Accomplish the Unthinkable: Write Well Every Day This Year

Yesterday marked the beginning of 2007. Like me, you may have been thinking about what you can accomplish this year.

You are a writer. A writer with goals. Unless I have you mixed up with someone less ambitious, you want to improve your writing skills and make more money. Both are respectable, doable objectives for 2007.

In fact, let's make this a breakthrough year for you.

Let's talk about how you can do that.

I was inspired this morning by a piece I'd clipped from The New York Times a few weeks ago. The article is about Suzan-Lori Parks, a pretty, dreadlocked, 43-three-year-old Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright who, in 2002, decided she would write a play a day for a year.

Think about that. A play a day for a year.

When it comes to goals (setting and accomplishing them), I consider myself to be a strong player. Before my 40th birthday, I met and surpassed all my business and financial goals. Since then, I've been knocking off other lifelong goals at a pretty steady pace – and many of them involve writing.

To me, writing a short story a month is a very ambitious goal. And although that's been one of my goals for at least the last five years, I've never quite accomplished it.

How is it possible to even imagine that you could write a play a day for 365 days in a row? And even if it were possible to imagine, how could it be done?

The New York Times article doesn't tell me that. It talks about how, after Parks finished the project, the manuscripts sat in her drawer for three years until she and a theater friend hatched a plan to produce all 365 plays. (The plan is very complicated, opening them a day at a time in 14 cities, using a network of hubs and satellite theaters.) And the article tells me her subject matter ranges from "deities to soldiers to what Ms. Parks saw out of her plane window."

But how did she do it?

Did she wake up early every morning and get to it and not stop until she was done? Did she work on other projects first (she is also a screenwriter and novelist) and then get to her plays at night?

And how much did she write? According to the article, some of the plays were "only a few pages long" – but that's still an amazing accomplishment. She gave herself an almost unthinkable goal … and went ahead and accomplished it.

But she did it smart. She didn't put a minimum length on each play. She let each one take its own length. That's a clever way to approach doing something great.

Perhaps you can do something similar in 2007. Set some unthinkably big task for yourself that, when completed at the end of the year, will have made you a much stronger and more highly compensated writer.

Let's think about some specific writing objective that would be similar to writing a play a day for a year. What could that be?

The obvious answer is to write a promotion a day – to complete, by the end of the year, 365 new direct-response packages. That would be an amazing accomplishment, don't you think? When you consider that even the most prolific copywriters write fewer than 59 packages a year, 365 seems impossible.

But it can be done by doing what Parks did: by narrowing the scope of the goal and focusing on quality rather than size.

In Parks' case, she defined writing a play as writing an effective dramatic presentation – even if that presentation was a single act that lasted no more than five or 10 minutes. In your case, you could define your copywriting objective as writing one effective mini-advertisement per day.

Here's how you can do it in a way that might also dramatically increase your income:

  1. Get on the mailing lists (snail mail and Internet) of six or eight direct-marketing businesses you'd like to work for. (Long-term AWAI members should have already done this.)
  2. Build a "swipe file" (that is, a borrower's library) of ads that these companies are currently using.
  3. Every day, before you do any other work, take out one of the ads from your swipe file and study it. Spend 15 to 30 minutes figuring out what the copywriter is attempting to do, evaluating how well he's doing it, and identifying other approaches that might work equally well or even better.
  4. Pick one of those alternate approaches and make that your daily assignment.
  5. Spend the next 30 to 45 minutes writing and editing a little ad based on the theme you've chosen.
  6. When you are done, file the completed mini-ad in a large envelope addressed to the CEO or marketing director of the company it applies to.
  7. Once a month, send out all those envelopes (each of which will contain one or several samples of your work). Include a letter that briefly explains who you are and why you are sending them this free copy. The letter should be some version of: "I admire your business and hoped that, if you saw what I could do, you might have a spot for me on your freelance rotation."

Don't spend any more than 60 minutes a day completing this task.

In the beginning, you will find that you will be able to write only a limited number of words. But as the weeks pass, you will see your speed improve dramatically.

You'll almost certainly double the speed at which you write. You may quadruple or quintuple it. And you'll also see that the quality of your writing will improve – which may surprise you, considering how much faster you are getting. You will have sharper, more tangible ideas. Your language will be crisper and cleaner.

The trick is to focus on quality, not quantity. So your daily objective will be to come up with just one good marketing idea – and then, when you have it, to write it as simply and powerfully as possible.

If you don't want to do this every single day of the year, make it a workday goal … which would mean you'd be writing about 250 little ads this year and sending them out to potential clients. That goal is plenty big. And it allows you two days a week to do something else first thing in the morning.

I am thinking about setting a goal like this to improve my skills this year. I'd like to challenge myself to write one good story every day. The story won't have to be long. In fact, the first 100 or so of them will probably be very short – but that's okay.

In addition to my "write one ad a day in 2007" idea, here are some other "unthinkably" big goals to consider:

  • Learn a marketing secret a day.
  • Scan an educational book a day.
  • Contact a potential client a day.
  • Recite a poem a day.
  • Call/write a friend a day.
  • Practice a self-promotional speech a day.
  • Sing a song a day.
The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

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Published: January 2, 2007

25 Responses to “Accomplish the Unthinkable: Write Well Every Day This Year”

  1. Great 'possibilities' thinking as well as inspirational.


  2. Of course, I've got to do the homework regarding which companies I'd especially like to write ads for. And then somehow hook their interest with the query email.
    Just like the Hollywood market, but at least the doors are opening. Thanks for the tip.

    M M Wagner

  3. Another daily goal on top of all the other tasks (duties?) one is saddled with! Consider the list of examples and the self-promotional speech would be a taker - only because you stand to gain from it.
    How often is it that we forget to blow our own trumpet, for fear of appearing ludicrous!
    Guess what! Here is one trumpet I'm going to practice blowing - the whole year through. Join me?

    Writers Havoc

  4. An excellent way to get my mind into goal-oriented mode.


  5. It seems a daunting task at the outset. Finding the "correct" companies and their information may be difficult.


  6. I like it!!


  7. Although it's 2011 now, this is e great challenge, and i'm going to think about my big challenge to give myself for the coming time. Next to the challenge of becoming a succesfull copywriter in the Netherlands!


  8. Very ambitious goals indeed. I'm just starting out but I realize the importance of goal setting and more importantly doing your absolute best to achieve them. Thank you for the tips and your excellent advise.


  9. I'm embracing the challenges with this program. It feels like alot to learn sometimes but I'm determined to accomplish my goal of Freelance Copywriting! I am so hungry for a better life and writing copy is the first portion!

    CCT Artist42

  10. Great ideas. Even in 2012, I'm ready to apply it as soon as I get a good grip on direct response copywriting. Here's my contribution to the list of potential goals.

    How about read and comment on one AWAI blog article a day?

    Because you guys give such great advice, I'm sure it's a goal that would pay off.


  11. I'm taking the suggestion of digitalwriter to heart and "doing it". This is an excellent article that inspires me to start out 2013 with an aim for each day. Exactly what that is...well I do still have a few days left to narrow it down and put the pedal to the metal! Thanks for this article.

    Guest (andimac)

  12. My personal goal has been writing every day, even Sundays. I post poems, commenting on Astronomy articles, to writing about History. I write every day. This is my passion. I want to be paid for my passion.


  13. I love the comment from digitalwriter! This Unthinkable article is printed BY ME everytime it appears from AWAI! You would think I would GET it! Workin' at it. Thanks, Rebecca. Thanks, Nick.


  14. Sounds like good, practical advice that can be followed,or adapted by anyone just entering the business. As someone else has said, as soon as I have more learning under my belt, I plan to incorporate it into my daily routine.

    Still in learning mode

  15. The business of doctoring is referred to as a Medical Practice. The business of lawyering is referred to as a Law Practice. They are both considered professions. So why not your very own Copywriter Practice. No Doctor, Lawyer, or Copywriter is perfect, yet, in practice they each become better, more confident and competent. So it is with these challenges. Repetition with real intent leads somewhere and that somewhere is better for the practice.

    Franklin Stevens

  16. Really powerfull advice! I also liked the idea of commenting in one article a day as it is also a reading workout and it can potentialy rise our knowledge by ten-fold or more!

    Rodolfo Oliveira

  17. Powerful thought and advice that I will undertake when completing the AWAI program. In the meantime I am saving all the investment emails I get since I receive several versions daily for the same program.


  18. ...a really high bar. If I make a resolution to study/write/edit the ads every day; it won't happen but if I make a goal of every other day-That's do-able. Just starting out but check back with me in a year and see if I've applied his suggestions. Thanks for the ideas and advice.

    Rita Minner

  19. I think that the advice is really great. Thank you so much. This program is propelling me towards doing what I have been wanting to do for a very long time. It is very exciting!


  20. Once we turn on our innate creative energies,all we have to do is to learn how to direct them toward something we love to do and something we are willing to learn how to do. Setting up a discipline such as writing a certain amount everyday, will kept those creative juices flowing and create the sense of progress that we need to continue on. Great article.


  21. Excellent suggestions. Repetition/practice equals proficiency.


  22. This article was very beneficial and a great reminder that "practice makes perfect"... Thank you.

    Suzanne Cavataio

  23. This is exactly what I need to do to get me going. I used to compose words and tune to a song almost every day, sometimes more, so this is very do-able. I will rest on Sunday, but if an idea strikes me, I'll write it.


  24. I'm making this my goal to write a story, a self-promo or an article a day - from Monday to Friday for the rest of the year.

    Obviously, I'm giving myself a bit of scope so i can stay consistent.

    Its onwards and upwards from here!

    Thanks for this brilliant and instantly 'actionable' article Monsieur Masterson!

    Donald C Obii

  25. I am currently in the throws of writing 1 poem a day for 100 days. I as well like some of the ideas printed in this article and at a later date may try something!

    Wanda F Sewell

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