In June 2021, I had just turned 40. I had two kids under two years old and owned two businesses that needed my attention. I was placing the finishing touches on my first book while learning about the self-publishing industry.
One Friday night before bed, I came across an offer to join the June cohort for a 30-day writing challenge called ‘Ship 30 for 30.’
It promised workshops, accountability partners, a community of like-minded writers and the opportunity to develop a daily writing habit. There were only hours left to sign up before the June ship sailed away.
Did I really need one more project in my life?
Of course I did! I signed up for the class, closed my light, and drifted off to sleep, excited for the possibilities ahead.
HOW I LEARNED TO FOCUS AND PRIORITIZE
It’s not that I didn’t know how to write. I’d already published 70+ articles for Forbes.com, but the process was arduous. In fact, I didn’t really have a process.
Articles would take days to write as I innovated new ways to procrastinate. Organization, time management, outlining – not really my thing.
I knew I needed to make a change to increase my output. I was hoping for a course that would teach me to write better and help me with personal growth and accountability.
The lessons learned throughout the cohort’s 30 days helped me prioritize, schedule my time and sharpen my focus. I dedicated myself to carving aside sacred hours, where I would block the outside world and focus on finishing an essay.
Our rented house had no home office. I had no refuge for writing time with the kids home all day. I only had an hour to write during the day while their naps overlapped. Otherwise, I’d have to write after dinner, when I was exhausted from the day. So I set aside their nap time as my sacred hour.
To write a 250-word essay in under an hour, I couldn’t just sit at the computer unprepared. I needed to put in some of the work in advance, like thinking of what I wanted to write a day before.
I also had to conquer my perfectionism. Part of why it took so long to publish something in the past was because I was never satisfied. There were always more edits to be made.
Now I was under the gun. I only had an hour, and I had to get it done. There was no need for endless revisions – I wasn't trying to write The Great American Novel.
WHAT WERE THE RESULTS?
By the end of the first week, I noticed a marked change. It affected not only my writing style but my preparation as well.
The day before each essay, I made sure I had rough outlines. I took notes and recorded voice memos talking out sketches of each essay.
Ship 30 teaches online writing, not creative writing. I learned I don’t need to impress anyone with my florid prose. What’s most important is communicating ideas efficiently.
Gone were the long, flowery prose sentences I used to write. Instead, I wrote short, terse sentences delivering information in an easily digestible format.
The class on headline writing was worth the price of admission alone.
During a Zoom breakout session, I workshopped a better headline for the essay I published the previous evening. My vague headline “The Most Important Investing Skill” became “This Skill Turns Novices Into Market-Beating Masters.” Much more engaging, right?
Not only did I write about investing, but I also chose to write about music, something I’m passionate about.
My penultimate essay, titled “The Greatest Love Song You’ve Never Heard,” analyzed a song by Bonnie “Prince” Billy, a relatively obscure songwriter. When I posted it on Twitter, I tagged him and, to my endless delight, he retweeted it!
How cool was it that someone I admired had read an essay I wrote about him and shared it with his audience?
HOW SHIP 30’s FEEDBACK LOOP HELPED ME FINISH MY FIRST BOOK
I gained insight into how Dickie and Cole built their audience. They’ll teach you how to utilize Twitter, Medium and Quora to grow your readership.
The more people read your work, the more feedback you receive. The more feedback you receive, the more you can understand your audience.
It’s not hard to develop your next great idea when your audience tells you precisely what they want you to write about next. Give the people what they want!
During the 30 days, I was also struggling to complete my first book, an investing workbook called “The Ultimate Profit Playbook.” I knew something was missing but wasn’t sure what it was. I wrote a few essays about investing to see if it would help me discover what I needed.
I found that people were very interested in knowing when to sell a stock based on feedback I received. At the end of the book, I added a chapter about selling stocks and managing emotions, helping me wrap it up nicely.
BUILDING IN PUBLIC
Many writers struggle with imposter syndrome – “what if they find out I’m a fake or I’m no good?” Ship 30 helps alleviate this by forcing you to put yourself out there. Every day.
You discover that no one is judging you as harshly as you’re judging yourself.
Also, you realize that more people will be impacted and inspired by what you write than will criticize it.
By announcing my intentions to the world, I kept myself accountable.
There were times when I wanted to quit or not ship anything that day. But I always found a way.
Knowing I had support and that others were on the same journey helped keep me going. David, my accountability partner, was a tremendous help. We would message each other every day to check in, comment on each other’s essays and cheer each other on.
Inspiration was everywhere; I just needed to know where to look. I became more resourceful: every day, I pass by a book of investing quotes sitting on my bookshelf. I curated some of my favorites and used that as my essay for a day.
I also read exceptional essays from other shippers on a wide range of topics. They shared stories of personal tragedies and triumphs, lessons learned from failure, marketing expertise, how to teach your children well – the knowledge shared was genuinely astounding.
SAIL ON, SAILOR
Though I was exhausted after the 30 days, I joined the alumni Member Ship program, knowing I can pop in and out of the community when I'm inspired to. I can tap into the community and take advantage of all it offers when I have more time to commit.
Bruce Springsteen once sang, “We learned more from a three-minute record than we ever learned at school.” Well, I learned more from a 30-day writing course than I ever learned in English class.
I look forward to future voyages and hope to meet you onboard the ship!
If Karl's story resonated with you, click here to hop aboard the next Ship 30 for 30 cohort!