Four Things That Will Increase The Likelihood of Working On Your Dream

Tim Ferriss has a phenomenal podcast, on which he peels back the layers on today’s top performers. He scores big name guests like Kevin Costner, Jamie Fox, Malcolm Gladwell and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Each intriguing conversation yields powerful advice and entertaining stories you can learn from.

I’ve listened to The Tim Ferriss Show, since reading The Four Hour Work Week a few years back. That book was so helpful and inspiring in my journey from corporate life to small business owner. Tim’s podcast has been little different. Each time I throw my headphones in I find something of value and interest, no matter the subject or guest. A few of my favorite episodes are conversations with Mike Rowe, Pavel Tsatsouline, Kevin Costner, and Derek Sivers.

I'm taking a page from Tim in today's post. I'm sharing the tips, routines and habits that constitute my writing life. I’m not a big-time author, published writer or anything close to famous. I’m a guy dedicated to his craft, seeking to get better every day and who wants to help you do the same. What follows are thoughts and snapshots of my world, I hope you find it helpful.

Get Out of Bed

For most of my life, getting out of bed has been a struggle. In middle school and high school, this was especially true. My mom would have to poke and prod me for what seemed like hours to get me up each morning. In college, little was different. I would stay up far too late and sleep as much as I could the following day. On more than one occasion, I slept through my 7 or 8 am classes. I lacked the self-discipline and drive to get up early.

Then came real life and with it the responsibility and accountability of my first job. I couldn’t hit the snooze, roll over and sleep in any longer. I had a defined place I had to be each morning. Being late, was no longer an option. This change was good for me. When I had a reason to be up, and a plan for what I was going to do, getting up wasn’t a big deal.

I roll out of bed at 5:30 am, most days. I walk to the kitchen to pour myself a cup of bulletproof coffee and sit down at my computer to write. I write until my wife gets up at 6:30 am. At which time I pour a second cup of coffee and spend thirty minutes to an hour reading God’s word. By 8:00 am I’ve written for an hour, spent 30 minutes to an hour in the Bible and walked our two sweet pups. I’m locked and loaded to start my work day.

I treasure this morning routine. It feeds my soul and helps me win the day. Before I started this routine, I struggled to find the time to write. Attempting to fit writing into any other corner of my day wasn’t working. Too much was going on once the work day started to squeeze writing time into the day.

Then it hit me. I could be selfish at 5:30 am. There would be nothing to distract me. No email, phone calls, or meetings. I could work on exactly what I wanted and that’s exactly what I did. I started getting up early.  

No matter how crazy my day gets or what curve balls get thrown my way, I will have spent time working on something personal. The craziness of life no longer remains an excuse for not getting things done. Of course, I miss days here and there. Maybe we were up late shooting a wedding, or traveling with family and I don’t get up as early. Grace abounds in those circumstances. I’m not going to beat myself up for sleeping in, I’ll just make sure I get up the next day. Getting out of bed and tackling a small piece of writing each day has become too important.

Prime the Pump     

I enjoy watching good movies on the couch with my wife but would rather read a good book if given the choice. Reading fuels my writing. It gives me ideas to ponder, words to look up and examples to follow. “If you don't have time to read,” Stephen King said, “you don't have the time (or the tools) to write.”  I’ve taken King at his word and have come to agree. As a writer, you prime the pump by reading good and sometimes bad writing.

“You are, in fact, a mashup of what you choose to let into your life.” Austin Kleon said, “You are the sum of your influences.” Reading is only one form of input. If you are going to grow as a writer, you are going to need more influences than great books. You’re going to need to fill your mind with exciting and fun experiences, music, and more. It is from this well, your ideas spring.

I call this priming the pump. Before any bit of writing goes out into the world countless hours get spent hiking, listening and reading. Input precedes output. We must tend to the things that influence what we create if we want to improve our creative endeavors.

Do Something Every Day

“What you do each day,” Sonia Samone said, “becomes what you did last year.” The truth is, the things you get done, come down to the small habits and routines you do daily. Change and growth are incrementally obtained. The only way I know to get something written is to sit down and write. There isn’t a hidden formula. You have to actually write.

The things you’re good at in life, take time and practice. Writing is no different. If you want to improve and get more out there into the world, you must consistently write. You need to be writing every day. The time of day isn’t important, time spent writing is.

As I’ve shared, I write daily. Writing daily doesn’t mean publishing daily. I write many things that will never see the light of day, most of it for good reason. For every one good page of writing, I stumble upon, there are dozens of terrible ones. You don’t get to write only good things, often the road to the good runs through the bad along the way.

“You always throw out your first pancake,” Seth Godin said, “so get cooking.” Don’t let a few mangled sentences and dry prose stop you, keep at it. Show up every day committed to your task. Do the work required. If writing is an inspired thing, make yourself easy for inspiration to find. Consistency is inspiration’s best friend; they hang out a lot.  

Don’t Think About the Final Product

Few things suck the life out of the act of writing or creative work quite like the tyranny of the finished product. You have this picture of what it’ll look like, what people will say about it and even how it’ll improve your reputation. No wonder you tighten up and have trouble finding the ‘right’ words. You’re so concerned with the final product, that you can’t get anything done.

Pay little attention to your finished product while working. Get your idea on paper or canvas. Vomit it all up on the page, every last piece. Once you’ve got it all out there, you can then go about the work of crafting it. The best way I know to write is to work without the end in mind. I don’t develop any preconceived notions of what completion will mean.

What I’ve given you here is one aspiring writer’s guide. It isn’t definitive or even groundbreaking. It’s a quick run through a few of the habits and routines I use for writing.

1. Get up early

2. Read a lot

3. Write every day

4. Don’t focus on the final product

These four steps have helped me grow and develop as a writer. It's my hope they’ll do the same for you, whatever your creative goals may be.

Monthly Mash Up (April 2017)

It is hard to believe that our little Hud is a month old. April seems to have flown by. As we continue to bask in the sheer joy of being parents for the first time, I’d like to share with you what I'm reading, pondering and enjoying.

The last Monday or Thursday of each month I peel back the layers and share the things that had the greatest impact on me in the previous month. I hope the resources I share with you are helpful and brighten your day. If you do enjoy it, pass it along to family and friends.

Verse I'm Chewing On

“Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! —Psalm 37:1

Todd Wagner mentioned Psalm 37 in a talk this past month. I found it such solid gold, that I’m trying to memorize the first several verses. I’ve only nailed this first verse so far, but find it the perfect reminder not to value the same things as the world. I shouldn’t look at their lives and be envious of any part of it.

What I'm Reading

  1. The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp, M.D. - We brought our son Hudson home from the hospital, and had to figure the sleep thing out. Fast forward a month, and he slept four hours between feedings last night. I call that a win!

  2. The Story of Reality by Greg Koukl - Reality, or the way the world actually is, is the most compelling apologetic the Christian has at his disposal. It’s not a cooked up theory or tale. No, the Christian story fits and explains what we find in the real world. Greg Koukl makes this important argument in his new book The Story of Reality.

  3. A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - You’ve seen the popular Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Hannah and I have watched and rewatched the entire series many times. It’s great. I decided it was time to read the source material. I’m part way through and loving it.   

  4. The Reason for God by Tim Keller - I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve never read this modern classic from the mind of Tim Keller. It is a fine book covering much the same ground as Koukl’s Story of Reality, only in greater details and depth.

  5. Romans 1-7 For You by Tim Keller - I’ve wanted to read this helpful resource for some time now. It was on sale for $2.99 this month so I grabbed it. I’m not too far in, but find it a helpful companion through the first half of Romans.

What I’m Listening To

  1. Daddy Doesn’t Pray Anymore by Chris Stapleton - I stumbled upon the greatness of Chris Stapleton this month while sifting through Spotify’s endless cache of tunes. This song touched my heart in a deep way. In it, Chris describes a father who has been a faithfully committed follower of The Lord and how his son remembers it. “I remember when times were bad,” Chris sings, “he’d thank Jesus for everything he had. A good wife and three children and food upon our plate.” My prayer is that our son will be able to remark the same about how I lead and love him.   

  2. A Life That Lost Its Focus: Saul by Ravi Zacharias - I’ve listened to Ravi for several years now, and it never gets old. He communicates truth in a manner as entertaining as it is winsome. In this four-part series, Ravi takes a look at the life of Israel’s first king, Saul.

  3. Lead Like Jesus: Leaders, Marriage and a Local Church - I’m so glad I clicked download on this bad boy! “People need to be reminded,” Samuel Johnson said, “more often than they need to be instructed.” He couldn’t have been more right. This episode was such a great reminder of the stakes in marriage, and a refresher course on why Hannah and I do what we do.

From the Internet

  1. Calling Good People “Racist” Isn’t New: the Case of Ty Cobb - Growing up I obsessed over the legends and stories surrounding Ty Cobb. Who knew so many of the things I believed about this man, turn out to be wrong. If this is the case with Cobb, who else has history cast in a light resembling little of the truth?

  2. A Quiz on the Atonement via Tim Challies - Tim published a helpful quiz on the Atonement in the weeks leading up Easter. If you’re unsure what Christians are celebrating on Easter Sunday—and every other day of their lives—it's worth your time to give it a shot. If all you want to do is measure how well you understand this important doctrine, like I did, that's ok too.

  3. A handful of people via Austin Kleon - You can’t make everyone happy, and you shouldn’t even try. Identify the small number of people whose opinion matters to you, and make your stuff for them. That’s what I’m attempting to do with this blog; write and share things that a few people might find helpful. I hope a good number of others see and enjoy it, but at its core, a smattering of people are in mind with each new post. First of which is my wife, who’s good at telling me the truth.

  4. The Income Tax Implies that Government Owns You - The 18th was national charity day, or as most of us call it—Tax Day. We send money pouring into the coffers of government this time each year. You may find this hard to believe, but it wasn’t always so. Once upon a time, American were free. They got to keep the fruits of their labor. Jeffrey Tucker presents a discussion we need to have about the fleecing of our pockets we allow every April.

  5. Why I Love To Read via Randy Alcorn - Some people play golf, while others brew beer or coffee. Those are fine hobbies that bring immense joy, but they’re not the hobbies I’ve glommed onto. Instead, I read a lot. It’s my favorite pastime. Which is why I am excited and grateful for Randy Alcorn’s article this month. It served as the perfect reminder of the all important why behind picking up books.

20 Powerful Resources To Improve Your Writing

It seems everyone has a blog. This can be good or bad, depending on how you look at it. I choose to view blogging as an unlimited opportunity to grow and improve as a writer. Like almost everything else in life, improving your writing requires doing it a lot. The best thing you can do to improve as a writer is to write. Force yourself to sit down each day and put words on the page. Few outlets serve to create a space and opportunity to acquire necessary repetitions to accomplish the goal, like having a blog. 

From time to time, people mention that they enjoy writing and are thinking about starting a blog. That's always exciting. I love to see people jumping into the blogging space and starting to write more! The world needs more voices not fewer. 

There are few things more terrifying than sitting, and starring a white blank page, however. The cursor just blinks at you, as if taunting you. You can hear it laughing in the back of your mind, it's daring you to write something. Fear wells up inside, you start sweating and your mind goes blank. Everyone's been there. 

I know that feeling all too well, and want to help you conquer it. The goal isn't just to turn out pithy sentences and paragraphs, but to impact other people with the words you pen. I've compiled several resources to make your task easier, and more enjoyable. It is my hope that what follows helps you become the very best writer you can. 

Blogs to Help You Create Awesome Content:

1. Michael Hyatt

2. ProBlogger

3. Jerry Jenkins

4. Steven Pressfield

5. Jon Acuff

Despite all advances in technology, ours remains a world of the written word. Here are a few books that'll aide you in honing your skills and becoming the very best writer you can.

Books for Honing Your Skills:

1. On Writing Well by William Zinsser

2. Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. & E.B White

3. On Writing by Stephen King

4. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield 

Good Writing Worth Reading:

1. Walden by Henry David Thoreau

2. Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan

3. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

4. Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

5. Secrets In The Dark by Frederick Buechner 

Writers may read and readers write, but what if your schedule doesn't allow tons of time for reading? Thanks to the proliferation of the iPhone and a million apps you've still got a shot to fill your mind with what it needs to produce great work. Here are audio options to get your brain jump started and churning out content like a pro.

Audio for While You're On The Go:

1. Home Row: A Podcast with Writers on Writing

2. ProBlogger Podcast: Blog Tips to Help You Make Money Blogging

3. Grammar Girl Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing

4. A Way With Words

5. Audible - (great way to consume audio books)

Now that you're in the mood to make a move and kick start your blogging life, here is an extremely helpful blogging challenge to get you started. In this seven day challenge you'll find ideas for not just what to write about but the immensity of directions and approaches to the job.

7 Days to Getting Back Your Blogging Groove