Fun fact: what I publish on my blog represents a small fraction of what I write. In fact, I have been trying to keep my blog posts shorter.
For the past few years I’ve maintained an average daily writing pace of 2,500–5,000 words a day. Over 2 million words a year. I write a lot.
The Ultimate Writing System
Many people ask me about the system I use to write consistently and prolifically.
How do I organize ideas, keep track of my writing, find what I need when I need it, and so on.
I’ve tested every system out there, and here is what I have found to be the ultimate system:
I know. It doesn’t feel like it can be that simple. I love to over-complicate things. I assure you that it really is this simple.
An Artist Creates
A painter picks up a paintbrush and paints. She doesn’t think about systems for storing research. She paints from whats around her and what’s insider her.
A photographer is always ready with her camera to capture the moment. She has her tools — her camera — with her, and she operates on instinct and intuition.
A performer will perform anywhere at any time. She doesn’t need the formality of a stage; she’ll turn a conversation into a test run of a comedy show or belt out a tune whenever she feels the urge.
I’ve never heard anyone ask a musician about their system for playing their instrument. A musician practices, obviously. But the system for playing is: he sits down to play.
We instinctively know how to nurture our preferred creative outlets, whether it’s creating visual art, performing, playing music, making things with your hands.
Like other creative outlets, writing is an art. My fingers are my paintbrush. My life experiences, my emotions, my observations, my insights, are my paints.
Writers Make It Complicated
Only writers seem to be caught in a quest for the perfect system for writing.
How did you store and retrieve information and turn that into creative output? How do you keep track of your research, inspiration and ideas? How do you connect the dots to create something? What’s the best way to process your notes and writing so you’ll find what you need when you need it?
None of this is relevant to the process of writing. In fact, it’s a diversion, an attempt to turn writing into a function of the mind.
Creativity is not a linear process. You disempower your process by trying to put strict workflow parameters around it. This is why I end up abandoning each system I try. The creative process cannot be shoe-horned into a one-size-fits-all container.
Your process is unique to you.
Art emanates from within. It needs a container to allow it to nurture, but not a rigid system that tries to predict what you’ll need in the future.
Writing From the Mind vs the Heart
Writing that comes from the mind — any work that comes from the mind — is dry and boring. You know it when you’re reading it. It might be informative, but it’s not memorable.
When I’m at my best, I write from my heart. I can tell. You can tell. We can all tell when someone has written from the heart versus the mind.
A Practice of Trust
The art of writing is a practice of trust.
TRUST your innate process.
Allow yourself to put words on a page without calculating where they will go and how you will find them.
If you can let go of your plan for what you want to write, then your writing will take you somewhere you may have never expected to go.
Trust that in the moments you feel called to review something you wrote in the past, you’ll find what you didn’t even realize you needed in that moment.
But you won’t find anything and you won’t have anything to share if you don’t write.
You can make it complicated if you wish, but it’s really that simple: