Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

The Boring Secret to Being Everywhere

This week, my writing appeared on six different websites — all read by large audiences. When that happens, I always laugh, because it’s never intentional.

People look at a week like this, and they tell me: “Wow, you were busy this week!” Well, not really. The truth is much less glamorous.

Being Everywhere Photo

Photo credit: Aramil Liadon (Creative Commons)

The older I get, the more I find this is the case for any significant accomplishment. What really makes a breakthrough isn’t overnight success. It’s the long hours of work leading up to what the public sees.

The real secret to being prolific

I didn’t write those articles and interviews this week. I didn’t even write them last week. In some cases, I wrote those pieces months ago. As luck would have it, they all posted on the same week. Clustering all these releases makes for a nice week of blog traffic, but I guarantee you: it was a complete accident.

If there is any secret to being prolific, it’s this: Work ahead.

Awhile ago, I resolved to write every day. Most days, that means starting a lot of projects and completing a few of them. But every once in awhile, I move one across the finish line.

Turns out, if you do this over and over, you plant a lot of seeds and build a nice steady stream of content. Which you can point wherever you want: on your blog, at magazines for potential publication, or even towards an upcoming book.

Ideas are everywhere — capture them

Most people neglect the simple habit of capturing ideas. A stroke of genius hits them while they’re in the shower or mowing the lawn, and they let it pass. A moment of inspiration comes upon us, but we don’t do anything with it.

We misguidedly believe we have to make the idea come to fruition right then and there. This, I’m convinced, is the reason why so few artists actualize their potential.

They don’t start things they can’t finish.

I’m this way. You probably are, too. We don’t like leaving things unfinished. However, most creative productivity is contingent on this discipline of grabbing ideas out of the ether and harnessing them before they disappear entirely.

How to put it all together

The real trick is finishing the project — the post, the article, the book, the interview, whatever. However, if you’re undisciplined like me, you’re bound to fail if you think of your project in this terms. Instead, think of it as starting again.

Every half-written article I revisit, every old journal entry I reread — these are chances to begin afresh. To put a new spin on an old piece of content.

I do this regularly, letting old ideas resurface and evolve into new ones. Because I have so many at varying lengths, it’s inevitable that I eventually finish one.

Once it’s complete, I ship it. Put it out there for the world to see.

Because I’ve spent the past year building close friendships with other bloggers, it’s an easy ask to send over an idea and get it published. The hard part is the weeks and months of writing beforehand, preparing for the opportunity.

The power of habits

I do this so often it’s become habitual. Capture, create, ship. I don’t even think about it anymore. This is the power of incremental change. It’s so gradual you don’t even notice it.

Then one day, you get up and see your name in places you never imagined. What the world sees is that you’re suddenly everywhere, but you know the real story — the boring tale of someone slaving away at a desk after the kids have gone to bed and it’s just your passion keeping you up at night.

Maybe all success is like that. Just an unglamorous tale of habits practiced over time that eventually lead to a breakthrough. And if that’s the case, we had better enjoy the process.

Recent guest posts

In case you’re wondering, here are the articles and interviews that went live this week:

Free resource: Check out Chris Guillebeau’s free manifesto, 279 Days to Overnight Success.

What about you? What’s your secret to being everywhere? Share in the comments.

*Photo credit: Aramil Liadon (Creative Commons)

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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  • Thanks for sharing this, Jeff. Very encouraging. I’ve been gathering stuff and writing snippets for years. With the internet, it’s never been easier to get the ideas out there.
    Years ago, I used to get all sorts of ideas when walking the dog. ‘What do I do with all this, Lord?’ ‘Pass it on.’ Now I can – to a much wider audience than my local church newsletter and a couple of local newspapers.

  • I haven’t discovered the secret to being everywhere yet, but I have learned to write when the inspiration hits! I’d get this “great idea” and think it was so good I’d never forget. Only the thing was the next time I was at my computer…I forgot.  I’ve found that sometimes even the “reminder” wasn’t good enough. I have saved on my drafts the note. “Shampoo. Rinse and repeat.” I know I had a great idea brewing, but I have no recollection what it was. Now I leave longer notes with the Bible verse references, so I can capture my “great ideas.”

    Now…it I can just start showing up everywhere. 🙂  

    Congratulations on your successes, Jeff. Good for you.

    • Kelly, I’ve had the same thing happen.  It’s so frustrating when an idea makes so much sense in my mind, but when I come back to it later I have no idea at all what I meant.  I, too, have been practicing dropping rocks instead of bread crumbs for myself.

      • “Rocks instead of bread crumbs.”  I like that. 

      • Ohhh. I am soooo “stealing” this . . .only I’m changing rocks to stones (as in gemstones) and then using it as an anology for applied behavior analysis. Thank you, ladies!! (And thanks to Jeff and Picasso, too). 

        •  Like Kelly, I find “rocks instead of bread crumbs” a memorable metaphor. Unlike Kelly (and the others), I need an example of what a rock vs. bread crumb looks like. Could you give me a practical illustration of what changed for you?

          • TNeal, probably the biggest thing that changed for me was capturing more and more detail about an idea when the inspiration hits. 

            In the past, if I couldn’t articulate it perfectly or in a way that made sense to the outside world, I would either let it go, or jot myself a note that was so cryptic I couldn’t understand it later…effectively a bread-crumb, eaten by the crows called Logic and Reason.  

            More recently, I’ve been trying to capture as much as I can…as many words and images as I can, whether they really make sense or not, like when you wake up from a dream.  I find that with these rough and messy but more solid reminders, the rocks, I’m able to reconstruct and reframe the idea, and then use it as a foundation to build a story or a post later.

            • Beautiful, Christine. “so cryptic I couldn’t understand it later…effectively a bread-crumb, eaten by the crows called Logic and Reason.”

            •  Excellent stuff, Christine. Thanks for taking the time to go into more details. Having cycled around the country and returned with writing ideas, I’m going to now put into practice your wise words. Thanks!

  • This is  a a very timely piece for me. I recently realized/decided that I need to spend more time preparing content for guest posts. Rather than invest more time into publishing more frequently on my blog, which is what I had originally decided to do, I need to submit a post once a week to another site for publication.

    Also, I’ve had the habit for some time to start a post as soon as I have the idea. So I have lots of drafts, but I need to spend some time finishing more of them up.Thanks for the encouragement!

  • Jeff, as always – great insight and perspective! Part of it’s a numbers game with tons of shots on goals, part of it is fostering strong relationships but the biggest part is the completion of ideas. I really appreciated this post and your willingness to share your experience and expertise. You should know that what’s become incremental to you, is inspiring to thousands of others!

    • Thanks, Tor!

    •  Amen to the incremental-inspirational comment, Tor. Well said (or written).

      • I like that: Incremental Inspiration.  I will be stealing that, with props of course.  Incremental inspiration is how our Muse works, how creativity flows, how faith enlightens.  One step must be taken in order for the next to appear.

  • Congrats to you. “Capture. Create. Ship.” I will carry this in my purse. 🙂 Have a great weekend Jeff!

  • I can’t claim it as my secret because I learned it from you, Jeff.  I remember you telling me about this last winter and something really clicked for me.  I’m not to the point where I have a week of posts on six huge sites, but I do have 147 posts in various states…some are just a title, but some only need a final polish.  I have content scheduled a couple weeks out for my blog, too.  

    The greatest benefit to all of this is being prepared to jump on new opportunities.  Not having to start a guest post from scratch, or not worrying about content on my blog for a couple weeks gives me the freedom to commit to projects that otherwise might kill me.The hustle is hard and feels thankless early on, but it feels great when things start to come together!

    • From our conversation earlier this week, sounds like you’re doing great.

    • 147 posts?  Wow.  That is awe-inspiring and overwhelming all at the same time.  🙂

      • Oh, please don’t be overwhelmed!  They’re all in various states of disrepair, and they’ve been collecting over the last year or so. Some are pretty dusty, too….but sometimes things improve as they age.  I sure hope so anyway.

  • Great post, Jeff. I love that you continually remind us that your success was not overnight. It’s easy to look at your success right now and get into the comparison trap. But, you don’t let us do that. You continually remind us that the hard work and doing rather than talking about it, is how you’ve gained so much momentum. Keep up the great advice!

    • Tammy, thanks. I really didn’t intend for this to be a pat-myself-on-the-back post, but I appreciate the compliment. The larger point for me is we have to enjoy our work as we do it, because we don’t really control when or if we arrive.

    •  Tammy, you make an excellent point that is helpful to keep in mind. Overnight success doesn’t happen overnight. I have to keep that in mind as I head further around my 2nd-year lap of blogging. I know Jeff’s made the point that he shut down and had to start all over before he reached critical mass. False starts and tough times seem to be the common links among successful writers (and unsuccessful ones as well–the big difference isn’t failure but persistence).

  • Nancy Slocum

    Great food for thought, Jeff!   I love “Capture-Create-Ship.”  Congratulations on the success of your works being multiplied out there.  I just have to believe that it’s not luck but the good Lord blessing the diligent work of your hands because you are using your God-given gifts.  He loves it when your gifts are used to inspire, encourage, bless and especially serve others!

    I haven’t gotten to that point quite yet of being out there everywhere.  I’m working on the building relationships online part which is kind of new to me.  The create part comes easier because I see inspiration everywhere… they are seeds to plant. I probably don’t act on enough of them habitually.  A lot of them start in my journal or my notebook of ideas, to develop and publish later.  The bulk of what I ship is on my blog or an online magazine I write for (www.myfriendDebbie.com).  I want to start asking to do guest posts.

    Thanks for all you do to put your work out there and to help build up other writers!

  • Love this Jeff.  So simple it is profound.  Thanks for inspiring! 

  • Thanks for this post, Jeff! I’m making a list of the starts and looking toward the finishes!

  • Thank you for writing the way your write.

  • Love this reminder, Jeff.
    “Ideas are everywhere — capture them”  I definitely haven’t discovered the secret of being everywhere but once I had my son I learned the beauty of writing things down.  You say you will remember that cute thing they do or say but you can’t remember them all.  When I started writing down those things, it helped me to start noticing everything else too.

    Even if can’t write about an idea write when it hits, I have to at least write a few words and save them.  You never know when it might spark another idea. 

    • Thanks for sharing this, Eileen. Need to apply this habit to parenthood.

    •  oops “right when it hits…not write when it hits…but we should write when it hits too”  😉   Had to correct,  it’s early out West.

    • To say I am in the early stages of my writing seems an understatement. I so appreciate the time people are taking to share what has worked for them. I MUST make it a point to write the thoughts/ideas that come to mind throughout the day–even at night! Do you ever wake in the night with an idea and in the morning wonder “What was that idea I had?” Pen and paper by the bed side is probably a good idea. Around 2 AM a few weeks ago I was inspired with the name of the web site I am currently working on. It was written down and is now a domain :0). Hopefully it will be ready to go in just a few weeks time. but WRITING down the ideas for it is a MUST! Thanks for sharing!

      • Eileen

        Donna, I need get better at this too. I didn’t have a notebook by my bed the other night and had to write down thought on toilet paper. It ended up making a great post the next day. 🙂

        •  Bwahaha! That was funny…I guess it’s better than the hubby’s head or a pillow :0).

  • Flora Brown, Ph.D.

    I love your idea of “capture, create and ship” to increase reach and visibility.  It is a habit well worth developing.

    I capture many ideas in draft version on my blog in the form of temporary titles and sometimes a few points. Eventually in response to an inquiry, news story or other flash of inspiration I’ll finish one of those ideas and finally hit Publish.  For example, I have been wanting to write about press releases, and when a client sent a link featuring him in the Huffington Post, I finally created and shipped that post. Here it is https://coloryourlifepublished.com/marketing/is-marketing-via-press-releases-still-a-good-idea

    Linking whenever possible puts me in many places at once, giving the illusion that I’m dashing all over the Internet. The truth is, as you point out, not so glamorous.

    The tools that help me be in more than one place at a time are plug-ins like BookLocker that send my blog posts to my FB pages, Hootsuite that allows me to send announcements to all my social media accounts at once, commenting on others’ blogs and being a member of groups such as Triberr that are dedicated to sharing members’ blog posts.

    Guest posts are also a great way to share in front of new audiences. I’ve got to get back to that, especially because a few bloggers have asked for them.

    Congratulations on your success and thanks for your continuous encouragement.

  • You know, supergluing your rear to the chair and writing really is the secet. I haven’t branched out into guestposting yet, but simply writing consistently is certainly making a difference with consistency on my own blog, which is helping to grow my traffic. You are right that it takes a lot of time to build, and I think such time is what a lot of people simply aren’t willing to invest.

    • Agreed. When Stephen King was asked the secret to great writing, he said, “Bum glue.”

  • Brilliant and true. For me, I keep Evernote handy on my phone (and all other devices) and capture my high level ideas there.  I keep folders so that I can capture ideas by category (blog post ideas, book ideas, promotional ideas, life/family ideas, verses that speak to me, quotes that inspire me, etc.). Turns out, for me, this is a great archive system that enables me to easily reflect… pick what I want to flesh out when I have more time and then execute an idea into whatever form for “shipping” it requires. I also fully believe in the unfinished work aspect. Often it is great to start an article (idea or project) and then revisit it later. I find it helps to make it better as you often approach with a new creative perspective vs trying to force it to simply be finished. 

  • You were living in my French Press this morning!  I was pondering this very thought – pre-email check – while the brew brewed.  I had an idea last night, mulled it, added some wings, then thought pre-java:  Oh, I won’t follow-through (add Eeyore voice), why bother.  Yes, Jeff, after reading your post and sipping my cuppa, I will bother.  🙂

  • Eccle0412

    I notice few topics here; my audience will emerge as I become more alert and writ e along the way.

    Notice it. Note it. Revisit, revise, release. Let others respond. Reply. Wait for it, reward!

  • I know you’ve written about this before, but one of the things that’s helped me with guest posting is to trust that I will continue to come up with good material. It’s tempting to hoard your good ideas for those big days or those big guest post opportunities. That often leaves you just scraping by on your own blog.
    But I’ve had to learn to put out my A-1 content all the time and trust that my creative side will still be able to come up with powerful ideas.

  • This past week for me was like the recent Venus transit, a rare phenomenon. And like the transit, you had to be both aware and in the right place at the right time. I actually appeared in 3 blog spots on a single day (one being my own).

    I have two files that are active right now as far as blogging or short-term materials–posted and partials. The partials are articles in various stages of production–an opening paragraph, an outline of ideas, one intriguing thought, etc. When I visit some of those articles, I often think, “Oh, yeah. I’d forgotten all about that.”

    Some partials are finished and just waiting for the right home.

    Thanks for the reminder that I’m not the only one slogging through material in the quiet places writing takes each of us. Good post.

  • Sheryl Root

    Very helpful post Jeff. It’s interesting, because it really is learning to have both the discipline to finish & publish AND the freedom to know it’s OK to capture bits & pieces, set them aside, and go back to them later. 

    Otherwise, you are in bondage to either thinking you have to finish one piece before moving on to the next, which can be paralyzing; or in never finishing anything, which is its own sort of paralysis.

    Thank you for your transparency and sharing the back end of your process with us. I find it both challenging and encouraging.

  • Katherine Huether

    I love this – “The real trick is finishing the project.” Don’t I know it! I have had 100 words left to write on something that will take me 5 minutes to do, and have been procrastinating it for days now. Don’t know why.

  • I do not feel as if i “am” everywhere…just often “pulled” everywhere. As a SAHM of 4 children ages 14,15,18,20, a hubby with a chronic illness, 2 in-laws that live with us, plus a myriad of other responsibilities, I often wonder if my desire to plan, write,  SEND, will ever come to fruition. Reading this site, the 15 Habits, the links posted, etc. is helping me to keep motivated and not lose heart. This did NOT happen overnight for you—or anyone else. Priority, consistency, and action is key.
    Thanks Jeff and others that post here. Truly inspirational.

  •  To say I am in the early stages of my writing seems an understatement. I so appreciate the time people are taking to share what has worked for them. I MUST make it a point to write the thoughts/ideas that come to mind throughout the day–even at night! Do you ever wake in the night with an idea and in the morning wonder “What was that idea I had?” Pen and paper by the bed side is probably a good idea. Around 2 AM a few weeks ago I was inspired with the name of the web site I am currently working on. It was written down and is now a domain :0). Hopefully it will be ready to go in just a few weeks time. but WRITING down the ideas for it is a MUST! Thanks for sharing!

  • Debra L. Butterfield

    Today’s blog helps me realize I am still working on getting past my fear. I too often feel like I have nothing new to share that isn’t already out there. This fear keeps me from doing the writing that is necessary to be everywhere. Reading posts like this does encourage me to keep persevering. Thanks, Jeff!

    • Sheryl Root

      Debra, know you’re not alone with that feeling. I recently watched a video by Mary DeMuth on blogging on the Bestseller Society that encouraged me in this area. Mary says that even though people are writing about the same things you are, no one has your unique perspective or voice. So be encouraged & keep writing! 🙂

  • I feel like I have so much to learn, and there is a big gap to bridge in refining my craft. Lol.  Plus, I’m still figuring out what my “voice” is as a writer.  It’s all a bit overwhelming, especailly since I just started intentionally pursuing all this about 2 months ago.  But it’s great feeling.  For sure.
    In the meantime, I seek to respond to other people, doing what I’m doing, with authenticity, genuineness, and encouragement.  I really try to process through why I leave a comment on a blog, because hopefully one day I’ll be more than just some blogger who made a comment.   As a writer, I would love to be known as some one who listens to people with a genuine interest in who they are,  and always be prepared to share something worth reading or listening to. 
    Just a lot of the same things you believe in and have posted.  Lol.  It’s great stuff. 

  • Best yet Jeff – and that’s saying something.

    • Wow. thanks, dude.

      • YW – curious though.

        Do you have specific outcomes or goals in mind when you start something? i.e. do you know where you will be shipping a particular piece to, or do you just write on a topic of choice and find a place for it later?

  • Jeff, thanks for letting us peek behind the curtain. I’ve often wondered how you are able to create so much content so quickly. I always enjoy your work. How long does it typically take you to write a post?

  • I am finding this out in a much smaller basis. The more you write every day, the more arrows you have in the quiver.

  • Great post Jeff and congrats on building those relationships. Networking is key in our world and you’ve done an amazing job. I think it also helps to have great content, it makes it a lot easier for them to say yes.

  • Travis


    Thanks for the simple insight! This is incredibly encouraging and practical. It definitely takes unglamorous, hard work to make a name for yourself. You continually give great advice to all of us reading.

  • I’ve recently experienced the benefit of having a few things already written and ready to submit- sure enough, they were all accepted and will be published in a devotional in the fall.  Since I was late in getting in on the opportunity and realized the deadline was only a few days away, it was good not to have to reinvent the wheel in a short amount of time.  A little spit and polish and off they went.

    This has given me a lot of encouragement to go ahead and write posts, essays, whatever when the idea strikes.  I always think my writing by default has to get posted on my blog, but I can now see there’s no harm in sitting on a thing or two.

    Thanks for this and I don’t ever want this daily challenge to end…. 🙁

  • Thanks, Jeff. I put it on my wall, “Capture, Create, Ship.” Succinct and easy to remember.

  • Great insight, Jeff.  In reading and re-reading this post, the one thing I’ve determined is that I really need to work on discipline.  Discipline leads to good habits.  That doesn’t apply simply to writing, but multiple areas of my life.  If I keep following your blog, I think I’m going to have to get used to being convicted.  🙂

    • Sheryl Root

      I agree Denise. The good thing is that after I started being more disciplined with my writing, I’ve found it starts to carry over to other areas of my life quite naturally. Guess it’s like a snowball … Once you get it rolling, it just gets bigger & bigger. 🙂

  • Hi Jeff. I don’t usually leave comments but I do visit your blog often. Just wanted to say THANK YOU for this amazing post. You’re such an inspiration to me as a writer.

    Sometimes I feel like it’s impossible to maintain a blog that serves others while also working a full-time job that supports my family…but then I look to you and am reminded that it is possible (and worth the work and patience). Again, thank you. And Happy Father’s Day! 🙂

  • AMoniqueOcampo

    Today, I learned that pageviews on a blog tend to grow over time with the help of promotions. I’m writing a blog about a web series called The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (as well as other things going on in my life). Today, the official Facebook and Twitter pages for the Lizzie Bennet Diaries promoted my blog entry about Lydia. My pageview count went from around 1900 to over 2100 overnight!

    And while the entry about Lydia has more views today, the entry about Charlotte Lu (the modern Charlotte Lucas) has the most views overall because I posted it a month ago and people are still promoting it.

    It helped that I follow the writers of this web series on Twitter and that the characters also have Twitter and Facebook pages. Social networking is turning out to be a great asset.

  •  We can imagine how tough being a new dad is going to be. You still manage to take time out to pursue your passion. That’s commendable. And thanks for letting out your secrets!

  • The overnight success is never overnight really 🙂 I try to capture all my article (and other!) ideas with great intentions of finshing them as perfect masterpieces, but the reality is that it often takes me a long time to return to some of them (I think I have about 60 drafts in my blog right now!) as I just keep coming up with new ideas and forget to go back. However, there is comfort that I have all those ideas sitting and waiting for me…

    • Tash, I think you hit it.  Comfort.  The good kind that comes when hustle starts to build up momentum.  I also find a certain level of peace in knowing I’m not always starting from scratch!  Keep up the great work!

  • Cecilia

    Jeff, thanks for all the inspiring work you share with us! I have been following this challenge since day 1. I could’ve done it better, I am a bit behind with some challenges…

    One of my favourite parts in this challenge is this part – capturing ideas. For several years ideas have come to me at really odd hours and when I am in the middle of doing something. I never really captured any of them because I couldn’t see the point in just writing down a sentence that I can’t see leading to a whole blog post (for example) and I hate leaving things unfinished. After reading this post I have started doing it anyway.. I write down every single sentence that pops up in my head, no matter where I am or what I am doing. I always keep a piece of paper and a pen in my pocket – always ready to write.

    Thanks for the encouragement and inspiration! =)

  • Elise A

    Jeff, I about jumped from my seat when I found your blog- and more specifically, when I read this article! It’s refreshing to learn from a talented and successful writer that his achievements didn’t happen overnight, and took time and continuous work to accomplish. I recently made the goal to write every day in hope of starting new projects and improving my overall technique and creativity, but didn’t have the drive to stick to it. Now I’m re-motivated! Your messsages have helped me, an aspiring writer, to gain some faith in myself. Thank you for your advice, example, and encouragement!

  • I agree; I have worked on stuff for months maybe even years and when I revisit these unfinished projects I end up adding more valuable content to them and when I finally come around to posting the articles I notice that it gets great reviews. I always thank God in relief, because Hard Way always pays off. 

  • Very encouraging thoughts.  Much needed.

  • I really like this!!! And now I am thinking of all the fanfic stories I wrote a few years ago, and thinking if I tweaked them a little…they would be all my own….and I AM going to start writing new stuff too…even if I don’t get it finished right away…thanks Jeff!!

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  • Keeping the motivation jar full always is a piece of work.

    I pick a new article idea today and if I don’t write the article before sunset it’s gone forever because tomorrow comes with another new sexy idea and I throw the previous one through the window.

    It is consistency that kills it.

    The most successful book I wrote was done within 1 week because I had everything to lose if I didn’t complete it.

    Pressure produces gold!