and the goal to draw a big X over every single day.
Are you willing to see how much you can create over an entire year? Are you curious to find out what happens when you take a professional’s heartfelt advice and put it to good use?
Don’t waste another moment – start building your chain today!