A good friend of mine once said: “Every day I write is a good day.”

And after more than ten years of writing I still agree with this statement.

Writing is great. But it’s also hard work.

According to Malcolm Gladwell, to become an expert in anything you need to invest at least 10,000 hours. While that is somewhat an arbitrary number and implies that genius or expertise can be manufactured according to a formula, there is a certain truth in it, nevertheless:

In order to become good at anything, not just satisfactory but really good you need to invest a lot of time and effort.

1. Regularity

Unless you’re disciplined, all you end up with is a lot of empty wine bottles. All through my career I’ve written 1,000 words a day – even if I’ve got a hangover. You’ve got to discipline yourself if you’re a professional. There’s no other way. J.G Ballard

If you want a formula that separates serious writers from those who prefer calling themselves writers to the actual writing-process, this is it.

I would add to this that it doesn’t necessarily matter how many words you write or what your interval is.

You could write 500 words even second day or 200 per day, the main thing is that you stick to some kind of discipline.

In other words: If you’re not working according to a deadline provided by your publisher or employee, set yourself one.

It will become a life-line.

Sometimes it won’t be necessary to follow the pattern because you’re doing it automatically.

But there will be other days on which you’ll want nothing less than to sit down and write.

These are the days where it matters most.

The result doesn’t have to be excellent. The main thing is to keep going.

On good days you’ll effortlessly shoot beyond your self-imposed word-count, on others you’ll struggle to even reach it and gladly put the pen down (or close the lid of your laptop) once you’re done.

In any case, this discipline gives you an important yard-stick to measure your performance, not its quality necessarily but its continuity.

2. Less Internet

The problem with over-using the Internet or computers is not that necessarily that it’s bad for the eyes or that too much sitting will kill your back, although this is probably true, as well.

There’s a deeper reason why, if you want to write professionally, the Internet can become your worst enemy.

Services like Facebook let your executive brain off the hook:

The planning and execution of any task involves the processing of information by multiple brain regions and circuits acting in parallel. Cognitive tasks require the brain to select and configure the appropriate data processing resources; a ‘task set’ controls the moment-to-moment processing of data involved in the execution of a particular task.

Put simply, if you keep clicking Like, Tweet or Stumble too many times a day, your brain will enter a passive mode where there’s little or no conscious decision, evaluation because reactivity rules.

Remember the saying:” Google before you Tweet is the new think before you speak”?

For more information about this, see also A Mindful Guide To Social Media.

3. More Books

“I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

This is a no-brainer. The better the quality of the input, the better the output, at least in theory.

It doesn’t mean that if you read 100 pages of Shakespeare every day you’ll become a Shakespeare, yourself.

No. It’s more like this:

By putting high quality material into your brain, it challenges the processing, thereby improving it.

Seemingly simple, reading is an infinitely complex procedure.

The way we process words into feeling and images is developing the more we nurture it.

In other words: If you are constantly engulfed in great writing, the way you process words will be sharpened and alert, a tool that you can apply to your own sentences to diagnose why one thing works and another one doesn’t.

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