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A simple repeatable system to write

Writing is an awfully hard vocation to stay committed to. Most new writers feel exhausted after a productive spell and leave it for too long. That makes getting back to writing very hard.

What we need is a simple, reliable, repeatable system to follow on daily basis.

Yesterday I was listening to Austin Kleon’s interview with Joanna Penn, and I liked his system of consistently producing art.

I carry around this pocket notebook with me all day and I just write down all my stupid ideas in there. And I draw things. And I’m just writing in this notebook all day. And then when the morning comes around after we get the kids to school and that kind of thing, I sit down and I have a diary that I work in.

I usually do something visual, so I’ll either do a collage, or I’ll do a drawing, or a comic, or something. And then I’ll fill three more pages of writing.

And that’s the time where I’m looking back on yesterday, but I’m also working on what I’m thinking and that kind of thing. And then after the diary is done for the day, usually there’s something in the diary that I want to turn into a blog post or I’ll think of a good blog post or something that I want to share on my blog.

And then I go over and I do the blog post. And that can be anything from like, ‘Oh, here’s this interesting book I read,’ or, ‘Here’s this interesting quote,’ or, ‘Here’s something I drew,’ or, ‘Here’s something I made,’ or, ‘Here’s a really long post about parenting,’ or something, whatever it is.

And then once I make the blog post for the day, I’m done in a sense, creatively, as far as the baseline. That’s the work that has to get done for the day. And I work that way every morning.

And then for the rest of the day, it really depends on what’s on the docket. Today I went for a walk and we’re doing this interview, and this afternoon I’ll probably do some stuff, and I have to pick up my kid blah, blah, blah.

But that’s the thing for me that Keep Going did was it helped me establish a repetitive, repeatable daily system for producing work. Because that for me has been the thing that I was really missing in my life was some sort of method to making work all the time.

Simple. And repeatable. Yet varied enough.

He got his system from David Sedaris. David Sedaris carries a notebook around all day, scribbling in it all day long. Even when he is picking up rubbish in the streets of his village near London (he does that five to six hours a day, every day). Then at the end of the day, he sits down and writes about whatever is interesting in the notebook in his diary.

And then when he does a show, he shares some of that diary writing, sees how people react to it, makes little marks in the margin on stuff. And then he turns those pieces into essays that become books.

So it’s this iterative process of generating material, putting it out in the world, seeing how people respond to it, and then repackaging it and then putting it back out. 

Simple and elegant.

Seth Godin writes a blog post everyday. He has been doing that for twenty years now and has more than 7000 uninterrupted posts. Most of his posts are small, and all of them are without any pictures. His books, too, come from his blog.

This is a scenario where quantity trumps the quality.

There’s a great story in Art & Fear that book by Ted Orland and David Bayles. There’s an example in there where there’s a pottery class and half the class is told to just make the best pot they can. And half the class is told just make as many pots as you can. And the people in the group who were told to make as many as they could, they ended up producing more better pots or better pots than the ones who were told to make the best pot.

A simple system will produce more work and better work overtime than no system and occasional good quality work.

Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

  1. Margaret Smyth says:

    I Like the note book Idea. May give it a try.

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