Don't Break the Chain - by Donna

This week on the blog, we're exploring the topic of rough drafts.

"The first draft is definitely the hardest,” says author, Joyce Carol Oates, “like hacking one's way through a thick jungle with something like a butter knife.” Because of that daunting challenge, when writers get together, the conversation often turns to how to encourage, support, inspire and accomplish the rough draft. That's exactly what happened when I was in San Diego this weekend and had dinner with my brother-in-law, and fellow writer, Jason.

Jason's New Year's Resolution was oh too familiar. Write something, anything, every single day. (In fact I think I may have written that very resolution on this very blog a couple of months ago). We've both tried calendars and various goal documentation, but Jason had found a new twist (based on Jerry Seinfield's idea) that I thought I'd share. It's simple, but motivating.

The idea is to start on any day (like today) and to mark off each box every day you write, trying to see how far you can go without "breaking the chain." It doesn't matter how long, or how much you write each day, just that you put your butt in the chair and do it. Here's Jason's suggestions on how to use the chart:

Attached is the sheet I was talking about. One tip, I printed it out on photo paper (or you could use heavy construction paper) instead of regular paper, that way I can use a permanent ink or heavy marker to cross boxes out and the ink wont soak through. I cross off a box diagonally and write the date on either side of the line similar to a date style like 2/26 for today as an example, that way I don't lose the day that I am on. I found that even though I write, I may forget to cross off the box. Writing the date in each box helps keep track. Enjoy and keep writing.

I'd love the idea of competing with myself to see how many days I can write without 'breaking the chain." I firmly believe writing anything will eventually leads to writing something, so encouraging the constant production of new material is wonderful. If you use this idea, let us know. If you want a PDF of the chart, just comment below and I'll send you one. I'd love to hear how far you can go without "breaking the chain."

I'm starting my chain of rough draft writing today and reminding myself constantly "Amateurs wait for inspiration. The rest of us just go to work every day."- Paul Theroux


I love this idea! I know there are days I may not be able to write much but something is better than nothing. Thank you so much for sharing this idea!

Ah--I love the quote at the end! Sometimes I feel bad making myself write my word count requirement everyday because it can feel really forced and uninspired. But that quote puts it all in perspective. Thanks!

That's a great idea, in that it's the habit that counts, not the wordcount. /unintentional pun

This is a really cool idea. I might start doing this too.

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