Ahoy and happy Monday!
Welcome to another week of Start Writing Online—where every week we dive into 1 of the 10 biggest problems all writers face:
- Generating ideas
- Impostor syndrome
- Writing consistently
- Finding time to write
- Loose feedback loops
(And, of course, if you want to crush all 10 of these AND master the fundamentals of Digital Writing in just 30 days, we'd love to have you in the next cohort of Ship 30 for 30!)
This week, we want to help you create a consistent writing habit.
To do this, we’re diving into the writing process of one of marketing’s greatest thinkers and copywriters: Eugene Schwartz.
For those who don’t know him, here’s a quick primer:
Known as the “Godfather of Advertising”, Schwartz published 9 books in his lifetime and was one of the most highly-paid copywriters in the 1950s and 60s. His famous book, Breakthrough Advertising, is a revered classic in the marketing industry. It’s so good, the original hardcover sells for $247.
In this book, Schwartz shares the daily writing routine which ensured he could pump out money-spinning ad copy on demand.
Let’s dive in!
Writing every day can be one of the hardest things in the world.
So to make it easy, Schwartz’s secret was to treat it like athletes treat the gym.
If you’re going to write consistently over time, you need to have a proven system in place so you’re not relying on willpower alone - just like athletes do when they turn up to train every day.
Instead of setting a goal to “write every day”, Eugene set himself some constraints. He chose a time of day, a daily length, and a weekly cadence:
- Write 5 days per week
- For 3 hours every day
- Starting each morning at 9AM
And in those 3 hours, he’d set a timer and write for 33 minutes and 33 seconds.
During these blocks of writing, he had 2 rules:
- Rule 1: Only pen and paper are allowed on his desk
- Rule 2. He could not get up from his chair
He could sip his coffee, stare out the window, doodle in his notebook, and complain about how little he wanted to write.
But he could not get up.
It didn’t matter if he was in the middle of a sentence, after his 33:33 timer went off he’d leave his desk, walk around, and let his subconscious continue to work during a 10-minute break. After the time was up, he’d be itching to get back to his writing, overflowing with ideas.
Here are 3 lessons you can extract from Schwartz’s process to build your own writing habit:
Lesson #1: Eliminate the guesswork from your writing.
The most successful athletes don’t just turn up to the gym and decide how to train - they have a system in place so they know what they need to do every day.
It’s the same with Schwartz: he had a repeatable system in place to keep himself focused and reduce the mental bandwidth taken up by decisions. The key was to set ground rules he could keep with his writing. These rules eliminated any kind of guessing from his practice: he knew exactly what to do and when to do it.
Lesson #2: Have an objective way of measuring your writing.
Schwartz’s system kept him accountable.
He knew how often and for how long he needed to write. So, at the end of every day and at the end of every week, he could measure how well he was performing against his system.
More importantly, he wasn’t focused on word count or “external” results. He dedicated himself to putting himself in the chair, with pen in hand, for a certain amount of time every day.
And this ties in with the final lesson.
Lesson #3: Create a system which will compound over time.
Schwartz created a writing habit that was long enough each day to move the needle but short enough to stick to consistently.
Eugene worked with this system one writing block at a time, every day and every week, for decades.
This made great writing an inevitable byproduct of his daily life.
These 3 lessons (and others from successful and prolific writers) is what we teach Digital Writers in Ship 30.
If you want to create a writing habit which is reliable and something you can stick to, then hop aboard the next cohort of Ship 30 for 30.
That's it for today!
Chat next week!
–Dickie Bush & Nicolas Cole
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