Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

The Secret to Developing a Regular Writing Habit

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This is the year you become a writer. And what do writers do? They write, of course.

500 words

Photo Credit: HaoJan via Compfight cc

There’s nothing mystical or magical about it. You just have to show up and do the work: place butt in chair, fingers on keys, and start typing.

And this is where most people fail. They never actually write a word. They talk about writing, think about writing, even read about writing.

But they do not write.

How writing (really) happens

You told yourself last year was going to be different, that you were actually going to do NaNoWriMo this time. That you were going to work on that book or get back into blogging.

But none of that happened. Why? Because you attempted too much. You tried to eat the whole elephant in one bite. And that never works when it comes to writing.

Here’s what I know about writing: It happens in small bites. Step by step. One little chunk at a time.

You don’t write a whole book. You write sentences that turn into paragraphs. And paragraphs turn into sections that, then, turn into chapters.

In other words, it all begins with words.

You don’t control the outcome, just the process

I’m in the middle of writing my next book right now, and it’s scaring me to death. It feels so important, so audacious, that I’m locking up, completely paralyzed.

I don’t want to mess this up (it’s supposed to be the best thing I’ve written so far). And because of that fear I’m having trouble starting. So what do I do?

Do I try to write the whole thing in one sitting or keep fixating over the book concept? Do I continue obsessing over getting the table of contents just right or worry about what critics will think of this sentence or that paragraph?

No. I just get up and write my 500 words. Turns out, that’s all writing really is — showing up. Not worrying about the outcome, just honoring the process. (You may tweet that.)

Join the 31-day challenge

My 500 Words

500 words is short enough that you can usually find time to do it daily, and it’s long enough that if you stick to a schedule, you’ll have something substantial in no time.

It takes me anywhere from 30-60 minutes to write 500 words. And if I keep up with that pace, I’ve got a book in 90 days. That’s my plan for finishing my next book: 500 words per day, every day, until it’s done. And I want you to join me.

If you’ve ever wanted to develop a daily writing habit or need help getting back on the horse, then you’ll want to get in on this.

My 500 Words is a 31-day challenge designed to help you develop a daily writing habit and become a better writer.

For the next 31 days, we’ll be writing 500 words a day. These won’t be great words, but they will be written. We’re not trying to reach perfection; we’re just trying to get more ideas out of our heads and onto paper.

And if you want to be part of this, we can keep each other company.

The rules

  • Write 500 words per day, every day for 31 days during the month of January.
  • You can write more if you want, but 500 words is the minimum.
  • Don’t edit. Just write.
  • If you miss a day, pick up where you left off. Don’t make up for lost days.
  • Encourage, don’t criticize (unless explicitly invited to do so).
  • Blogging counts, but email does not.
  • All of this is totally free.

How it works

  1. Leave a comment at the end of this post, saying you’re “in.”
  2. Add your blog to the linkup on the My 500 Words Page, if you’re a blogger.
  3. Write every day, and record your progress (I’ll be using Lift).
  4. Join the Facebook group for extra accountability and encouragement. You can also follow along via Twitter with the hash tag #my500words.
  5. Sign up for the free newsletter to get writing prompts and nudges sent to you via email.
  6. At the end of January, we’ll regroup and evaluate, sharing what worked and what didn’t. I may even highlight a few success stories.
To find out more about My 500 Words and how to get started with this 31-day writing challenge, check out the My 500 Words page.

So… are you in? What will you be writing this month? Share in the comments.

About Jeff Goins

I help people tell better stories and make a difference in the world. My family and I live outside of Nashville, TN. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or Google Plus. Check out my new book, The In-Between. To get exclusive updates and free stuff, join my newsletter.

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  • http://karenbarnesjordan.com/ Karen Jordan

    I’m in … I needed this encouragement, Jeff! Thx! Looking forward to the journey with you and your tribe.

  • sandi

    When I am reading, I also, enjoy writing comments, expressions, on my devotions. It is more than “this is good or I don’t like this”. I try to go deeper than that and an creative in my expression.. Does that count as well? I suppose that would be similar to blog writing although I write it in other places. Ideas. Suggestion too. I found out that “word processors” work in the car so if you are on a long trip, and not driving, let your juices fly. :)

  • Calvonia Radford

    My friend and I have been planning to co-author a book for a vew years now. We even attended a book writers conference a couple of years ago. We haven’t written a thing. Thanks for the challenge. I just found out about it. I’m in starting now.

  • http://shariffison13floor.tumblr.com Shariff ’666′ Fudin

    I love to write actually (sometimes I think the ‘idea’ of me writing that is) but will always find ‘excuses’ or totally put it off my mind every time.

    I have a blog which I regularly ( my definition of the word could mean a few months off at a time) write on which all of you can check out:


  • Nate Turner

    I’m loving this challenge and the process that goes along with it! Knocked out 850 words in less than 45 minutes today. Flow is building, now for better quality in the content. Thanks so much for the challenge @jeffgoins:disqus!

  • Dan Hickey

    Yes! I’m in! In fact, I’ve been in since I learned of this last week but couldn’t start. To begin, I posted last week’s work to http://www.storiesatlarge.wordpress.com. The site is a continuation of my original blog, http://www.americanmaitred.com, with the second blog mainly concerned with the re-writing and polishing of pieces from the original site.

  • Tamela

    I know I’m late but I’m joining in anyway, I need more motivation to write more often and not just when inspired and this challenge is it.

  • E for Or

    Sorry to be fashionably late but I’m in. I only saw this tonight, but have subsequently added my first 500 word post here http://eforor.com/journal/writing-habit. 5 minutes until midnight (UK time) so submitting before I into a pumpkin. Looking forward to reading others’ insights into this excellent challenge.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins


  • Kelly

    I’m in! Love this — fantastic idea Jeff!

  • AzBat

    I am in!!!

  • Ashley Fuller

    Excellent – I’m in!

  • jay feller

    im in..but i think im late..would you still consider me?

  • Cindra @lifewithafarmer

    I’m in…a little late, but I’m committed to the rest of the challenge. Thanks, Jeff.

  • Steven


    Hi Jeff – just posted my 9th blof entry today. Did I mention I’ve never written before and never blogged? Thanks for creating this challenge!

  • Donna Beker

    I’m in! Of course a bit of a late start but that’s just me.

  • LIz Fulcher

    I am SO in. And look, that’s 9 words already! My blog is http://www.AromaticWisdomInstitute.com

  • Stephen Braswell

    I started my challenge today… Thanks for the encouragement and for the insight… I love your work, Jeff!.. Thanks for everything that you do!

  • Teri Denos

    I saw this a week ago but I was sick so I procrastinated. Better late than never. Here’s to forming a new habit that will take on a life of its own. Thanks Jeff, I’m in ^_^

  • Teri Denos
  • T. JONES

    I’m in and oh Lord I just hit publish on my first ever blog post(http://graceforeverydayliving.wordpress.com/). I actually passed the 500 words. I guess frustration helps…lol

  • jennypowell

    I’m a few days late, but I’m in as of yesterday – logged 700 words.

  • Pat

    I’m in. Tried a list of 500 individual words. That’s tougher than I thought it would be, but I finished it.

  • June Mohd Som

    Hi Jeff. Hi everyone… Super glad to see thousands of inspiring souls over here… Sweet love from Kuala Lumpur…

  • Mary Jackson

    Late to the party. But I am in.

  • Yeong Ung

    I’m so happy to say I’m in! too here my first two cent..http://terbangituimpian.blogspot.com/2014/01/as-new-subscriber-i-felt-so-honoured.html
    I dont really have a certain thing to write on, but i wanna try and write something. TQ Jeff for such a great encouragement.

  • Tessa Fletcher

    I’m ‘in’. Not sure if it’s too late, but I’m going to try. What inspired me was your comment about NaNoWriMo, which I signed up for and wanted to try but then was discouraged at how much I had to write. Will try once more with 500 words a day!

  • http://brucercross.com/ Bruce R. Cross

    Ten days into it, missed yesterday, but have written nearly 6,900 words (blogs, journaling, and free writing) in the 9 other days. Putting one foot in front of another…..tomorrow is a new day…to write. Without being wordy…..healing came today in the writing….on a topic that came to the surface. And in it an idea for a book. THANK YOU for inspiring this effort

  • Kitty

    Well, here I am. I’m finally going to write. Sorry, I just came across this and a little late. Boy, do I have a tome to write. Grew up in tiny town in the mid west but somehow married a fundamentalist Muslim, twenty five years my senior. The big glitch?… I agreed to be a co-wife! Spent 30 years doing that, raising sheep, our strong willed all American daugther and slaughtering lambs and milking cows for his family. Dropped from exhaustion, near death experience…seeing angels. Walked away from that life and flew out to my Jr. High sweetheart whom I hadn’t seen or heard from in 35 years. Same red headed, fiery eyed, sweet, nerdy and sensitive Jewish boy that I fell in love with so very long ago. Married a week later, now a year later, living a life of joy, relentless passion and uncontrollable laughter. Eating bacon, skipping through grocery isles and singing songs from our childhood again. High voltage ecstasy, like when I saw the angels. They told me, love is all we take with us.

    • Michelle

      Hi Kitty, I recently dated a Muslim man and I can imagine what you went through in your marriage. I also had a red headed sweetheart as a teenager, so I resonate with your story, and like so many other people’s stories it deserves to be shared! Good luck. I liked hearing what your angels told you about love.

  • Beverly

    Count me in! Psyched! Thanks for organizing this great challenge!

  • Daniel Clay

    Fashionably late to the party. But I’ve been at it for four days before I decided to make it official!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins


  • Emmy Smith

    I’m in! I’ve always wanted to make a habit of writing, but have been too scared.

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins

      Glad to have you Emmy! Don’t worry. We’re all a little scared. :)

  • Siobhan

    I started the discipline of journaling every morning for 15min and writing a classical style poem once a week. So, now, I’m upping the ante, by saying: I’m in! Good lord, I hope I can do it.

    • Ruby Lynn

      Goid for you! Im just now starting to journal again! Somehow I got out of the habit! Good luck!

  • Rose Heredia

    Totally in! I need this so much right now!

  • Todd Marsha

    I’m in. Already did my 500 for the day.

  • Guest

    I’m in as well. I started writing a blog after a heart attack last yer, as a way to make sure that my children and grandchildren could share some of my thoughts and love. For a while I was writing almost every day, and have received a lot of praise and have reached an audience around the world, but the discipline that it takes has never been my strong suit. I am going to take this challenge, though and start putting in my 500 words every day. Thank you for this awesome idea, and if you get a second, check out FROM GRANDPA’S HEART at http://grandpasheart.blogspot.com/

  • Guest

    I’m in as well. I started writing a blog after a heart attack last year,
    as a way to make sure that my children and grandchildren could share
    some of my thoughts and love. For a while I was writing almost every
    day, and my audience has reached 12 countries. I have received a lot of praise and suggestions that I should write a book, but the discipline that it takes has never been my
    strong suit. I am going to take this challenge, though, and start putting
    in my 500 words every day. Thank you for this awesome idea, and if you
    get a second, check out FROM GRANDPA’S HEART at http://grandpasheart.blogspot….

  • Guest

    I’m in as well. I started writing a blog after a heart attack last year,
    as a way to make sure that my children and grandchildren could share
    some of my thoughts and love. For a while I was writing almost every
    and my audience has reached 12 countries. I have received a lot of
    praise and suggestions that I should write a book, but the discipline
    that it takes has never been my
    strong suit. I am going to take this challenge, though, and start putting
    in my 500 words every day. Thank you for this awesome idea, and if you
    get a second, check out FROM GRANDPA’S HEART at http://grandpasheart.blogspot.com

  • Emily

    I’m in! What a great idea. I usually start too many projects and get frustrated when I don’t finish them. Here’s to 500 words and one step at a time!


  • http://about.me/rishabh Rishabh R. Dassani

    Jeff, your post is timely; I’m in. One of my goals this quarter is to write 500 words of Morning Pages for myself before 8am everyday.

  • Debbie Rupp

    OK, me too, I’m in! Better late than never! Here’s my blog: http://debbieruppenthal.com/
    All signed up and writing…Now!

  • Rhoda Navarro

    Yes, I am in. Tried several times to create a volunteer story and this is my target project.

  • Lisa M

    I’m in! :)

  • Ruby Lynn

    Im in! I need to learn to write for my music blog website. So…500 words it is daily! Jeff…you inspire me. Looking forward to meeting folks doing the same! Happy writing!!!

  • Diana Green

    I’m in!

  • Sissy

    I learned that never is too late… I m in and know that it helped already. Thanks.

  • Misha Sakharoff

    Thanks, just joined. It’s never too late, right ;-)

  • Blogged Artistry


    Jeff – I wanted to thank you again for the 500 word challenge. I hadn’t written anything outside of academic assignments and now a writer has awoken from within that is getting a lot of positive response for a “New Adult” voice and…wow…followers on WordPress.

    During the process I unexpectedly lost a loved one and took a hiatus so I only posted 25 blog entries admittedly not all of them 500 words (some a lot more!) and they run the full gamut from the absurd to the poignant.

    Kudos to you for the challenge and the impact it’s had on us all.


  • http://embracingdestiny.blogspot.com/ Sara @ Embracing Destiny

    This has been a great challenge and I’m going to continue it this month. Thanks!

  • http://www.godownsize.com/ GoDownsize.com

    Great article. For me I started loving to write the day I started bloggin about my passion, and not just writing. Very simple but true :)


    I’ m in!! Ready for the challenge from today. I know am not too late.

  • http://www.sociallayerpodcast.com/ Adam Collier

    I am in, starting today, love to write, ready to take my writing habit up a notch.

  • Kay Kos

    Im in! Know I’m late, but its a good goal for the rest of my year!

  • ElinSofia Danielsson

    I’m in too! But the writing will be private, I am not ready to share my process with y’all yet. Judging myself is enough.

  • michaedo

    Started FHWAD just after Thanksgiving. Still at it with a one week
    break in early Feb. The 500 words get sent in the early morning
    hours to friends and family. It’s gotten to the point where the 500
    words are expected just as much as the morning paper with their
    coffee. Call me crazy but my aim is for the entire year. My brother
    has been keeping track for me, I’m currently 9 days behind since
    the start. I’m not tech savvy, I don’t blog, twitter, or facebook. I
    write on my yahoo account and send it off. It’s interesting to see
    there are others doing this too.

  • http://www.connieschronicle.com God’s Grace Notes

    I’m in… thanks for your encouragement and support!

  • http://www.profitpathz.com/ Bryan S Arnold

    I’m in…the goal is to write about 750 words a day. I’m writing about connection and breaking barriers in life and business.

  • -maxine

    here to share, learn, experience and create -

  • Gwen

    Thanks for this, Jeff! Just what I needed.

  • http://inkrambler.blogspot.com.au/ Alana Murray

    Oh yes! Just what I need!

  • Josiah Caprine


  • Jess Barnett

    I’m in. Thanks for the motivation!

  • http://www.mockingwords.com/ Biafra Denmark

    I’m so in! Thank you!

  • Ryan Mulkowsky

    I am so excited to take on the “500 Words a Day” challenge. This is really going to be a great way to get motivated again to write, which is what I really need right now!

    • http://goinswriter.com/ Jeff Goins


  • Nehemiah

    I start a new blog for this challenge. Thanks for the inspiration, motivation and the challenge. Writing in other language is a true challenge! Thanks!

  • Emmluu

    Wow…I really want to do this! I’ve tried NaNoWriMo and even Camp NaNoWriMo
    but that didn’t go anywhere. Maybe it
    was too much to expect from myself at once.
    Maybe this will be easier? I hope
    so!!! I just started reading your
    blog—I really enjoy it and am looking for something to help me start writing
    again. I do not have a blog at this
    time, although I am thinking of starting one soon (I want to start writing
    again before I do that as well as come up with an idea for a blog). I want to check out the website (Lift) you suggested. As for tracking progress, would giving people
    access to my progress on Lift be something I could substitute instead of a
    blog? I’m writing my first 500 words right
    now at work since I came up with an idea to write about! Thanks again for this great inspiration!

  • Avis Radford

    Thank you for the encouragement! I’ve wanted to write for so long but I always give it! I believe I can do this! I am in with the challenge!

  • LillithBlackWriting

    I am currently working on a novel and with such a big project the fear and therefore the desire NOT to write creeps in often. I am excited to do this challenge to develop a habit of writing every day and be relaxed about it. Looking forward joining everyone in this fun adventure!

  • http://www.freemiumblogging.com/ David Lynch

    I have a LOT of writing to do – info products, blog posts, books and ebooks! I just joined this to help keep me on track!

  • Bev Fortin


  • http://www.500wordchallengeTheFalconAdventure.blogspot.com Naomi Neal

    im still trying to write, and this is really helping!

  • http://www.500wordchallengeTheFalconAdventure.blogspot.com Naomi Neal

    so Im in!

  • Alex Lagman (Sica)

    I’m so in for this! In fact, I just added another page under the menu “Personal” on my blog (http://queensica.com). This is exciting!

  • ruthannereid

    I’m in. Heaven help me, I’m in.

  • http://www.aboveanxiety.com Jeff Claassen

    I’m in and excited. Hopefully my writing can improve over the next 31 days.

  • http://www.aquademica.se/lacksokning/ Läcksökning

    leak detection Excellent entry! It’s always nice when you can not only be informed, but also entertained!

  • Chris

    I’m in! 500 words can seem daunting sometimes but once you get started the words can begin to flow. I began today with a goal of 500 and at last count I have written over 5,700 words! Thanks for the challenge and inspiration.

  • http://www.visualrank.se/ VisualRank

    Interesting to see … thank you it’s well done :) http://www.aquademica.se

  • Beccy Beresic

    Im joining! 500 words seems a lot but Im committed and ready to go!

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