Lake Adventures + Write More, Better
By Jessica Albon
This morning I'm writing you from a deck overlooking Lake Norman. Pretty, huh?
About a month ago, my coach issued a challenge. My assignment was to go somewhere for several weeks. (I'm kind of a homebody and tend to limit vacations to 5 days or less.) Most importantly, I wasn't to check email or voice mails for a full two weeks while I was away.
I knew I'd chicken out if I didn't do it right away, so I took immediate action. Booked a dog-friendly house right on Lake Norman for Iz and I to escape to. And that's where we've been for the past three weeks as I write this–we've been having a blast!
Seriously, what is it about being on vacation that makes even grocery shopping more fun and less of a chore?
This week, I've gotten back to doing a bit of work. I'll admit, the view is more than a bit distracting! One of the tasks I've been tackling is to read through my folder of reader questions. Each week, I receive 5-10 questions from new subscribers. While I answer as many as I can, I always have an overflow.
Lately many of these reader questions have to do with a certain piece of writing advice that's been floating around. Maybe you've heard it. It goes something like this:
"If you want to promote your business with writing, and you want to be any good at it, you've got to write 10,000 words a day."
So people have been writing to ask if I think this is good advice, and if there's something I'd recommend instead that might be a little less of a time commitment.
I confess: I type (and write) really fast. My typing speed is up above 100 words per minute these days, and if I'm spending a couple hours writing, I usually average about 2000-3000 words per hour.
So, that means that, for me, writing 10,000 words a day is about a 5 hour commitment. Maybe you have more time than I do (though I doubt it!) but I absolutely cannot afford to spend 5 hours per day on writing my own stuff.
That means that, for me at least, this is an unattainable goal.
Luckily, it's also not even remotely necessary. What's more, I don't buy the argument that doing more of something inherently makes you better at it.
Let's say I decided to learn to play the piano (something I've never done before). To do that, instead of hiring a teacher, or buying a course, or even looking up lessons on YouTube, I decide I'm going to practice playing the piano for five hours every day.
Because I haven't been living under a rock, I'd probably be able to play Chopsticks pretty quickly. But without a teacher, without lessons, without any sort of guidance, I suspect that's about where I'd get stuck.
And this is how it is when you set out to write 10,000 words a day. You might get a bit better through the practice, but it's going to be slow going, and you're mostly only going to be able to do what you already know is possible.
What's more, in order to write fast enough to write 10,000 words per day in any sort of reasonable amount of time, you're going to have to turn off your internal editor. (Which is actually a really good thing to learn, but it's not without its drawbacks.)
When you turn off your internal editor while you write, you'll need to spend extra time editing those 10,000 words in order to make them publishable.
In other words, this is a huge time commitment and only has a tiny payoff.
If you'd like to get a lot more bang for your buck, here's a straightforward approach for improving your writing and increasing your output.
- Double your output. Start by setting a goal to write twice as much as you write currently. If you're writing about 2000 words per week, aim to write 4000.
- Set a daily writing goal. Most of us don't write every day and that's a mistake. The reason writing 10,000 words a day will help you become a better writer is that part of writing (and similar brain tasks) is habit. So, simply getting into the habit of writing every day will help you improve your writing. (It'll also make you a faster writer.) Just break down your new weekly goal into a daily goal. In other words, if your new goal is 4000 words per week, aim for 800 words per day.
- Use quality writing prompts. The biggest problem with the "10,000 words a day" advice is that it tells your internal editor to take a vacation. But you need your internal editor! It's what helps you improve your writing. Rather than sending it on an extended vacation, give it a goal. That's where writing prompts come in. With a prompt like, "Write an article about the biggest mistake you see in your industry," your internal critic knows exactly what you're writing and how to keep you on task. Using writing prompts is the single fastest way I know of to keep both parts of your brain engaged and working towards your goal: more, better writing.
One of the things I packed for my vacation was a copy of "51 Fun Ways to Energize Your Newsletter." This is a book I wrote way back in 2005 that I still use to this day (as do many of my clients). Whenever I'm stumped for topics, or I just want to give my internal editor a goal, I open up my copy and pick a prompt. I think you'll enjoy this little book just as much as I have, and just as much as other readers have. If you'd like one, you can get a copy.
So, there you have it, my "no-you-don't-have-to-write-10,000-words-per-day" plan for writing more, better, faster. Give it a try and let me know how it works for you.
I'm going to get back to enjoying my last few days at the lake–there's a certain someone demanding a swim .
Have a great weekend,
P.S. While I've been out, my team's been working on some new branding materials. I almost can't believe how great they're looking. If you'd like to get a sneak peak, make sure to follow me on Twitter.