The Volume Hack

Mar 28, 2022 | Me, Writing

Perhaps the most useful information anyone can have is a definite idea of what their own weaknesses are.

Known weaknesses can be hedged against, shored up, or shielded in one way or another. And being unaware of your own weaknesses is itself the greatest weakness. Consider the story of Achilles, who was seemingly invincible until an arrow accidentally hit the one vulnerable spot of his body that no one bothered to warn him about. Turns out that open-heeled Greek sandals are not a good defense against projectiles.

But even better than knowing that you have weaknesses is knowing what to do about them.

Identifying My Weakness

My weakness, as a writer, is prolificness. Er, prolificacy. Prolificacity? Prolifiety?

My weakness, as a writer, is that I haven’t been able to produce writing in great quantity over a short period of time. And that’s a bad weakness for a writer to have. Though, thankfully, I have a lot less of it than some other writers.

Eleven years is a bit long, even by my standards.

I wasn’t always this way. The first book I ever finished took only a month. The second book, though it was more than three times as long, took only a year.

But my upcoming book, Advent 9, took four years. And that is much too long for a writer who does not already have a fanbase of millions.

Part of that delay can be explained by opposition. My decision to become an author was not well received by most people in my circle. I had to fight for it. And it is a fight to approach the blank page for all authors, but the fight is particularly draining when you know that people are actively rooting against you. You lose that fight more often when you start off with that handicap.

And it only ended when I found people who were impressed enough by my work to offer encouragement. I was lucky enough to land a good editor who thought my story was “absolutely brilliant”. And only recently, as I have started working with professionals to produce my book, have I received the kind of praise that would have made a world of difference to a foundling writer.

Perhaps these developments are what inspired me to discover a more productive way to write. Or perhaps its just a coincidence that I discovered this catalyst so soon after receiving such encouragement.

Regardless, I now have an efficient and reliably way of producing work, day upon day.

A Life Hack for Productivity

I’ve been using it since the beginning of March, to great effect. And it just may have saved my writing career, because even though I have one amazing book in the publishing pipeline, that means little unless I can follow it up with at least two more books in a short span (in book authoring, more than any other field, the name of the game is “publish or perish”).

And I must admit that part of my inspiration for undertaking this experiment comes from the recent surprise Kickstarter announcement from Brandon Sanderson. Hearing him relate how he wrote five books during the downtime he experienced during the covid pandemic spurred me to try something new, no matter how outlandish it might be.

And the method is simple: reduce my writing quota from 1000 words per day to 100.

That’s it. Nothing else.

Now, the reason this works is because it’s guaranteed to get me in the writer’s chair every night. A quota of 1000 words a day is common for most professional writers, and I am often able to reach it. But on the days that I don’t reach it (for whatever reason) I find myself at a complete loss. The devastation of not meeting that quota is enough to sour me on writing altogether. It feels bad enough that after failing to meet that quota several days in a row, I will just…stop.

Because it feels better to not write than to fail such a basic requirement.

But 100 words per day is a small enough arrangement that I cannot fail to meet it. 100 words is a paragraph and a half. On my worst day I could write 100 words.

Heck, on a day ONE MILLION times worse than my worst day, I could write 100 words. If a portal to hell opened and swallowed me up, and I spent the day being repeatedly violated by psychopathic clowns in a fiery pit before someone realized the mistake and sent me back to Earth, I could, between bouts of huddling under my desk and weeping, still manage to write 100 words.

Seriously.

And the brilliant part is, I usually write MUCH MORE than 100 words. On a typical day, I can easily write 600. But when the goal is one thousand, those 600 words only serve to condemn and accuse me. With a goal of only 100, those 600 to 800 words make me feel like a genius who can do anything.

I’ve only had this trick for one month, and I’ve managed to make almost every day a writing day. If I had started out with this practice, I could have finished more than 20 books by now.

If I keep to this schedule, I can likely write both project s-squared and the sequel to Advent 9 within a year.

I have never been more optimistic about my prospects.

And You Can, Too!

I’m interested to discover if other people have encountered the same difficulties I have.

I’m even more interested to discover if the thing that helped me can help them.

So why not make it official? Reduce your writing quota to something so realistic you can’t help but succeed. For me, it has made writing a joy again. It’s as if a haze has been lifted from my mind.

If possible, I’d like to give that same advantage to everyone.

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