In Case You Needed More Proof of the Power of Deep Work…

Cal Newport’s latest blog post:

As longtime readers know, I enjoy tracking down the deep work habits of well known and highly accomplished individuals. This is why I was happy to recently stumble across a pair of interviews (here and here) in which the novelist John Grisham describes his professional routines.

Here’s what I learned…

  • Grisham primarily writes his novels during the winter months on his farm in Oxford, Mississippi. During this period he works five days a week, starting at 7 am and typically ending by 10 am.
  • Grisham writes in a period outbuilding on his property that used to house an antebellum summer kitchen. He and his wife refurbished the kitchen to maintain its period details (with the main exception being that they added electricity and air conditioning). Crucially, as Grisham explains: “[the building has] no phone, faxes, or internet. I don’t want the distraction. I don’t work online. I keep it offline.”
  • Grisham maintains strict rituals for his writing. He starts work on a novel on the same day each year, and starts writing each day at the same time. He works on the same computer. He drinks the same type of coffee out of the same cup. “My office routine rarely varies,” he explains. “It’s pretty structured.”
  • Grisham starts a new novel on January 1st and is usually done with the bulk of the writing by the end of March. He aims to be completely done with the manuscript by July. This leaves a nice half year period to recharge and work on new ideas.

I understand we all have different life circumstances and professions. Not many of us can construct a schedule just like Grisham’s. But the point is that highly focused, distraction-free work actually gives you more freedom, more free time in your life.

You Shouldn’t Become a Writer

Mike Cernovich writes just as much in a recent post on Danger & Play. Excerpt:

The life of a writer is to write every day in obscurity….for years. If you’re lucky, you’ll “break through” in three years. It took me 15 years to earn a full-time living from writing. Today it’s easy street, but factor in opportunity cost and you’d wonder why the hell anyone gets into this game.

I used to be a sports blogger. I started at age nine and didn’t begin making money until age 15. That amounts to six years of constant blogging without anything to show for it. And even by the time I was “making money,” my best months hardly exceeded $150. Peanuts.

I quit sports blogging by age 17 for two reasons: 1) I simply got bored writing only about sports and 2) I could no longer stand the inherent liberal bias in most sports journalism. I never cared about the money. If I did, I would’ve kept going.

I’m 20 now. Let’s just say I hadn’t quit sports blogging. Even if I had a full-time gig by now, I would’ve blogged in relative obscurity for over a decade to get to that point.

If you want to become a writer, you have to write. Day in and day out. For years. With little to no readership. That’s what it takes, folks.