24 Oct

The commitment that changed my career + my next project.

In May 2012 I made a commitment that changed my career: A simple task, completed every day, that skyrocketed my blog and allowed me to make over $30,000 in 6 weeks. Ready?

Here is the exact commitment I made:

“I will write 1,000 words every day.”

I tracked my progress in Commit, an iPhone app I designed for tracking habits. The first few months were off and on. I would build up a chain of 5-10 days in a row, but then something would happen to break the chain (usually travel). But then starting in July I kept the streak going. First 20 days, then 30. Soon it was so long that I was going to write 1,000 words every day no matter what happened.

This allowed me to make rapid progress on my book, The App Design Handbook, write dozens of guest posts for other blogs, and continue to write each week for my own site. After the insanely successful book launch I wasn’t sure what to do next. I didn’t have the next project planned, having put everything into the book and launch. So what next?

Well, I had that commitment, so without skipping a day, I kept writing.

 

A delayed project

On November 7th, 2009, I created a text document called “Outline.” As the title suggests, it was an outline for the book I was going to write about designing web software. So if I started writing a book in 2009, why did I not publish one until 2012?

The commitment is what made the difference. Every previous time I had tried to write a book (yes, there were several previous attempts) I worked on it when I felt inspired. The results were pathetic. I never managed to write more than 5,000 words for a single project.

Now I am thrilled to say that I have written 1,000 words a day for 100 days in a row, for a total output of approximately 100,000 words of content. I guess I’ve come a long way from the days I struggled to write enough each week for a single blog post.

A successful project needs a huge amount of content. Not just for the product itself (in my case a book), but also promotion posts, guest posts, tutorials, help documentation, and all kinds of other content. Here’s a rough breakdown of what I wrote:

  • 20,000 words of guest posts
  • 30,000 words for The App Design Handbook
  • 25,000 words for the new project (see below)
  • 15,000 words for my own blog
  • 10,000 words for my chapter in The Smashing Mobile Book

Another Opportunity

That reminds me. I was asked to write a chapter for Smashing Magazine’s new book on mobile. Smashing Magazine is a massive design blog (nearing 1 million readers) that has some fantastic articles. When planning The App Design Handbook launch I wrote to Vitaly, the editor-in-chief, about writing guest posts on the site. I was very surprised when he responded right away saying that he was thrilled I emailed, because he’d been meaning to email me. Huh? He runs this massive site and was planning on emailing me? I wasn’t sure he would even remember who I was.

Turns out he had come across some of my recent blog posts on designing for iOS and was looking for an author to write the iOS chapter for their mobile book. I was honored, to say the least.

Then he told me who else was a part of the project. These were all the superstars of the mobile design community, people whom I look up to and read all their work. As I read his email I looked at my desk and saw two books from people who would be my co-authors. I looked at my computer screen and saw articles already open from three more. And I was being asked to write alongside them. None of this would have happened without my commitment to write 1,000 words per day.

 

The Software Design Handbook

So with my new habit formed, I am thrilled to announce that my next project is the book I’ve been wanting to write for over 3 years: The Software Design Handbook.

The Software Design Handbook will cover everything I’ve learned in the last 5-6 years of designing web software, from refining your idea to designing the user experience. It will also include code samples, case studies, and interviews with other expert designers. So far the interviews include Ryan Singer from 37signals, Sacha Greif from Folyo, Brennan Dunn of
Planscope, and Trent Walton of Paravel. In the next few weeks I’ll be revealing even more great interviews.

If you are interested in designing great web software, check out the book here.

Otherwise, just keep reading this blog and I’ll try not to talk about it too much. Oh, and the book comes out December 12th. Just six weeks away.

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20 Responses to “The commitment that changed my career + my next project.”

  1. Hi Nathan,
    Congrats on making this a habit and of course in your success! It’s very inspiring.

    I’d love to hear more about your experience in accomplishing this goal though (I can’t seem to find any article on it on the site but if you’ve already written it, forgive me for asking!).

    Do you usually plan out in advance what you’ll be writing about each day? Are the 1,000 word articles fully formed (or at least cohesive) writing or do they include rough drafts/research notes, etc.?

    The biggest hurdle I’ve found when trying to write every day is just figuring out what to write about, doing the research and then trying to plan how I’ll write it. It seems overwhelming to do all that in a day.

    It would be great to get your insight on how you broke things down especially during those early days!

    Cheers,
    Nicole


    • Nathan Barry says:

      Thanks Nicole!

      No, I don’t plan out what I am going to write each day. If it is a book I have my outline in place and just pick a section to start writing. This lets me jump around to different sections as my interest changes.

      The 1,000 words has to be cohesive, but is very much still in draft form. I’ll count notes and research if I am really struggling to hit the goal for the day.

      You could always start with a smaller goal, like writing 100 words per day, and then keep writing on the days you have something to say. Showing up is the most important part. Then as you build the habit, increase your goal.


  2. Hi mate, that’s a big commitment. I’ve only just started touching 1000 words in some of what I’ve been writing, monthly let alone daily. I’ll will download that app, and try it..

    thanks


  3. Hey Nathan,

    Great post over on ThinkTraffic today (about pricing), but then I came over here and just loved this post. I also made a commitment more than a month ago to Write Every Day and it’s already producing results!

    Anyway, it just really hit me when you said it “changed your career and your next project.” It’s just so exciting what a change in a habit or a commitment to something can bring. Thanks so much for posting this.


  4. Debbie Horovitch says:

    Did I miss where the $30k in 6weeks came from?


  5. jdouglas says:

    30k in 6 wks– Did YOU miss the point? If you spent months on your blog AND compiled a saleable product AND had created a following AND worked at KNOWING your audieence AND had wrote 1k a day YOU wouldn’t HAVE to question the 30k in 6wks YOU would have earned AND RESPECTED it –TANX


  6. Nathan,
    Thanks for a great post that you could have titled, “Secret Habit of a Successful Blogging.”

    Interestingly enough, there is a website actually designed to help you write 1000 words per day. Actually it’s 750 words, which is considered 3-pages. Check out http://750words.com/

    For a strategy to become an excellent writer, Daphne Gray-Grant suggests “Deliberate Practice” which I summarized at http://bit.ly/UDfyY3 .


  7. [...] similar, although more ambitious goals before and the outcomes are spectacular. Nathan Barry wrote 100,000 words in 100 days, published his first book and nearly finished his second one. Chris Strom’s accomplishments [...]


  8. [...] product in 1 year? Not by some life changing event. Not by meeting the right person. Simply by writing 1000 words, every single [...]


  9. [...] Barry has made for a great case study of the use of these quotas as someone who forced himself to write 1000 words per day come hell or high-water. The result was 3 self-published books resulting in thousands of dollars [...]


  10. This article is similar to your 300,000 word article. I came across these two articles from Andre Chaperon’s Auto Responder Madness Course. This method is really brilliant. Just committing to doing it and not worrying about being perfect makes it fun again while kicking the production in high gear. Thanks for your insights…excellent article!


  11. Hi Nathan,

    I will steal your ideia and create a ‘project next level’
    for my site.

    1000 words per day for 100 days straight.

    Let’s see what I will get.

    Then I will come back here to tell you.

    And I find it through ARM 3.0 [ Chaperon ].

    Glad to see that link.

    Regards,
    Jack Tyler


  12. Awesome, good job you were able to stay on the road. Love the inspiration and congratulations on your new book.

    I have similar plans for writing, and you inspired me to do it!

    I also heard that you are a writer/developer, is that true? I’m only asking because I am looking to step inside of that field too, I have been a writer for some time.

    *NOTE*

    Trying to press TAB to jump to the Name box below isn’t working, it instead jumps to the top of the page. It’s nothing serious but I thought I’d point that out :)


  13. […] Barry has made for a great case study of the use of these quotas as someone who forced himself to write 1000 words per day come hell or high-water. The result was three self-published books resulting in thousands of […]


  14. […] Barry has made for a great case study of the use of these quotas as someone who forced himself to write 1000 words per day come hell or high-water. The result was three self-published books resulting in thousands of […]


  15. […] Barry has made for a great case study of the use of these quotas as someone who forced himself to write 1000 words per day come hell or high-water. The result was 3 self-published books resulting in thousands of dollars […]


  16. Well done Barry. I love how you pick just one thing to focus on rather than muddling everything up with several goals. While writing 1,000 words a day, and I’ve managed to that myself for awhile, is a big commitment , its easier when you don’t try to include other goals that become distractions.

    The end result is an amazing amount of productivity and the accomplishment of some big goals. It’s a great lesson and a great example.

    And finally, I’m reading this well over a year after you wrote it.

    A magazine article would long ago been buried but not here on the world wide web.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

    Nick


  17. […] Barry has made for a great case study of the use of these quotas as someone who forced himself to write 1000 words per day come hell or high-water. The result was three self-published books resulting in thousands of […]


  18. […] I read about Nathan Barry writing 1000 words a day. He had a great blog. He had two books published. And it instantly made […]


  19. […] 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 […]


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