On Writing

Practicing Kaizen

I’ve always had a bit of dichotomy in my life. I generally look and see the big picture. If you apply it to writing, I usually visualize how the whole thing is going to end up. I have the ending set before I even start, and I can see how things all play out. I have always done well in identifying patterns and seeing how the hidden plays into the obvious.

Conversely, I am someone who can get mired in minutiae. I’ve been known to spend hours poring over statistics. I can find unimportant spelling and grammar mistakes in other people’s work and have always done exceptionally well on clerical tests. I have played with spreadsheets far more than any normal person should. I make a living fixing small errors in computer code.

I really swing back and forth on the spectrum of that dichotomy. And that plays into goals I’ve had in my life. I make a goal–like running in a marathon–and I can put my all into it. I have no problem making time for 10 mile runs or writing down every detail of what I’m eating. But as soon as the goal is finished, my hyper focus on detail expands again, and I am off to the diffuse and the unfocused again. Back to the big picture.

So I was interested when I read an article about Kaizen. I subscribe to a newsletter called “The Art of Manliness”. I was, one time, trying to find some online place where I could get more into the male mind and understand how men think so I could write them better in my stories. And this site, although it is geared toward men, is an amazing repository of basic life information that could benefit anyone.

I was reading through some of my piled up “save” articles that I had kept to read later, and I came across an article about Kaizen.

Kaizen is the Japanese philosophy of life where you work to improve yourself a little bit every day. Not huge goals. Not the yo-yo of big picture and hyper focus. But the consistent chipping away to achieve the things you want in life.

The idea is to take the smallest thing you can do toward something you want to achieve (whether it’s to lose weight, find a new job, pay off debt, or write a book) and do that every day.

So today, you choose to eat one less cookie. Or research one company you might want to apply to. Pay a few extra dollars toward your credit cards. Or write one page. One paragraph. One sentence.

And the next day, try two. And the next, try three.

The idea is that it becomes a way of life. You don’t burn yourself out by trying to be a Pulitzer Prize journalist on Day 1. On Day 1, you write your first sentence.

And if you keep going, little by little, your first sentence grows into your first paragraph, your first chapter, and your first novel.

Consistency is the key. Maybe we can all practice a bit of Kaizen here. What 1% of improvement in your writing world can you do today?

To read more about this idea, check out the original AOM article.


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