Don't break the chain!

This is a good visual trick for establishing a routine of any sort. In this case, it’s about writing daily.

Jerry Seinfeld once gave advice to a young comic.

He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker.

He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. “After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”

And then he repeated for emphasis: Don’t break the chain.

In looking for an image to illustrate I found a site that allows you to do this online.

For some of you, this might be great. But you know me, I’m the analog girl, and for me, that big calendar on the wall would be the answer. In fact, it’s how I used to meet my deadlines when I was writing novels.  I’d have a one-year calendar on the wall beside my desk (where my storyboards are now) and I’d write each day’s page count on it and watch that chain of days grow longer and longer.  On good days, I’d scratch through the word count, sometimes more than once, as I kept adding more and more.  Deadline+adrenalin=werdz on page!

To add to the mix, a recent lifehacker post demonstrates “Seinfeld’s Productivity Secret on Steroids.” He points out that it can be used to build any habit from exercise to reading to Jerry’s original goal, writing.

After a long career of not writing daily, of believing that forcing words every day whether they seemed ready or not did not produce my best work, I finally gave in and started the writing daily habit.  I remembered those days under deadline, and how the adrenalin built, the muse flexed, the creativity soared.  And yes, I discovered that writing daily and insisting that I produce a certain number of words could work for me. I was amazed, and on a creative high.

Real life knocked me around a bit recently and I’m not writing now.  I miss it.  I need to get back on the bandwagon. I may even get another Yearly Wall Calendar if I can find a blank place on the wall to stick it, and a fat red marker… or no, I’ll keep the word count instead or… I dunno. I’ll figure it out. If I don’t get back on the wagon I think I’m going to lose my mind, though.

Do you write daily? Do you have any daily habit? Do you track it?  How?

In the meantime, advice to remember, writers–Don’t break the chain!


Filed under Analog, Office gear, Organizing, Storyboard, Writing, Writing daily, Writing Process

4 responses to “Don't break the chain!

  1. The best writing I ever did was when I wrote every single day.

    I do something very similar to this with my exercise and it feels so good to add another link in the chain.

  2. Ann

    Yeah, similarly, for several years I keep these little bitty date books (like the small kind a non-tech person might buy for appts. — a week at a glance) — and I write in important practices — weight, morning pages, etc. Same principle. I bet Jerry Seinfeld worked with a life coach

    • I have a planner like that with me always. I haven’t used it to keep up with daily tasks so much, because I respond better to something that’s in my face all the time. It’s why my desk is such a mess (see photo above)–because I keep too much stuff “in my face.” LOL

Hit me with it.

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