This is an off-topic post on writing.
I've received a few inquires recently about my approach to writing Casual Kitchen, so I thought I’d dedicate two posts on this subject. These posts will be geared for the new or part-time blogger interested in increasing his or her writing output, as well as for those readers interested in starting a new blog or other writing project.
I'll start by sharing a preposterously simple method which has boosted my confidence, cured me (mostly) of procrastination, and helped me build a habit of consistent, regular writing. I call it The 30 Minute Method. It has two parts:
1) Set a goal of spending a minimum of 30 minutes each day writing content.
2) Keep careful track of the days you meet and miss this goal.
That's it. Seriously. Employing these two simple habits has done more to increase the consistency and quality of my writing than anything else I've done.
Let's go over why this approach works. We'll cover Part 1 of The 30 Minute Method today and we'll cover Part 2 in a later post.
Do you often find writing to be discouraging, even confidence-shredding? I certainly do. What if what I write sucks? What if nobody likes it? What if I don't get any validation of myself as a person after my writing session today? And so on. It's enough to keep me surfing the web and reading other peoples' blogs all day long and never write anything of my own.
The 30 Minute Method simply eliminates this baggage. It's just not that big a deal to write for 30 minutes. So set the darn timer and sit down and get to work. If you make the process more habitual and don't think about it so much, you'll get rid of most of the psychological dead weight that can hold you back.
The writer's other demon is procrastination. It's so easy to turn the TV on for a few minutes, putter around the kitchen for a few more minutes, surf the web for a few more minutes, and before you know it, you've beguiled away your entire day's ration of writing time.
Once again, here's where daily application of The 30 Minute Method reduces the psychological stakes and ensures that at least some writing gets done every day.
Less Than Crap
Just in case you think that the 30 Minute Method causes me to deliver high quality content every time I sit down, I've got news for you: the volume and quality of my writing varies wildly and arbitrarily. Sure, some days I'll write decent stuff. But many days I'll write utter steaming crap. Heck, some days I'll start off writing crap and then have a phase of non-crap writing, followed by more crap.
But here's my point: if you don’t write at all, you know you’re going to create something that’s even less than crap. And before you know it, another year will go by and you still won't have fleshed out your new blog or your new novel--or whatever ambitious writing goals you hoped to accomplish.
What this means is two-thirds of the writing battle is just sitting down, getting your mind to shut up for a few minutes, and making a habit of writing consistently.
Getting into a Flow State
I'll conclude with the most powerful benefit of The 30 Minute Method: it gives you a regular opportunity to enter a creative state where you lose all sense of time and you become totally absorbed into the task at hand.
The term widely used for this mental state is "flow." Usually it takes 15-20 minutes of focused effort to enter a flow state, so a daily 30 minute minimum writing session will give you more than enough time to get there.
When you're writing in a state of flow, your output and creativity will be much higher than typical. And you'll be so deeply engrossed in your work that not only will you tune out distractions, you'll also tune out negative self-judgment. I've found that my productivity in this state is so far above my average productivity that the output from one flow session often exceeds the combined output of several other writing sessions. And these sessions are so satisfying that I'm always happy to trade five or six--or even ten--frustrating writing sessions for just one where I experience flow.
(An aside: this is another useful application of The 80/20 Rule. If you can maximize the number of "critical few" flow sessions you have, you should be able to massively increase the quality and quantity of your writing.)
If you're interested in learning more about this subject, I strongly recommend Flow by Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi. It's an exceptional (albeit densely written) book that's well worth reading. In addition, there are several useful posts over on Lifehacker that discuss the flow state in varying degrees of detail.
One final note on flow: Much like how the quality of my writing varies arbitrarily, the times when I enter a flow state can likewise be random and arbitrary. This may happen to you too. But when you do enter the flow state, you might not even hear the timer go off when your 30 minutes are up! Thus you might want to to think about scheduling your 30 minute writing sessions at a time when you can run a bit overtime. In order to take maximum advantage of a good flow state, you may want to be able to stretch your 30 minute session out to an hour, at times even longer. Being in a flow state can be wonderful, but it probably shouldn't be at the expense of being late for work, or inadvertently leaving your kid waiting for you to pick him up from a baseball game.
So stop thinking, set the darn timer, and just sit down and write. Every day. It's only for a measly 30 minutes. And every so often, one of those low-pressure, no baggage, 30-minute sessions will turn into a flow session, and you'll spend an hour or more blasting out ideas and articles and copy without any mind to the world around you.
Tune in a few days from now for Part 2, where I'll cover the second part of my preposterously simple approach to writing--Keeping Track.
On Writing for Casual Kitchen Part 2: Keeping Track
How to Apply the 80/20 Rule to Cooking
More Applications of the 80/20 Rule to Diet, Food and Cooking
FAQs of Casual Kitchen
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