Consistency is hard. That’s why it’s so rare—and so valuable.
As a writer, you need consistency for many reasons:
- Improving your craft
- Feeding creativity and generating ideas
- Building an audience or an author platform
All of these goals require consistent effort over time.
The importance of consistency came home to me recently reading Mark Schaefer’s new book Cumulative Advantage* about the fact that advantage breeds advantage.
In the book, Schaefer offers a formula for how creative innovative ideas take off, or books become best-sellers that lead to a friendship with Oprah. (Hello, Tim Ferriss.)
Authors who already have platforms have more success with their next books. Success breeds success.
Many factors contribute to wild success: identifying a “seam” of opportunity, leveraging that seam with a “sonic boom” of promotion, getting others to help you spread the word. And of course, luck and personal fit come into play.
But his formula includes building momentum through constancy of purpose.
Here we are again—consistency. Schaefer writes: “Consistency is more important than genius.”
How can you introduce consistency into your writing life? Here are a few ideas.
Find the right pace
Maybe you’re one of those people who can publish a blog every day. Seth Godin does, bless him.
I’m can’t do it — and I’m a writer.
For years, I blogged every week. Over time, it felt like a chore—which probably showed in the writing. And the blog work pushed aside other writing that I wanted to do.
A couple of years ago, I switched to every other week. I told my subscribers. Nobody complained. I suspect that most people didn’t notice.
This schedule (usually) gives me time to put together a thoughtful post.
If you want to blog every day, go for it. It’s more important to me that I write every day than that I publish every day. That leads to the next point.
Set small minimum goals
Whether you’re writing a journal or publishing a blog, there are days you’ll want to say Nah, I’ve got nothing. I’m too tired.
Challenge yourself to meet at least a small, minimum effort—say, five minutes.
My voice teacher Julia Nielsen led a fantastic “How to Practice” seminar this summer, and referred to James Clear’s “Two Minute Rule” (from Atomic Habits*). She suggested that five minutes of warming up, mental singing, or repertoire study could count as practice.
The same thing applies to writing.
You can always find five minutes to tinker with the next blog post, write in your journal, or revise your manuscript in progress.
It may not be the hours that you envision being necessary. But you’re still writing, reinforcing the habit, reminding yourself and the universe that you are a writer.
Good ideas may appear in those five minutes.
Even showing up for a short time, you feed the background mental systems (the Muse) that are critical to creativity.
The Muse isn’t greedy. Give it five minutes here and there, and it might deliver.
Don’t confuse consistency with perfection
I subscribe to David Gaughran’s author newsletter. His most recent email had the subject line “I’m alive!”
He’d dropped off to deal with some personal issues. And as much as I relish that newsletter, I hadn’t really noticed its absence. (Sorry, David!)
Was I upset? Indeed, no. He’s human. I’m human. I wish him well. (If you’re an indie author, subscribe to his newsletter.)
Sometimes you’ll miss that blog deadline. You’ll skip the journal entry.
Being consistent isn’t the same as being perfect. Life is messy.
Your blog readers will understand and forgive you. Forgive yourself. And then keep going.
* These are affiliate links; if you purchase the book through them, I will earn a small percentage, which I put toward buying more books for give-aways. It’s a virtuous cycle of sorts.