How Dreams, Goals and Habits Make You a Wildly Productive Writer

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You can be a wildly productive writer.

And if you are already a wildly productive writer, then you can take your game to a whole new level.

There are three keys to wild productivity:

  1. Dreams
  2. Goals
  3. Habits

To put it simply, dreams fuel the fire, goals are the stepping stones to your dreams, and habits are the routines and rituals that support you along the way.

Where people fall down is when they have goals without dreams to inspire them, or goals without habits to support them, or habits without any compelling dreams to pull them forward.

So let’s fix that today, right here, right now.

Start with a Dream

Your dream is where it all begins. Not the lazy kind of dream of an unrecognizable you in a land far, far away.

It’s the kind of dream that reflects your passion and your purpose. It’s bold and it’s beautiful. It’s your vision of your future, living the life you want to lead.

What is your dream as a writer? Is it to birth a book that needs to be born? Is it to inspire a movement that moves the world? Is it to write your way to the top of a bestseller list?

Is it to fill the shelves of your favorite bookstore with books that change lives? Is to pen your way to an award-winning blog? Is it to author your way to financial freedom? Is it to boldly go where no author has gone before?

Or, is it simply to be the writer that you know you’re capable of?

Either way, it needs to be YOUR dream, and it needs to be believable and achievable.

My dream is to write the guides that change the world. When I help people unleash and love what they’re capable of, I’m living my dream.

Chunk Your Dreams Up Into Gratifying Goals

Goals are the stepping stones, and meaningful milestones, towards our dreams. They are the points that light the path forward and help us trend in the right direction.

Goals also help us break a big dream down into bite-sized chunks that we can make progress on.

Making progress might not sound like a big deal, but do you know that it’s one of the fundamental keys to happiness? We like to move forward, even in some small way. We unleash our zeal when we’re living, and learning, and realizing our potential.

The best way to set goals is to start with time frames. After all, as Diana Scharf says, “Goals are dreams with deadlines.”

Personally, I find it helpful to work backwards in blocks of time, and I like to use questions:

  • What do I want to achieve for my win this year?
  • What do I want to achieve for my win six months from now?
  • What do I want to achieve for my win this month?
  • What do I want to achieve for my win this week?
  • What do I want to achieve for my win today?

Goals aren’t boring, but people often have boring goals.  That’s why I tend to change my language to think in terms of wins, because it adds the fun factor.

Your goals are your personal victories.

Build Habits to Compound What You’re Capable Of

There’s a quote by Steven Pressfield that goes like this:

“There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t, and the secret is this: It’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write.”

Just sitting down to write, at a repeatable time, and a repeatable place, in a repeatable way is a gentle way to bootstrap your writing habit.

As the saying goes, first we make our habits, and then our habits make us.

Routines and rituals help us practice and get the kinks out. They also help us build the muscles and the mindset to operate at a higher level.

But the best thing about habits is how they compound our efforts over time, and how a little bit of concentrated effort adds up to big things and brilliant breakthroughs.

But there are ways to amp things up like you wouldn’t believe.

How Simple Habits Can Lead to Exponential Results

Thomas Edison used quotas to drive his work. He had 1,093 patents.

His personal invention quota was a minor invention every ten days, and a major invention every six months.

I tried this approach and started carrying around a little yellow pad of sticky notes to capture my ideas during the week. I would write one idea down per sticky note.

My first week, I had a handful of big ideas. By the end of the month, I was going through a full sticky pad each week.

I was on fire. It’s as if clearing our minds makes space for our creative muse to come out and play.

Ernest Hemingway had a very specific writing habit.  

He edited for an hour, and wrote for an hour. I don’t know if it’s true (I didn’t know Hemingway; I’ve only been to his house), but I like the idea of a routine.

I also like the idea that he was a combination author and adventurer. In the spirit of Hemingway, I decided I would use timeboxing to build my blogging habit.

I would sit down in the morning before work, and write for 20 minutes max. It’s an interesting milestone for me, because that is the same month that I wrote 48 posts, and my traffic went from around 100,000 readers to more than 200,000 readers a month.

And the only way I could do that is because I built the daily habits that could support my moments of inspiration.

Unleash the Wildly Productive Writer in You with Three Simple Writing Habits

I’m hoping that at least one of my examples gets you excited about what you can do through the power of habits. If not maybe give Dr. Seuss’s Oh, The Places You’ll Go! a quick read. (It’s a classic.)

Now, let’s turn some inspiration into action and start as simply as possible.  While there are lots of habits you can take on, I’m going to recommend the following three:

  1. The Daily Appreciation Habit – Start your day by taking a full 5 minutes to really appreciate what you’ve already got, and what you are thankful for. This simple exercise will help you instantly shift into an abundance mindset. Over time, by building your “attitude of gratitude,” you will create an unstoppable force within you, and a creative confidence like you’ve never experienced before. At worst, you’ll just feel grateful, so not so bad.
  2. The Daily Writing Habit – Set a time budget that you can stick with, and do it daily. Maybe it’s only five minutes, but consistency matters more than anything else. Have a time, a place, and a purpose. If you’re a night owl, maybe it’s 10:00-10:30 PM at your favorite desk. If you’re an early bird, maybe it’s 6:00-6:30 A.M. Either way, use this time to practice your craft, in a deliberate way. Write. Yes, actually write during your writing habit. And fully focus on learning, not perfection. Learn your strengths. Learn your weaknesses. Learn what works and doesn’t work for you. Eventually, you’ll be able to use your Daily Writing Habit to take on any writing challenge, and with practice, your pen will be mightier than the sword.   In the worst-case scenario, you won’t be a writer who doesn’t write.
  3. The Daily Inspiration Habit – Quotes rock!  I’m an avid collector of the wisdom of the ages and modern sages. But go beyond just quotes, and find amazing real-world stories that inspire you. Find the people that live the dream you want live. Learn how they did it. Hold them up as examples of the art of the possible. Use them to dream big. Truth is stranger than fiction. Here’s the key though: Don’t get hung up on their success. Instead, get curious about their habits. In the worst case, you’ll have fun exploring the things that people do to bring out their best.

Remember that anything worth doing is worth doing poorly to start with. If it feels awkward at first, you might be doing it right (growth feels awkward.) The important thing is that you’re building new grooves for your mind, body, and emotions, as you spread your wings.

Here’s the thing to always remember: Habits build the platform beneath us, as we grow to reach our dreams.


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J.D. Meier

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