How to Cheat on a 10-K Day

What exactly is a 10-K Day?

Good question. I didn’t know what it was myself until late last month. Right before my birthday, my friend Jenny called and asked if I’d like to do a 10-K Day. She explained that, rather than running some kind of marathon, she will sit on her derriere with her favorite snacks and write 10,000 words in a day.

Now, I’m not a stickler for productivity. In fact, I’ve just finished writing an article designed to help people break out of the whole “word count” thing and do some writing for fun. But I’d been so busy the past five or six months with book promotion and building a new Website, I had barely written a thing. The idea of setting aside an entire day to write had great appeal.

Wait a minute. Setting you up to write 10,000 words in a day when I’m actually here to help you with your fear of writing would be cruel. That’s why I’m going to show you how to cheat—so you’ll get all the benefits without feeling any pressure to perform.

First, here’s the basic formula for a 10-K Day:

    Block out an entire day with no distractions or interruptions This can be achieved without leaving home by enlisting the help of your spouse. My friend Jenny manages to do this, even though she has three young kids and a husband who’s out of town for his job most of the time. You simply need to educate your family and enlist their help. You should not have to cook meals, answer the phone, or do anything else that will eat into your 10-K Day.

    Partner with a friend, or a small group of writers, to help you stick to the plan Today is my 10-K Day with Jenny (Sunday, 2/5/06). We agreed to meet by email during our breaks—15-minute breaks every two hours—and give our progress reports. So far, this is working smoothly. These reports are something to look forward to during your break besides just using the bathroom and getting another drink. You get to have human contact with someone on the same mission that you’re on. The sense of camaraderie you’ll get from these emails is very motivating and inspiring.

    Make your preparations ahead of time so you can spend your 10-K Day on writing, not on distractions This involves making an outline of the writing you’d like to get done and planning your strategy for no interruptions. For instance, you will not be spending any time on research. If the story or novel you’re writing requires research, either do it ahead of time or leave ——– throughout your manuscript and fill in the facts during the editing phase.

    Plan to ignore your email, the television and the phone—and close your door! We all know how much time we can spend on email when we’re busy procrastinating. Same goes for surfing the Web, talking to friends on the cell phone, or even letting the kids tell us long stories about their day. Be ruthless. The world can survive without you for a day. You’ll be glad you gave yourself this precious time to write.

    No editing or rewriting allowed during your 10-K Day! Yes, I know, this can be excruciating. But, let me tell you a secret: it’s a habit that can be broken. Back before I wrote my book and began healing my own fear of writing, I was an incessant self-editor. I would write a measly paragraph and then edit it to death, terrified of moving on because I believed I had nothing to say. But, if you ever want to break out of this self-defeating habit, you’ve got to be prepared to try a new approach at least once. I’ll give you plenty of tips and support in this and the next article to help you do just that.

Now comes the cheatin’ part. But first I want to tell you how much fun this is. I’m almost half way through my first 10-K Day and I’m having a blast. I want that for you, too, so hang in there with me and keep an open mind.


Don’t expect yourself to write 10,000 words

What? Am I defeating the purpose for you already? No, I’m trying to prevent you setting yourself up for “failure.” This special writing day should be fun and liberating, not another reason to prove to your Inner Critic that you’re a loser compared to other writers. So, block out the entire day, and write for the entire day, but if you’re using the computer don’t check your word count.

You may be surprised at how many pages you do produce . . . but you need to go with the flow and not set any number goals. Just be happy to wallow in a day of writing. You can always do another 10-K Day later—with all that good experience under your belt—and work your way up to the ultimate goal of 10,000 words.

So, why call it a 10-K Day if you’re not going to try for that magic number? Because your subconscious loves to cooperate with whatever you tell it—as we all know from lashing ourselves with insults and criticism! So, plant the magic number in your subconscious and then just keep trying. That’s all you have to do. It’s not a matter of success or failure . . . because you’re doing this for yourself.

Panicked about what you’re going to write for a whole day? Easy, use the Fertile Material and take all the sweat out of it.

The 112 Fertile Material writing prompts in Fear of Writing are designed to make writing fun and easy. Several chapters in the book are devoted to helping you get the most from the Fertile Material—although the prompts can also be used instantly with no previous instruction. Plus, there’s a fun little tool called “Name Soup” (pp. 18 – 19) that has helped a lot of people break into a lather of story writing even when they couldn’t, at first, think of anything to write.

I’ve never seen the Fertile Material not work. This is because it gives you license to be a kid again and write for fun. There is no scary goal with the Fertile Material—such as reading it out loud to a critique group or sending it away to get published—so you’re free to write with no obligation to the outside world. I’ve received many testimonials from fans of the Fertile Material, but here’s one that fits really well with the concept of a 10-K Day:

“The Fertile Material exercises motivated a creative area in my brain that was lying dormant. One minute I was staring at the title of the exercise—the next thing I know I was shaking the pain out of my hand from writing five pages.”

—Marlena Dammé, San Antonio, Texas

You can also use the Fertile Material simply as a warm-up at the beginning of the day, and then switch over to your current writing project. If you don’t own the book and you’d like to try the Fertile Material, you’ll find four free samples on the Write Now page at my Website.


If you do a 10-K Day, I’d love to hear from you. Post a comment on this blog or send me an email (see my Blogger profile for my email address). If you want to write an article about your 10-K experience for this blog, that would be fun too.

SEE ALSO: Results of My First-Ever 10-K Day


Author’s Note: If you’d like to take a more disciplined approach to your 10-K Day (for instance, if you have a deadline for a publisher), read the guidelines given by J.R. Turner, author of Stark Knight, in her article, 10K in a Day.

One Response to How to Cheat on a 10-K Day
  1. Evelyn Guy
    February 17, 2006 | 9:15 PM

    Hey, a great idea, Milli. I have Monday off from work and am going to do a 10K day. I WAS going to do housework, but have gotten stuck at writing lately, so will do a day of writing instead.

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