Happy anniversary, writing streak. And many more.

I’m not sure I’ve ever done anything for a full year in a row. Unless you count breathing.

Yes, breathing must surely count. But breathing is involuntary; my writing streak was—is—probably the most intentional thing I’ve ever done.

Writing streakAnd today is Day 365! So happy anniversary to me.

Not just to me, actually. Because if I hadn’t gotten the crazy idea to write every damn day, I would never have created the daily writing challenges that have helped dozens of writers to start—and continue— their own streaks.

Of all the things I’ve accomplished in the past year, I think I’m proudest of the daily writing challenges. Next 5-day challenge starts June 19th. Join us and see why I love them.

Why are writing streaks important?

The streak? It’s just a number; no big deal. What is important:

  • Empowering yourself to create
  • Creating even when you’re not “inspired”
  • Deciding to continue when giving up would be so easy

I know I wrote those words just a minute ago. But re-reading them it’s hard to believe they describe me. What I’ve done over the last year. But it’s true.

I’ve written blogs—yes, lots and lots of blogs. My one-year anniversary of daily blogging comes up in a couple of weeks, on May 11th. But I’ve also written the curriculum for my writing classes. I’ve written marketing material, emails, sales pages, my “Occasional Flash of Brilliance” (the thing other people might call a “newsletter”). When I was really pressed for time one day, I pulled into a parking lot and journaled for 15 minutes. I never had the mad dash to write before midnight, but I did have to head to my desk after a lovely dinner out once because I’d forgotten to write earlier. The point is, I did it. I cared about myself enough. I prioritized myself and my creativity. And I’m writing about it now not to celebrate myself but to model that behavior for others.

Because if I can do this thing, you can too.

Getting a C (if I’m lucky)

My coach Samantha Bennett (no relation, although we’re both smart, funny, and gorgeous—so who can really say?) says “Get a C.” Don’t aim for perfection; just get it done. That’s been my mantra this year.

I have written some great pieces during this streak. I’ve also written some absolute crap. Hopefully I haven’t published too much of the latter, but I think there’s value in being transparent about the quality of my output.

Not all of my work is brilliant. And—guess what?—not all of your work will be, either. But that doesn’t give you license to put down your pencil. You’ll write again tomorrow. And the day after. And eventually the crap-to-great ratio might even out, maybe even start to tilt in your favor. Or maybe not.

But start writing. And keep writing. It’s the only way to get better.

The definition of dog-tired — a day in my life

dog-tired dog: Fenway got listless again AFTER we left the vet
Fenway got listless again AFTER we left the vet

You know things are bad when the staff wakes you up before dawn.

My trusty Canine Assistant, Fenway, roused me from a deep sleep at 4:30 a.m. (Yes, we share a bed; don’t tell HR.) The poor thing has been under the weather the last couple of days and she felt I needed to know, at 4:30 in the freaking morning, that she still hadn’t improved.

It was going to be one of those days when I had far more work than time, so I decided to accept Fenway’s nudge (perhaps she was just being a good project manager) and get out of bed. Some thirteen hours later, I am the literal definition of the phrase “dog-tired.”

And I have been working all that time, except for a brief interlude at the vet’s. “My dog has been listless all day,” I told them when I called. So of course she paraded into the office waving her tail like a flag on the Fourth of July.

Dog-tired at 5p.m. Friday

I had my finger poised on the trackpad, ready to click “shut down” when I saw an email from one of my writers. She wanted to sign up for the program I launched today (of which more later), but the math was wrong on the link—I had set the price $100 too high.

Clearly that wasn’t an error I could let slide until tomorrow.

So I fixed the link, pasted the revised code on my website, clicked “update” and…remembered that I didn’t yet have a blog written for today.


Commitment, right? It doesn’t get me on the exercise bike every day, but it did drag me out of a warm bed a the other night when I remembered I hadn’t made the next day’s To Do list. I wasn’t dog-tired then, maybe just puppy-tired. And did I say the bed was warm? Nice, fluffy duvet.

But I knew I’d lose half the next day if I didn’t have the To Do list I’ve gotten so used to over the last year.

Commitment is what’s kept me writing for well over 300 days in a row at this point. It keeps me posting a new blog on the “Seth Godin schedule”: Every damn day.
even when you're dog-tired, if you commit to it, do it.And it’s beginning to take root in the writers I work with. As we wrapped up the third 5×15 Writing Challenge yesterday, I unveiled the glorious sequel—higher stakes and bigger rewards for a super-sized commitment. And, just a few hours later, I already have a firm commitment from about a quarter of the people in the most recent Challenge, with previous participants looking to climb back onboard.They know that as hard as it is to commit to something, it’s easier when you’re not going it alone. They’ve experienced the power of a supportive community coalescing in just five days and they’re eager to see how deep the roots of our relationships can go in a longer challenge. I can’t wait to see that, either. And this new challenge will offer even more support: a weekly Writers’ Group, using Zoom’s interactive videoconferencing. And one-on-one coaching time with me.

“Elaine Bennett’s Writing Challenge is an adventure in Discipline, Discovery, and Desire,” one of my writers said. I didn’t set out to create something that profound. But, thanks to the diverse and talented group of writers who’ve joined my Challenges, that’s exactly what’s happened.

Your creativity called. It wants to be taken seriously. Join us.

“I did some really good writing yesterday. What do I do today?” — Frequent Questions

Q: I did some really good writing yesterday. But what do I do today? It’s hard to get started.
A: Grab a crayon.

I know the feeling. It’s far easier for writers to think our work is crap—because so much of our work is crap. It’s even, I just found out, a law of nature: Sturgeon’s Law. As with so much else in this world, if you go to the primary source you find that the Law is actually a Revelation. In 1958, Sturgeon wrote:

“I repeat Sturgeon’s Revelation, which was wrung out of me after twenty years of wearying defense of science fiction against attacks of people who used the worst examples of the field for ammunition, and whose conclusion was that ninety percent of SF is crud. Using the same standards that categorize 90% of science fiction as trash, crud, or crap, it can be argued that 90% of film, literature, consumer goods, etc. is crap.”

Here we have yet another clear case of eroding quality in the modern world. When Rudyard Kipling voiced a similar opinion back in the 19th century, he only damned 80% of creative output:

“Four–fifths of everybody’s work must be bad. But the remnant is worth the trouble for its own sake.”

But I digress. Whether your work is 80% or 90% crap, the non-crap portion remains firmly in the minority. So when you manage to turn out something you like—and that other people will (or already do!) like—you not only have a visceral appreciation of Kipling’s assessment that it’s “worth the trouble for its own sake.” You also have genuine cause for celebration, my friend.

Don’t let good writing yesterday overshadow any writing today

So you did some good writing yesterday. Congratulations.

But you do realize you still have to write today. And, yes, it may turn out to be not nearly as good as the writing you did yesterday. In fact, the laws of probability—not to mention Sturgeon—tell us it won’t be. Them’s the breaks.

But there’s good news, too. Every word you write today gets you closer to the golden 20% of non-crap that you turned out in your good writing yesterday.

Oh, I know, I know—all you want to do is open up that doc from yesterday and revisit your glory. You could spend all day doing that. I’ve been there. In fact, I am there at this very moment.

I wrote something really great yesterday. I’m justifiably proud of myself. But re-reading yesterday’s writing doesn’t get today’s writing done.

But I don’t have any ideas, the voice in my head whined. So I embraced process instead: I usually do a Q&A on Wednesdays, but I didn’t post a blog yesterday because of the Day Without Women. So, calendar be damned, I declared today as “WTF? Wednesday” (that’s how I settled on the day for this regular feature: I gave it a private nickname). Then all that remained was to pick the question. And yes, okay, if you insist on full disclosure, the person who submitted this particular question is me.

There was never any question of my not writing today. Not with 316 days of a writing streak behind me and the prospect of seeing the magic 317 appear on my phone app once I’m done. Someone recently asked me when I’ll get to the one-year mark. I suppose I could do the math, but really I’m not as focused on 365 as I am on 318.

I cannot recommend the daily writing thing highly enough. This commitment I’ve made has gotten me through a lot of upheaval over the past nine-ish months, and the sense of accomplishment I feel…well, it’s hard to describe.

But I don’t have any ideas as brilliant as yesterday’s

you did good writing yesterday; try writing with a crayon todayI’m sure that’s as true for you as it is sometimes for me. So stop aiming for one. Instead, shake things up a bit.

If you always write at your desk, find another place to sit. Go outside, weather permitting. Go to the library (I’ll have more on that this weekend).

If you always write on your computer, grab a pen and a notebook. Better yet, grab a colored pencil or crayon. It’s impossible to take yourself or your problems too seriously when you’ve got a crayon in your hand.

Spend 15 minutes writing as your 10-year-old self. Don’t worry about replicating your good writing yesterday. Have some fun with your writing today.

Can you have too many ideas? Frequent Questions

Q: Is there such a thing as too many ideas?

A: Are you high?

A friend of mine is writing a book. “But I have too many ideas,” she told me. “I don’t know what to do with them all.”

This is what’s known in the trade as a high-class problem. Many writers with this “dilemma” would get down on their knees and kiss their keyboards.

But my friend is trying to write a book. And until she can domesticate some of those ideas, organize them into tidy little stacks, it’s going to be hard for her to see exactly what kind of book this book of hers wants to be.

So, yes, my friend has a problem. I suggested she solve it the low-tech way:

  1. Get a folder—or better yet, an envelope
  2. Label the envelope “Strokes of Genius” (hey—a high-class problem deserves an aspirational name)
  3. Every time you get an idea, write it down on an index card or some other paperlike substance
  4. Toss the card into the envelope
  5. Every couple of weeks (or month, or…), dump out the contents of the envelope and sort through them.

You’ve captured the ideas, so they won’t disappear. And you’ve also bought yourself some time.

So many ideas, so little genius

When the ideas tumble out of the envelope weeks later, most of them will make you question your sanity. No doubt they seemed brilliant when they first appeared. But in the clear light of day, they’re clearly just ordinary. Toss them out.

Some of the ideas—and be warned, this will likely be a minority—you’ll still like almost as much as when you scribbled them down. Maybe even more. Perhaps these really are genius ideas. Set them aside for further investigation.

But the majority of your ideas will fall somewhere in between madness and genius. Sort through them if you like. But I generally just shove them back into the envelope until next time. If they still don’t excite me on second viewing, I deposit them in the circular file.

Life is too short to waste on ideas we’re not passionate about. Or people, for that matter.

Do you write every day? It’s the fastest way to improve your skills. Challenge yourself to start a daily practice: My next 5×15 Writing Challenge starts January 23rd.