The time again:
I was asked by a new internet friend of mine about my content strategy.
Or the methodology / ‘step-by-step’ guide for writing.
How is it that in the year of 2020 I managed to write over 300,000 words, run my marketing agency and do a bunch of other random things which you can read about in my 2020 review?
And how now I have in my spare time – written 21,000 words in the last 9 days (by the time today is done it’ll hopefully be 23,000 words – let’s see).
With all of this context in mind – I thought I’d walk you through step-by-step my (ever-evolving) guide to producing content all-year-round and being in ‘beast mode’
For reference – 1,500 words are the minimum length I want to make one of these blog posts.
Here are the documents I just opened up to give you a sense of where I’m at for this year so far:
So let’s go through, as best as I can, my process for producing content at high volume and my rationale behind all of it (minus the fluff)
This is the hardest one to crack, and the cornerstone of anyone’s success – and I fully expect anyone whose ambitious to take 1 year+ to achieve mastery over something like this.
It’s VERY difficult to be consistent as it’s not in human nature.
We get bored, lose motivation, and often don’t see any reward for our labour of love.
That means of course – as with many new endeavours – you start with gusto, but then very quickly lose your way, not because of competing interests…
It’s because you get bored.
And the hardest part of writing is overcoming boredom and lack of results and keeping writing.
Victory lies on the other side of boredom, just as results lie on the other side of no results.
The practical secret to writing consistently is to NOT set any goal other than ‘I must write every day’.
I’m talking even 50 words writen. I’m talking about something that will take you less than 5 minutes to do – thus meaning there is ALWAYS time to write something.
Of course, I don’t mean email or otherwise.
I mean something that is amusing, a thought, non-work related or close. Whether it turns into a blog, a novella, a white paper – all of that is not important.
Not when compared against the mantra of ‘write every day.’
Don’t get me wrong – I still fail at this. All the time. Over Christmas 2002 I had several off days. Over Christmas 2019, I had even more off days. Christmas 2018 I doubt I wrote one word.
Think about that.
For me, it’s been years. It’s literally taken several Christmases to get to a place where writing has become more habitual – and it has stopped ‘competing’ with my other responsibilities.
Rather – it’s part of my default routine.
So yes, writing consistently is key.
As Woody Allen said – “80% of life is just showing up”.
So respect yourself and just….show up!
How To Write Consistently
So let’s get into the mechanics of it.
Setting yourself an extremely achievable goal is one part of it.
Most people correlate a new task with it being gruelling and akin to warfare.
Maybe that’s what people focus upon in motivational types videos and all.
You see the dude sweating buckets. You see a kind of ‘hoo-rah’ type scenario where it feels like you need to develop grit and mental toughness to make writing (or developing any new habit) happen.
Seeing a ‘hoo-rah’ type example carries momentary motivation and leads you down an insidious path.
Adrenaline, excitement and dopamine get released – and you go out with all of this newfound energy and try and kill the page (and yourself the first time you go out and write).
Subsequently – it sucks away your life force, you DO cover lots of ground and so show off and feel proud of yourself.
As you should. You tell everybody and everybody responds with the ‘wow’s’, the ‘well done’s’ and the ‘I could never do that’s!’.
And this is where all the damage starts.
This makes your brain and body associate this new-activity, or a fresh way of looking at the old activity as – brutal, harsh, unforgiving and very draining.
Think about that.
The message you’re sending your brain, about this new/revitalised activity – is that it is one of intensity and torment.
Let’s be honest – can you maintain that level of intensity day in and day out? (I know I can’t).
That’s why you need to reframe the way you look at writing, because once you build such an association with what’s ultimately a powerful activity – we only do ourselves an injustice.
You’ll quickly associate that task with failure, an energy sucker and all things that will lead to massive writing inertia.
Write Less to Write More
This is why you should write less.
Yes, I mean that – to write more you need to write less.
Take away the intensity associated with writing, and hone in on completion.
It is far more important to be consistent than it is intense.
Consistency will beat intensity any day of the week over time.
And actually, consistency can lead to someone else’s version of intensity all by itself which we will discuss in the next tip.
So – to underline the problems with an intensity I’ll tell you about my Audible journey.
I realised, come in the middle of the lockdown that I was no longer consistently educating myself.
That apart from the odd intense patch here and there, where for a few weeks I would devour content – nothing outside of this would happen on an ongoing basis.
It would be sporadic, hit and miss, and minus these spurts there would be nothing else happening.
And without new inputs, and new ideas, well there was no inspiration (which is pretty important when it comes to writing).
It all changed when it hit me in May 2020 that I must read and learn more. I think I’d read on a blog somewhere that Bill Gates credited reading for a big part of his success and that billionaire Mark Cuban famously reads for 3 hours a day.
This was all I needed to hear – and with gusto, I kicked off.
Now being a big fan of audible, I re-familiarized myself with the platform got back onto the listening wagon.
From May 15th – August 15th I got after it and I must have listened to 25+ books.
It was an amazing experience and I got so much from it. It’s (ironically) difficult to put it into words.
Reading for 90 minutes per day though was too much for me.
I stopped being able to build the 2.5 hours needed into my day to get the reading out. It became a chore, it became a big stressor in my mind and slowly the reading fell away as the hours I put in decreased each month.
I went from around 40 hours of listening to a month to 37, 33, 25, 19, 11, 3 and finally to 0.
And in the meanwhile – my writing had picked up pace.
What Reading Taught Me About Writing Consistently
Attacking reading with this much venom had lead to the bathtub effect where I started with massive impetus, then slowly it dropped away.
However, I did manage to get through more or less 60 books.
Yes, you read it right – 60 books. And as you can imagine – when you listen to 60 non-fiction audio’s and study, make notes and try to immerse yourself in what they teach you – you learn a HELL of a lot.
Amongst these books were several books on personal development, several books on writing, and several books on mental toughness.
All perfect grounding to cement a ‘writing habit’.
Through reading books such as ‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear, ‘Deep Work’ by Cal Newport, ‘On Writing’ By Stephen King and ‘The Resistance’ by Stephen Pressfield – I developed a framework to just churn out content, as regularly as possible for me.
Here’s what reading has taught me specifically about writing:
Mindset comes before strategy
This is why I’ve not yet given you one ‘in the weed’s’ (don’t worry I’ll give you them all) tactic for writing consistently.
Instead, I’m banging on about being consistent, not worrying about word count or content, and instead to get into the habit of writing every day.
Writing needs to become so ingrained in your brain that it moves from:
How can I write daily?
To, ‘ok I’ve started writing daily’
And onto, ‘wow I managed a 5-day streak’
To ‘Look how many bloody words I wrote Margaret – 3,450 words!’
And then sliding into ‘Writing was tough today – but it got done’
To ultimately start to get you to: ‘It wasn’t much but I wrote today, like 100 words’
‘Woah – a second wind, I’m writing EVERY DAY NOW’
‘Ok I’m still inconsistent – what can I learn about the writing process that I don’t know right now’
To ‘Woah I read ‘The Resistance’ yesterday to
‘I am bored of telling people how cool it is to write, I’d just rather get on with it’
‘I had no idea that even with all those ups and downs (not writing for 6-months last year) I’d still push out 312,000 words’
To finish up in the space of ‘I just write every day now. It’s almost like autopilot. I don’t even talk about it anymore because it’s just something I do’
Which will lead you to writing a blog like this lol with a title of ‘How I wrote 21,000 words in my spare time in 9 days’ lol.
So the question is:
Ask yourself if you love writing?
If you do – bonus – climbing the mountain (like it has been for me) will be easier than if you DON’T like writing.
It’s most likely that if you’re not massively into writing that you’re going to struggle IN THE BEGINNING when compared to someone who does love writing.
If you do love it, then this blog motivates you and you’re looking for the ‘how’ type of stuff.
If you DON’T love it – you need to:
Find Your Why:
For me, my why, is for the enjoyment of communication. For the inner tranquillity and meditativeness, I get from writing.
I can retreat into myself, and really communicate my thoughts to the world.
I find it difficult to truly put my thoughts into speeches, words or conversation a lot of the time.
But with writing, I get an outlet for my musings, my wanderings – and I’ve seen the general happiness that writing brings me.
And this ‘google’ I’ve just done (I know – it’s a loaded search) underlines probably why it’s so impactful for me.
I’m someone (like many entrepreneurs) who’s suffered from anxiety and stress – and this commitment to writing every day has kept the wolves at bay.
So – what’s your why?
It needs to be bigger than yourself to make it all worthwhile, and disconnected from commercial gains.
i.e if you’re reading this as a guide to ‘how can I make money from blogging’ – I’m NOT going to talk to you about keyword research, skyscraper content and any of that malarky – there are other places for that – and you can often outsource such content.
All these words are mine lol.
Once you’ve found your why – keep reading.
If you haven’t – figure out what that is and pause here for the moment.
Build a supportive ecosystem for your writing
So now you’ve found your why, you’re aware you need to be consistent, you’re mindful of avoiding burnout, you need to actually get started on your writing journey.
How do you do it?
Well, you CERTAINLY do not do it alone. Which happens too bloody often I’ve seen (or maybe not seen because most people do it this way, never tell anyone more than casually in passing and that’s it dead).