How to write 75,000 words

Photo courtesy of Ikhlasul Amal

 

On the morning of November 12, 2012, I was standing perched on the ladder of a bunk bed in a hostel in Hawaii, with my laptop sitting on the upper bed. Before I set off to do some exploring, I opened my laptop, took a deep breath, and pressed a button.

At that moment, Unlikely Radical went live.

It’s now been a year, and here I am, still coming at you with stories, money ideas, travel lesson, and all the advice that I wish I could always listen to.

Goals

I have always believed that consistency is the best way to build a community, so I decided that I would post on a regular basis. After all, who wants to follow a blog that sometimes goes dormant for months at a time? Most people can’t get away with that (though to be fair, most people aren’t Allie Brosh). So I decided I would post on every Monday and Thursday without fail. Over one hundred posts later, I have done just that.

I also decided to limit my posts to 500-1000 words each. Keep them too short, and there’s not enough room to say something meaningful. But let them grow unbounded, and I might not ever get them done. And I promised that I would get them done. The blog beast needs to be fed.

So, assuming an average of 750 words per post, I can confidently say that I have written between 75,000-80,000 words on this site on this year alone. To me, that’s a lot of words.

Lessons learned

Perhaps you have no interest in writing. Perhaps you play music. Perhaps you paint. Perhaps you build houses, or even figurines of houses. (Notice I don’t say things like “you’re a musician,” because I believe that you are more than what you do.) No matter what you do, maybe you just want to tackle a long-term project and want to know how to approach it.

So here are some things I’ve learned from my year of writing:

  • One bite at a time. You know that old chestnut: how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. (Of course, you wouldn’t eat an elephant, so let’s just say a really big cake in the shape of an elephant.) If I had set out to write a 75,000 word project, I would have felt so much anxiety and pressure that I would have thrown my laptop out the window and given up. Can you take your goal and break it down, or find a way not to focus on the finished goal?
  • Have time. Every Saturday morning is writing time for me, where I queue up two blog posts for the upcoming week. If for some reason, I’m going away for the weekend or on a trip somewhere, then I will plan it and either write more in advance, or squeeze in some extra time throughout the week.
  • Have a space. I don’t write at home; there are too many distractions. Instead, I head on over to my local 24 hour coffeeshop, where I order a chai and a bagel and get to work. Not only is this place comfy and inviting, but it features some kick-ass baristas, who are always friendly and patient with me when I order something slightly off-the-menu. We have even had (no joke) small-scale dance parties right at the register. I can think of no better office to have, and when I travel, I honestly miss being there.

    People who fill mugs, mugging.

    People who sling mugs, mugging.

  • Be realistic. I only started my writing schedule after a few months of testing it out. I eventually learned that I could keep it up, even when having a life and other responsibilities. You can say “I’m going to blog every day,” but unless you’re Seth Godin, you’re probably not going to.
  • Be sustainable. Perhaps you ignore the above and start writing every day. I bet you could do it for a certain period of time, but it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to do that in perpetuity. And why start do something that you won’t be able to keep up? Better to later choose to stop doing something rather than get overwhelmed and unable to continue.
  • Start. Yes, I know I’m ripping off the title of Jon Acuff’s most recent book, but it just fits. I had spent a few months practicing writing, getting into gear, when my friend Emilie said “why don’t you just set a launch date?” I thought that was a great idea, so I decided on a date and worked backwards from there, figuring out what I would need to do to prepare. I also booked a trip to Hawaii as both a carrot (“I launched the site!“) and stick (“I need to launch the site before I leave!“).

There are other lessons learned, but I’m just about out of space here, which leads me to one final lesson I’ve learned from all the creative processes I’ve dabbled in in over the course of my life: constraints are freeing.

And no matter what I’m writing about, I have never strayed from the thread that binds them all together: that with intention and purpose, we can all have a life well lived. Now that’s sticking it to The Man.

Now on to year two!

Join me? Sign up for my mailing list on the right side of this page, as I will be planning some fun stuff, and you won’t want to miss it!

Mike Pumphrey

Mike Pumphrey

I'm the founder and author of Unlikely Radical, a site to help people succeed with money, achieve their goals, and live intentionally.

I offer a free phone consultation to anyone who is interested in changing their financial narrative. Are you ready? Click here for details.
Mike Pumphrey
Posted on November 11, 2013
  • Katie

    Congratulations and Happy Anniversary (birthday?)! I’m very impressed with what you’ve managed to accomplish in one year.

    • Thanks so much Katie! It definitely feels like an accomplishment. I think my next steps are going to be much harder, though. Lots of plans, lots to do, which means more resistance. But I’m looking forward!