On Making Money as a Writer; and the Wonderful, Horrible Power of Habit

Like a lot of Medium writers, I spend a good (if not healthy) amount of time trying to figure out the kind of writing that the most people will read.

That, of course, involves a catchy title.

I’m vulnerable to a catchy title. Like a lot of Internet browsers, I’m pressed for Time in a realm filled with, as Elton John sang in the opening to Disney’s animated film “The Lion King”…

“There’s more to see than can ever be seen. More to do than can ever be done.”

Anyway, this article, and its title, seem like good bets.


Do YOU want to make money writing? I do. And I know something about it in other contexts, though I’m just breaking in here.

Additionally, I know a lot about the power of habit. Primarily, I know about in the context of health and fitness. Diet and exercise. Habit is one of the great underestimated forces in human life, in a World where we’re taught that choice and “free will” are dominant. But, as with luck, habit is often like an enemy who we turn our backs on, an enemy that can be a great ally.

21 days.

That’s where the science is, regarding habit. It takes that many days doing something daily to build a new habit. And, once you make a habit out of something you used to despise doing, you don’t want to stop.

It’s like exercise. I began, 18 years ago, doing the five rites (six if you include the one that “requires” sexual abstinence”) from the book “Ancient Secret of the Fountain of Youth.” You start with three of each, then jump by two a week until you hit 21. Then you maintain indefinitely. You do them daily, or maybe only six times a week. If you drop to five, you should drop a bit from 21.

They don’t function primarily as exercise, only secondarily. Their primary benefit is to energize and align the chakras. You might also call them, collectively, the endocrine system.

The thing about that pattern? When we’re usually told we should do an exercise routine maybe three times a week?

It builds a solid habit. You spend every day strengthening the good, new habit; not three days strengthening the good, new habit… and four days strengthening the bad, old habit. And the result is that the routine becomes easier, even though you’re doing it way more often. It becomes a normal part of your life, not a thing to fret about three days a week, interspersed with the mild elation of escape from it for the other four.

Writing’s the same way. It’s a potential habit that’s easy. Or one that’s hard.

When I’ve been writing 6–7 times a week? It’s easy, and it’s agony to skip it. But when I’ve dwindled to 2–3 times a week, it’s become something to dread and slog through. Even though I do it less. It’s counterintuitive, but true.

And with writing? The more you do it, the more you think about it, the more ideas you come up with. The easier it is to come up with ideas, and to innovate.

If you want to make money writing? To understand your audience? To get the 10,000 hours in that Malcom Gladwell says makes you a master? The more you do it, the more natural it will become, and the faster you’ll get there. And the more likely you’ll turn that habit into the “dose of luck” that opens the floodgate of followers and claps. And then the money begins.

I’d like to end with a few great references to luck.

One is the classic, terrifying villain in both the literary and cinematic version of “No Country for Old Men.” The terrifying Anton Chigurh. The enigmatic monster who gives over the power of life and death to the flip of a coin. We imagine we have power over life, partly because we live in a culture that holds temporary but illusory power over the planet. But, as the main characters in “Groundhog Day” and “Cast Away” learn, we do not, truly, have that power. And we’re happier when we make a daily habit of accepting that and enjoying the work of living and loving.

The second is simple: a quote.

“I’m a big fan of luck. And I find the harder I work, the more of it I have.”

I’ll leave the work of researching the author up to you. It’ll help build a habit: call it a lovely parting gift.

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