10K Day: Science or Magic?

By Milli Thornton

Pegasus - friend of the Greek Muses
© Allegretto | Dreamstime.com

We get oodles of feedback about how much people love the 10K Days, but I’ve never stopped to examine in writing why it works. I could probably write a small book on this topic, but to contain this in a blog post let’s look at two sides of the gold coin: science and magic.

In an article in the Sydney Morning Herald last month, Megan Johnston interviewed a professor who said: “You can’t force creativity, but you can maximize your ability to get in a creative sense of mind.”

Entitled “Unleash Your Inner Genius,” the article explores ways this can be done: everything from old-fashioned daydreaming to a “thinking cap” developed by researchers at the University of Sydney. The caps aims to foster creativity by applying electrical stimulation to the brain.

Scientists have been finding that “not only is creative ability measurable, most people can hone it.” The good news for us? Nearly everything the article mentions as ways to hone creativity comes built in to the 10K Day.

How’s this for exciting? A study at Johns Hopkins University found that “the areas of the brain that regulate inhibition and self-monitoring shut down during improvisation. Self-expression and self-direction, on the other hand, switch on, while sensory awareness increases.”

Another professor shared that it’s critical in a good creative method to identify your aim or question before breaking it into parts. Yay! Our official goal is 10,000 words (or, less officially, writing lots of words in one day) and we chunk that down into two-hour segments, with regular breaks used to refresh the brain.

Social context also plays a big part. Teresa Amabile, a professor at Harvard Business School, has been gathering evidence for the past 35 years to help “debunk the myth of the lone creative.”

She found things that heighten creativity include positive challenge and strong group support. ”Occasionally, deadlines can also drive innovation, as long as there is a meaningful reason behind them.”

Although I’ve given some of the pertinent points here, the article is well worth reading top to bottom—and bookmarking, for those days when you need a reminder that you’re not crazy . . . just creative! You’ll find a link to the article at the bottom of this post.

Now for some of the magic.

Below is an excerpt used with permission from 10K Day participant, Catherine Greti. Catherine is a graduate of both the Fear of Writing Online Course and the FoW graduate course. She wrote this as part of one of her grad course assignments.

I did my first 10K day with Fear of Writing back in November 2010. It was very exciting for me and I wrote just over 10,000 words of a novel in progress. Since then I have participated in several others.

I love the 10K days but even though it was a triumph for me to write 10K words in one day, I am not making myself do that every time. I’m going with the flow and just writing and having a joyful time with the other people who participate.

Writing 10K words in one day is a bonus of self-esteem building though!

The camaraderie of the 10K days is one of the most special things about it. You make new writing friends and find out tips for your dedicated writing day.

I highly recommend the 10K days!

If you enjoy the 10K Days, please leave a comment to tell us why. If you haven’t tried one yet, don’t be daunted by the number. You’ll be loved no matter how many words you write! Everybody wins just by showing up and expressing their creativity.



Sydney Morning Herald: Unleash Your Inner Genius

Milli Thornton, Fear of Writing Blog | Fear of Writing Online Course

Milli Thornton


Milli Thornton is the author of Fear of Writing: for writers & closet writers. She is owner of the Fear of Writing Online Course, where her mission is to put the fun back into writing. Milli blogs at Screenwriting in the Boonies and Milliver’s Travels and coaches writers individually at Writer’s Muse.

21 Responses to 10K Day: Science or Magic?
  1. Julia
    Twitter: wordsxo
    April 12, 2011 | 8:45 AM

    I NEED the electronic thinking cap!! (although I better not wear it while testing the waters with my big toe–could lead to electrifying results 🙂

  2. Lois
    April 12, 2011 | 11:23 AM

    I’ve noticed that I’ve been much more creative and prolific since I’ve been online interacting with other writers. There’s just something about good comraderie with other creatives that gets things moving! 🙂

    • Kenneth Hopkins
      April 13, 2011 | 12:23 AM

      Lois, i so agree with you. Hanging with other writers is so good for the creative juices. 🙂

      • @fearofwriting
        Twitter: fearofwriting
        April 13, 2011 | 1:17 PM

        Ken, thanks for hanging out with us here at FoW. Your blog title-“Pushing Past Your Fears” has well and truly got my attention and I’m off to visit that post.

    • @fearofwriting
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      April 13, 2011 | 1:16 PM

      Lois, I know! Given some of the isolated situations I’ve been in while moving around the countryside, having contact online with other writers has been a godsend. And, in the places where I was able to start in-person FoW writing circles, the group energy was so healing and fun.

      So glad you are part of the amazing camaraderie here at FoW! xo

      • Lois
        April 13, 2011 | 1:58 PM

        That’s why I love the forum so much, too. There may only be four of us who regularly / semi-regularly post, but we try to encourage each other in our creative endeavors. It’s so much fun! 😀

        I’m glad to be a part of it, too. 🙂 Thanks, Milli!

  3. purplekangaroos
    April 12, 2011 | 11:34 AM

    You already have my comments and thanks for quoting me. 🙂

    I liked all the research you did and the picture of Pegasus! A good visual for imagining this friend of the Greek Muses galloping letters across the pages I write on FoW 10K days!

    Good job of motivating us, Milli, to join in and give ourselves the benefit of a 10K day with friends…


    • @fearofwriting
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      April 13, 2011 | 1:19 PM

      I’m pleased you liked the Pegasus image and I like how you’ve got him working for you already!

      I had fun researching this and it was fun to write. Thank you for your contributions to this story. xo

  4. j
    April 12, 2011 | 9:17 PM

    I’m struck by the fact that improvisation shuts down the parts of your brain that regulate inhibition and self-monitoring. That’s kind of wonderful.

    I’ve never yet managed to write 10k words for the 10k day, but I have written wild, wonderful stuff that has turned into posts and short stories and some things no one but me will ever read. I always feel that on 10k days, I test out Anne Lamott’s theory that sometimes you have to write 5 pages of crap to get to the jewel – your story – on page 6. I love that… but to get there, you have to write.

    • @fearofwriting
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      April 13, 2011 | 1:22 PM

      j – Glad you were struck by the same part I was. It makes me even more motivated to write fast and get past those inhibitions.

      I’m a long way from writing 10K every time myself, but I don’t care. The benefits of doing the 10K days over time have been awesome. And just having those two days carved out every month has got me back to my routine of carving out every Wednesday as a writing day. 🙂 🙂

  5. Crystal
    April 13, 2011 | 11:54 AM

    When I was a middle manager, I found that when my team met and talked we were more creative and brought out the best in each other. Our team quote became, “None of us are as smart as all of us.” With writing it is not as easy to collaborate in the same sense. Our ideas and characters are there in our heads screaming to get out. We are alone in that sense to get those conversations out of our minds and typed. I have found that by having these days of all of us knowing we are writing on the same day has kept me motivated far beyond my expectations! I’ve been inspired to write and at least I know that no matter how busy I get during the month (still have a job to pay the bills) that at least I’ll get close to 10k words each month.
    Knowing others are out there getting through their daily struggles helps me feel a support indirectly and directly. We are all following our dream to get our thoughts written and it’s a bit of science and magic (perhaps a bit of madness) that gets all of us to our destination if we stay focused.

    • @fearofwriting
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      April 13, 2011 | 1:25 PM

      WOW! I think I’ll need to do another 10K Day story later on and use you for the part where I quote from a participant. You just electrified me with everything you said.

      I’m totally in love with “None of us are as smart as all of us.”

      Thank you!! ~ Milli

    • Dana Pittman
      Twitter: danapittman
      April 13, 2011 | 5:11 PM

      I love that quote Crystal.

      • Crystal
        April 13, 2011 | 5:24 PM

        You’re welcome Milli and Dana. I wish I could take the credit for such a wise quote but it’s a very old Japanese proverb according to my “Quote Notes” that I keep. Enjoy and share!

  6. Patrick Ross
    Twitter: patrickrwrites
    April 13, 2011 | 1:42 PM

    “You can’t force creativity, but you can maximize your ability to get in a creative sense of mind.” Love it!

    • @fearofwriting
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      April 13, 2011 | 5:41 PM

      Glad you liked that part, Patrick. 🙂

  7. Dana Pittman
    Twitter: danapittman
    April 13, 2011 | 5:16 PM

    I consider 10k days a meeting of the minds…of sorts. I believe my motivation to try has to do with coming together with like minded people. It’s somewhat like when you do group exercise. You can workout alone, however, find you are motivated by having others waiting on you to begin. You don’t want to let the others down.

    Which is why I love the way Milli (smile) comments on almost every post. Accountability!

    People say writing is an isolated task. But he/she haven’t met this bunch before. 🙂

    So if I’d have to vote whether it’s science or magic…I’d say neither it’s guts. Because you need a little of both to attempt and complete a 10k day.

    • @fearofwriting
      Twitter: fearofwriting
      April 13, 2011 | 5:41 PM

      I’ve got a big smile on my dial from reading your comment.

      I agree. This bunch we’ve got here is special and you cannot remain isolated when everybody is so friendly and encouraging to one another. I’ve seen writer jealousy—and it ain’t purty—but there is never a whiff of that on the 10K check-in page.

      I’m glad you see my replies on nearly every 10K post as being part of the accountability. I like to deliver my follow-ups with plenty of warmth but still keep people on track by reminding them someone is watching those comments! 🙂

      • Dana Pittman
        Twitter: danapittman
        April 14, 2011 | 3:07 PM

        Keep doing what you do! :o)

  8. John
    February 20, 2012 | 6:38 AM

    When I read your quote, “for the days when you need a reminder that you’re not crazy… just creative!” it made me smile. I can relate to that quote. It was great how you incorporated and compared scientists findings with the 10K program. I am looking forward to reading those recommended articles. Your article was motivating and very informative. I hope that with the camaraderie of the group and from reading your 10K articles, I will reach my goal of 10K this time around. Even through, I failed to reach my goal of 10K in the past, I have always enjoyed the process.

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