The Secret to Effortless Writing

I wrote this post in 10 minutes. No joke.

These days, writing is the most effortless it has ever been for me. I can crank out a thousand words in less than half an hour without breaking a sweat.

But it didn’t always used to be this way. It didn’t always use to be so easy.

Effortless Writing
Photo Credit: Flickr (Creative Commons)

What changed?

When my wife and I moved to our new house this summer (where there weren’t as many hills), I started running again. Because of the flat terrain, I found myself going for longer runs without really noticing it.

Soon, I was running nearly every day. I did this for a couple of months. I got into pretty good shape, but I did it mostly for the joy of running.

Since I was comfortable running three to four miles per day, I started increasing the distances. First, five. Then six or seven. Now, even as much as eight miles.

The weirdest part? I rarely feel sore.

I’m running the most consistently I’ve ever run in my life, and it’s causing me the least amount of pain.

What’s made the difference?

The answer is the same thing that makes it easier to write than ever before: Practice.

I didn’t set out to run every day without any discomfort. Nor did I ever anticipate being able to write with such ease. But it happened.

Why? Because I’ve started approaching writing like I do running. I get up every day, no matter what, and I do it. I try not to think about it too much or listen to my own doubts.

I just start. Some days are better than others, but the one thing that is constant is that I do it often. And it’s starting to get into my muscles. My body is beginning to remember. It’s getting used to the practice.

And slowly but surely, it’s getting easier.

I’m not a master (yet)

But I am learning the secret of mastery. You can, too, if you really want to. Whether it’s learning a foreign language or finally playing the guitar.

We all want life to be easy now. But that’s not how it works. Things that come easy only come later. But they do come. Eventually.

Some day, you’ll be able to put on your jogging shoes or sit down in front of your computer and do what you’ve been practicing all this time. It will be effortless. And it will be sweet.

The ugly truth

Of course, when that day comes, it won’t be enough. Because you can always get a little better. And there will always be some punk kid who comes along to outdo your last feat.

So what do we do then? What do we make of this? Do we chase the allure of mastery, only to be disappointed years down the line? Or do we abdicate to mediocrity, giving up before we even begin?

Neither sounds very appealing.

Instead, let’s do something else…

Chase passion, not mastery

Let’s find something we love so much that it drives us to want to be the best in the world. And when we find we’re not, may we shrug with indifference, because we love doing it, anyway.

May we find our life’s work getting more and more effortless because of our practice. And may we do it with a smile on our face.

Who knows? Maybe we’ll find that one day we truly are the best in the world. Regardless, we’ll have a blast doing it.

And you know what? I have a hunch that’s how the real masters do it, anyway. They sweat even when they don’t have to. Why? Because they can always get better.

Do you believe in mastery? Should writing (or jogging or whatever) be effortless?

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221 thoughts on “The Secret to Effortless Writing

  1. Years ago I worked as a journalist. Words flowed from my pen. Then I changed careers (teaching), and stopped writing. I could never find the time, and my stress levels went through the roof. In time I totally lost interest in writing. I recently started blogging, and have been finding it really arduous to regain my writer’s voice. I want to write again.
    I appreciate the advice you’ve given here. I know I need to practice more. It’s really hard though when what you’re writing doesn’t seem to have the coherence or lucidity you’re aiming for. Hardest thing is collecting my thoughts… a sign that I’m not writing from my heart?
    My most recent blog was about this same topic: How I’m Finding my Writer’s Voice and How you can find it too.” Would love if you could check it out (click on my photo avatar) and give me your honest feedback. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to press on. That exercise idea is something I’ll put on my to-do list as well.

  2. To Writers
    I am definitely trying to take this advice and just write, to get into the habit of writing. But I tend to over think things so… question.
    When you are first starting off what do you write about everyday? Do you find topics or is there a specific thought that drives your writing?
    I don’t want it to sound like basic diary stuff, though I’m sure it might at first, but any suggestions?

  3. Love your write ups. For those of you who find it hard to come up with ideas, I’ve actually found it helpful to use exercise to help with that. Run, bike, elliptical etc. Put on some inspiring music (not Lady Gaga) and vision the story of the song in your mind. In other words start to create your own music video in your head. I often listen to songs and instantly think of a place or a scene that fits. My book idea that I’m working on came from this.

  4. This post was beyond inspiring. Like so many others, I’ve found that writing has long past being pleasurable. It’s something I have loved since I was a little. But the stress I’ve put on myself to create what I deem a masterpiece, has left me crippled and looking at the one constant in my life as a chore, something to avoid at all cost. My characters are in my head, clamoring to be heard. And I can’t seem to connect what they are conveying to me on paper. This may sound crazy to some, but I think this crippling anxiety I have in some ways is my fear of failing my characters. Of not being able to tell their story in the they deserve it to be told. In the larger sense, not writing at all, is the ultimate betrayal of my characters. The only way to get over this hump, is to continue – but slowly. I don’t have to run 10 miles in the first day. Just like I don’t have to complete my masterpiece in one draft. It’s a process. It takes will and determination. Thank you for this. I’m off to write.

  5. I love this story. How you became a runner by doing it every day. Then relating that kind of effort to becoming a more prolific writer. You have inspired me to write. TODAY, I will start writing, and write every day. I am looking forward to improving and running right past my own procrastination (pun intended).
    Thank you Jeff, I look forward to catching up on all your blog posts and book, and reading all you new offerings. Thank You!

  6. I really enjoyed this story, Jeff. I have been blogging about a year now but am nowhere close to being able to write full time. I am growing in learning about my voice, my passion, my direction. I enjoy reading you and I admire your dedication and perseverance. Keep up the good word and, above all — keep on enjoying!


  7. I think you’re right, Jeff. Same thing with jogging. Same thing with playing the piano. Same thing with everything else that one attempts to do. Makes total sense to me. Thx for the perspective.

  8. Inspiring post! The example given here on how you started enjoying jogging and how you increased the distance, easily explains the topic. Also, it is true that when you chase your passion, instead of mastering anything, it becomes easy to achieve it. Thank you for sharing such an interesting article.

  9. Jeff you are such an inspiration to me. I am going back to writing on my third book FEB 1st no matter what! Thanks

  10. Clearly I am not easily inspired.. Dang
    I have moments when everything just flows and ideas sprout from thought processes and it becomes my best work yet.. Until I get given a deadline at school and I go blank, and anytime from a week to five months I get nothing that ignites that passion, thoughts? Help. I want to ignite passion easier, or is it just a temperament I have to live with

  11. I’ve consistently blogged for the past two years, and I noticed that not only the writing part gets easier. I found that brainstorming ideas for a new post also becomes almost effortless. When I started blogging four years ago, I found it hard to think of ideas for a post. And I guess it was because I wasn’t practicing. I only did it when I feel like it. But now, I’m overwhelmed with ideas! I don’t even know where to start!

    Still.. I strive every day to get better and keep on pushing myself. 🙂

  12. Doing the 500 words a day challenge (on day 20) and it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done!

  13. Jeff, I blog as well. Mine is mostly religious stuff I write for school and the occasional random post. I was wondering what advice you have for someone with such a specific field of interest? I want to write more and have written several different post in the last week where my blog has sat dormant for a few months because of school, either not offering something to post or just not feeling led to write. Would you recommend I start another blog for random post or continue to use for all of my post? Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

  14. You said it all here – “We all want life to be easy now. But that’s not how it works. Things that come easy only come later. But they do come. Eventually.” Well said Jeff, can’t agree more.

  15. Well said Jeff. You have written a wonderful post on How practice makes perfect. For me the difficult part has been consistency. Your post has inspired me to keep doing something I love on a daily basis.

  16. For sure! Mastery is indeed possible, and it’s a given if it’s your passion to do well in your chosen field – be it writing or other.

    I feel it’s difficult to master (or difficult to muster the effort to master) something that you don’t have a true interest in. You’ve got to want to reach a level of mastery before it’s attainable.

    That’s where I feel your discussion of your calling is so important, and I feel it’s the first place to start (especially for becoming a master of writing!).

    Great article. To your mastery!

  17. It reminds me, “Practice makes a man perfect”. The spider could reach the top floor because it continued. Thank you Jeff for this inspirational post.

  18. As a runner and writer, this post resonated deeply with me. You know the saying, “the struggle is real?” I am changing it to “the SHRUGGLE is real”, that is, “the shrug with indifference because we love doing it anyways.” Could not agree more.

    If you (or other readers) read this comment, I hope it made you laugh 🙂

  19. The discipline of writing consistently has definitely taken me by surprise. Basically, easier “thought of” than done. I have noticed changes as time progresses and I’m honing down on such discipline. Relatable post. Thanks Jeff.

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