I’m going to go out on a limb here. Because what I’m about to suggest might seem a little crazy.
But it really works.
And I want you to know about this simple habit, because the sooner you adopt it, the sooner you’ll start to see what I discovered.
I stumbled upon this weird (and unexpected) benefit while I was developing a different habit.
Now the habit is a daily practice for me because of the powerful results it produces.
Move those fingers every day
The habit I was trying to develop was a daily writing practice.
Because here I am, managing the editorial direction of the Copyblogger blog. And my job includes a lot of writing.
My goal for adopting a daily writing habit was to get my writing chops into the best shape possible.
And it turns out that a daily writing practice does help. Warming up your writing brain every single day helps you lose the fear of the blank page. You get into the habit of sitting down and starting to fill the screen with letters.
But as I started writing every day, something kind of eerie started to happen.
The everyday habit that yields weird results
First off, I should tell you what my daily practice looks like.
I use a website called 750words.com. This site does a few things that help keep me on track. It features:
- A completely private, distraction-free writing space
- Encouragement to write at least 750 words each day
- A daily email reminder to get your words written
- A chart that is a visual representation of how many days you’ve written your 750 words that month
- Congratulatory messages (with badges!) whenever you’re on a streak of more than one day of writing
- Tons of data about how fast you wrote, and even the types of words you used
The site charges a small fee ($5/month) for all its awesome prompts. The first month is free, so you have 30 full days to try it and see if you like it.
So every day at the time I selected (7:00 a.m.), I get a little email that encourages me to write my words.
7:00 a.m. is pretty early for me. I’ve usually consumed one cup of coffee, but not my second cup, so I’m sort of awake, but not completely.
Not the best state of mind for writing inspiring, earth-shattering prose.
So what do I do? I just start typing. Whatever comes to my mind ends up coming out of my fingertips.
You hold the key to the magic door
Invariably, I end up writing about whatever I’m thinking about at the moment.
It might be a tricky problem I’m trying to solve, or something that’s bugging me. Maybe it’s a personal situation that I’m not sure how to handle. Or an issue at work I’m trying to figure out.
I call this “think-typing.” Because words come out of my fingertips that describe the problem, and they seem like they’re flowing straight from my subconscious self.
It helps me literally put a finger on what’s on my mind.
And then this weird thing happens.
- The first time it happened, I was surprised.
- Then it happened again, and I was delighted by the coincidence.
- Then it kept happening. Over and over!
I realized I was onto something.
Write your way to the answer
Here’s what kept happening.
I’d type out the problem I was trying to solve. And I’d keep typing. And as I continued to think-type, out would pop an answer to the problem.
- Sometimes it was a different angle on the issue — an angle that helped me see the situation more clearly.
- Sometimes it was a solution that seemed to come out of nowhere — a solution I’d never considered.
- Often, it was simply a more compassionate way to look at the situation. Like a wise friend was putting a hand on my shoulder and providing guidance.
I know this sounds weird. Bizarre, right?
A few months ago, I never would have believed it.
I’d read On Writing by Stephen King. And in an interview I did with Sonia Simone a few weeks ago, she reminded me of this passage in his book.
And when I re-read the passage, I realized that he was referring to this same phenomenon.
Here’s what Stephen King says:
There is a muse, but he’s not going to come fluttering down into your writing room and scatter creative fairy-dust all over your typewriter or computer station. He lives in the ground. He’s a basement guy. You have to descend to his level, and once you get down there you have to furnish an apartment for him to live in. You have to do all the grunt labor, in other words, while the muse sits and smokes cigars and admires his bowling trophies and pretends to ignore you. … It’s right that you should do all the work and burn the midnight oil, because the guy with the cigar and the little wings has got a bag of magic. There’s stuff in there that can change your life. –Stephen King, On Writing
King says inspiration shows up when you show up.
And that’s what a daily writing practice gives you access to.
Except it’s not just inspiration for your writing. It’s inspiration for your life.
How to tap into the genius inside
Got a sticky business problem? Write about it.
Trying to figure out how to handle someone in your personal life? Write about it.
Need a new approach to an old challenge? Write about it.
Because I’m here to tell you, there’s an always-present part of your brain that Just Knows.
It knows what to do, it knows how you should handle things. And sometimes when you let yourself just write — not edit, not correct, not re-organize sections, but just write — you gain access to that smart part of your brain.
The wisdom flows out onto the page.
When you write.
When your fingers are on the keyboard or you have a pen in hand. That’s when the magic happens.
Image source: Ed Gregory via Stokpic.