Don't Break the Chain

James Garside
Writing Chain CalendarPhoto by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

I’m easily distracted, especially when I’m supposed to be writing, but one rabbit trail I ran down actually turned up something useful.

Don’t laugh but I found my salvation in a lifehacker article about how Jerry Seinfeld stays motivated to write every day:

He revealed a unique calendar system he uses to pressure himself to write. Here’s how it works.
He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker.
He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. “After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”


I promptly bought a Japanese recycled paper schedule calendar notebook from a Japanese shop in Leeds. It’s sexier than a wall calendar, and I can carry it around with me. It has a simple monthly calendar equivalent to a wall calendar at the front and a more detailed breakdown of each day inside.

I put a big red cross on every day that I write for 2 hours or 2,000 words. So far, so good. I also put a little green star in each day that I’ve posted something on my blog, no matter how haphazard or unforgivably bad. So far, so good; but again, with apologies to anyone who has read them.

I’ve even tried putting crosses and stars on actual times in the more detailed daily breakdown inside the notebook to give me a clue as to when I actually write each day.

I’d planned to get up at 5am every morning, write 2,000 words of my nanowrimo novel, and then between work and other commitments spend the rest of the day editing it into shape.

I’d also planned to write tons of witty and insightful blog posts on my days off and advance post them for the rest of the month.

But, it turns out that I’m not a morning person, and that on my days off the only thing I do with any consistency is sleep and drink tea.

A little stubbornness goes a long way but I wish that I had more.

The thing that’s kept me going the most isn’t stubbornness; as much as I’d love to pretend otherwise.

I’m just determined not to break the chain.

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NCTJ-qualified British independent journalist, author and travel writer.


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