Ever heard of the Don’t-Break-The-Chain method that comedian Jerry Seinfeld used to write every day?
Basically, it works like this: You write for a day, mark a big cross on your calendar, then write again the next day, mark another cross, and in this way you soon create a chain in the calendar. As long as you keep writing daily, the chain continues and the goal is to not break the chain.
The number of days you go without breaking the chain? We call it a streak.
Some writers have had streaks that have lasted hundreds of days, while many of us only make it to about thirty or so before having to restart.
Streaks can be useful for all sorts of things, such as fitness, relationships, and business goal-setting.
But for writers, it often comes down to one simple question: Did you put your ass in the chair today and write?
It’s the holiday season, I’ve been traveling (first to London, then to Wales, now I’m in Brighton before heading back to Delhi), so my word count is not as high as on days when I’m at home and in my office, but I wanted to share this because of the lessons it has to teach us.
First, here’s the daily word count from my last few days of the year:
Dec 20: 934 words
Dec 21: 459 words
Dec 22: 373 words
Dec 23: 792 words
Dec 24: 1,400 words
Dec 25: 1,960 words
Dec 26: 2,071 words
Dec 27: 3,212 words
Dec 28: 108 words
That’s a total of 11,309 words over a period of 9 days.
Here are some lessons to consider:
- There are days when I barely wrote (three days have a word count of less than 500), but still, the average of the nine days is quite reasonable because on other days, I wrote a lot more. That is how it will be. It is okay to do less some days knowing that other days you will do more. Don’t expect every day to be the same.
- Every word counts! On a day when I literally had about 10 minutes to write, I showed up anyway and put down those 108 words. It’s about doing what you can, when you can. Showing up is just as important as knocking it out of the park. Because showing up routinely is what allows you to play at that level.
- In the end, I averaged more than 1,000 words a day during these nine days at the end of the year. But had I forced myself to write at the rate of 1,000 words a day, there’s not a chance that I would have been able to do that. Consistency and flexibility proved much more important than daily word count targets.
- I’m writing this from a village just outside of Brighton. In the last two weeks, I’ve stayed in four different cities, towns, and villages, and have managed to write consistently through the entire period. Yet, I had zero expectation that I would. I opened up my computer every day and if the words came, I went with it. If they didn’t, I quickly knew that it wasn’t the day for it and did something else, like go on a walk or build LEGO with my son. This is important so I want you to really hear this: The lack of pressure made it easier to write. And because I had no target, no matter how much I wrote, each writing session was a win.
- We have no wi-fi where we’re currently staying. I’m getting more words on the page. (Go figure.)
Writing streaks have been the key to habit forming for me in the last year. I know that I only have to show up and even as little as a hundred words counts. Of course, most days I end up doing a lot more, but knowing that I can keep it really low keeps me putting my ass in the chair.
The habit of Ass In The Chair is important. I’d say it’s the most important one to develop in 2020.
Of course, in Write With Me 2020, streaks are going to be a big part of how we achieve our collective word count goals. Sprints and Streaks are what will get those books written.
Spots are going fast. Make sure to sign up before they sell out.
To higher word counts in 2020!