Why I’m publishing my ebook 100 words at a time

I'm writing my ebook in the least efficient way possible: Every day, I publish an update of at least 100 words.

And you know what? It's working great.

Publishing 100-word chunks throws the “writing process” out the window

Writing involves several discrete steps: organization and outlining, research, writing the first draft, editing the final draft, formatting and publishing. To write quickly and efficiently, you shouldn't combine steps.

In my case that's even more true: Writing about a technical topic requires a lot of research, which usually means I spend a lot of time fiddling with Sublime Text plugins, reading configuration files, scanning documentation and source code.

Publishing an update every day means I spend 80 percent of my “writing” time doing research before pounding out a few sentences and hitting the publish button.

Yesterday I spent 20 minutes working up a PHP example function and making sure it actually ran before I used it in a screenshot.

My inner efficiency geek recoils in horror

“You should be batching your research, then cranking out a full chapter from your notes!” he screams.

But you know what? That didn't work.

I tried setting ambitious goals for my writing: I'll publish one chapter a week! I'll write 1,000 words a week!

I then tackled my big goal as efficiently as possible, starting with doing some research, then typing up an outline, and then …

It just sat.

By breaking up my writing into a week-long project, I never developed the habit of writing daily. And my self-imposed deadlines slipped by unmet.

Habits trump efficient process

So I've changed my goal. Rather than focusing on finishing my book, which encourages me to put a premium on efficiency, I've dedicated myself 100 percent to developing the habit of daily writing.

Personal finance guru Dave Ramsey recommends paying off a mountain of debt by starting with the smallest credit card balance, rather than tackling the one with the highest interest rate.

Why? Because the biggest impediment to financial success is habits, not math.

Paying off the smallest debt provides a quick win that reinforces the new financial habits you're developing.

Success is 80 percent about consistency, and 20 percent about efficiency

I'd like to write 1,000 words a day like Nathan Barry. I want to become a writing machine, cranking out blog posts and ebooks at dizzying speed.

But before I worry about optimizing my writing process and increasing my words per hour, I'm going to ensure that writing is as much a part of my daily routine as brushing my teeth.

Because the 100 words I wrote this morning beat all those chapters that never happened.

P.S. If this habit stuff sounds interesting, I'd encourage you to check out the Power of Habit.

NathanStults - May 31, 2013

Awesome! Really great self-engineering work – and thanks for sharing the inspiration.