The Dan Brown Project changed my life in ways I didn’t expect. It was both easier, and harder, than I imagined.
When I decided to try Brown’s schedule of getting up at 4 am and writing for seven hours (five in my case, marketing for two), I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do it. It would mean going to bed much earlier, which has always been a struggle for me (I tended to go to sleep at 4 am, not wake up). I downloaded the same TimeOut app he uses, to ensure I got up from the computer every hour and exercised for two minutes. And, since working for seven hours wasn’t enough, I decided to get really ambitious and add two hours of gardening/yard work and two hours of housework in the afternoons.
However, unlike Brown, I took weekends off.
Did it Work?
Better than I would have expected! I wrote an entire 70K novel in thirteen days, which I’ve never come close to before. Because I was working on it almost every day, I didn’t get stuck, or lost. There was no “mushy middle.” It felt like this book wrote itself. Since it’s due to the publisher in September, this was a huge relief.
I also finished a long overdue book for another publisher, adding nearly 20K words by July 29th. This gave me the last three days of the challenge to pre-write blog posts. I was able to write and research six blog posts, and come up with a blog schedule for the next two months.
The two hours of daily marketing was a massive success. I finally learned how to create Amazon ads that work, and actually created 22 of them. Necessary improvements were made to some of my books and my website, a snazzy new book trailer is in development, I landed a spot on an upcoming paranormal TV episode (more to come on that), and my agency’s film and TV division will now hopefully pitch my GhostWriters series.
And the other stuff? While I can’t say ten minutes of exercise per day did much, jumping jacks got easier (though I was never able to do more than 140 in two minutes, no matter how fast I went), and I seemed to develop more upper-body strength. My sit-up count improved.
This is the first year I can recall being on top of the weed situation in my yard and garden. My best friend recently visited, and she kept saying how beautiful my yard was. That felt amazing. There have been many times I’ve been ashamed of it.
Two hours of housework a day wasn’t enough time to tackle bigger projects (like organizing closets) or triumphing over my laundry/ironing backlog, but my house also looks better than it has in a long time. It’s a lot more organized.
While there weren’t many, there were a few. The mini breaks were great, but I was often so exhausted by the evening that longer exercise sessions suffered. I was just too tired.
I didn’t get enough sleep. As hard as I tried to get to bed at 10 or 10:30, plenty of things derailed that, including my own nature. Often, like today, I was working on four hours of sleep.
No night life. During the pandemic, this wasn’t so bad, but it was still difficult to have to cut time or conversations with friends short and not respond to messages and requests. This project required me to set a lot of boundaries. Not a bad thing, but difficult to do!
Neglected boyfriend. Enough said.
Striving for perfection. If I wasn’t “perfect”– if my alarm didn’t go off (which happened during the last week of the challenge) or I was distracted during my writing session, or I missed the cleaning/yard work, I was extremely hard on myself. Not helpful.
What Surprised Me
I can write 5,000 words a day, consecutively, and it wasn’t that difficult. As someone who previously thought 2,000 words was her comfort zone, this was a shock.
Getting up at 4 am wasn’t a struggle. Going to bed at 10 pm was.
You can get a surprising amount of cleaning or yard work done in just one hour. Spending 30-60 minutes tidying (or weeding) each day would make a big difference.
Some friends were inspired enough to do their own version of this, which was awesome.
One of my cats gets really agitated when I suddenly start exercising.
I believe this schedule is at least partially responsible for Dan Brown’s success. You can get a tremendous amount done in seven focused hours, with most of it completed while the world is asleep.
It doesn’t take me as much time to write a book as I’d believed (or, it doesn’t have to). I write a lot faster than I thought.
Marketing can easily be a full-time job, but spending some time on it each day makes a significant difference.
I feel a lot better emotionally and mentally when I’m productive, busy, and on a set schedule.
I can’t continue to let teaching eat up all my time if my goal is to return to being a full-time author.
Since I’m a night owl, Brown’s schedule won’t work for me long term (maybe when I don’t have to teach any longer). Rushing to get to bed by 10 was a pain.
While I plan to do one more week of the DBP in August, spending the writing time on editing/revising the three books I have to polish, I’ve devised something modified for when my classes resume later in the month:
8 am – 11 am: Writing and/or editing
11 am – 12 pm: Teaching work (development and marking) when necessary
12 pm – 2 pm: Marketing (while eating lunch)
2 pm – 4 pm: Yard
4 pm – 6 pm: Housework
This will only work on days I’m not teaching. When I have plans with friends or with the Brit, I won’t force myself to complete everything like I did this past month. I’ll just do what’s most needed on the list. Also, if I’m exhausted, I’ll do the yard work or the cleaning, not both. Or only one hour of each. Yard work won’t be necessary year-round.
Words written: 90,829
Jumping Jacks completed: 2,301
How was your month? Would you ever try anything as crazy as this challenge, or have you? If you have, how did it work?
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