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“People say to me, ‘Oh, you’re so prolific’…God, it doesn’t feel like it—nothing like it.  But, you know, you put an ounce in a bucket each day, you get a quart.”

John McPhee (quoted by Cal Newport)

Journalist John McPhee rarely wrote more than 500 words a day, but his secret was the power of repetition. He did this seemingly small amount of writing nearly every day throughout his long career. By writing a little, a lot, he achieved an enormous amount, including countless articles, 29 books and a Pulitzer Prize.

That’s what writing slowly is about. It doesn’t mean being lazy. It means cultivating the discipline to keep writing. Five hundred words a day adds up to 182,500 words a year. It’s not hard to write a lot. Quantity is not the issue. The only two obstacles are the difficulty of maintaining the habit, and the little voice in your head that tells you your scribbling will never amount to anything.

4 thoughts on “You can get a lot done by writing slowly

  1. @SamHawken Thank you, this is good advice – it’s quite hard to write a really small amount, since the words start flowing once you begin. The hardest part is starting at all. After that it’s much easier. Another piece of advice I’ve heard is to attempt to write the worst paragraph in history. That also turns out to be quite hard to do. It’s much easier to write something that’s at least ok! ✏

  2. @writingslowly The advice I give most often to people who have issues forming a daily writing habit is to set a ridiculously low goal. For example, my daily goal at the moment is a measly 210 words, but I will exceed that by leaps and bounds because once I write that small amount, the gears are greased. And if they turn out to be too rusty that day, at least I still reached my goal and can feel good about it. ✏️

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