Chris Guillebeau’s 1,000 words standard: what’s your writing process?

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Writing Process | flickr creative commons user alist
Writing Process | flickr creative commons user alist

Since it’s the beginning of the year, I’ve been thinking a lot about professional and personal goals. One of my professional goals is to write more consistently. While I write a lot, I’ve always been an inconsistent writer. I tend to sit down for a couple hours and throw out thousands of words at a time, then go long periods without writing anything.

I’ve learned over the years that this approach doesn’t work for me. Over the past year, I’ve tried to standardize my writing schedule, and I’ve made some improvements. But this year, I hope to create even more consistency.

In all aspects of my life, I’m trying to create lasting habits. I’ve been successful with going vegetarian, creating a consistent workout schedule, and getting regular sleep, but I haven’t been successful with consistent writing. However, I’ve come up with a strategy to change that.

Chris Guillebeau provides some insight into his own writing process in his book The Art of Non-Conformity. Guillebeau follows a daily 1,000 words standard. Here’s how he explains it:

The 1,000 words standard is that I commit to write at least 1,000 words a day of something. I don’t necessarily think all 1,000 words are good enough for publication; in this case, the discipline is more important to me than whatever the final deliverable is. I know my own weaknesses, and I know I won’t be happy with myself if I miss more than a day or two once in a while. Accounting for Sabbath days and occasional missed days, this allows me to generate an annual output of 300,000 written words — about 100 blog posts, 20 newspaper columns, 20 guest articles for various outlets, 3 information products, and 1 book each year.

This might not be the best approach for everyone — after all, Guilebeau’s career is built on his writing — but the point is that Guillebeau commits to a habit and shows the results of that habit.

Personally, I commit to an hour a day of writing. During that hour, I put aside everything else and focus only on writing. I try my best to keep with this schedule, but sometimes I’ll miss days. If I miss a day, I don’t stress, but I try to write something, even if it’s just a short five-minute reflection at the end of the day. The point is to stay consistent.

I find that on days when I write for at least an hour, I end up with about 500 words, or two pages, of writing. Doing some quick math, this ends up being about 150,000 words a year. That’s an impressive amount, but I have to commit to it.

What are some of your writing commitments and processes? Feel free to share in the comments, or on Facebook or Twitter.

Kevin Eagan (@KevEagan) is a freelance editor and writer living in Central Florida. He edits book manuscripts and articles for local and national publications. Critical Margins is his place to share his interests. You can also follow him on Google+ or check out his professional website,