Tuesday, November 1, 2011

20-Mile March

My big idea for the day comes from, of all places, a finance magazine. In a recent issue of Fortune, there was an excerpt from an upcoming book about what separates excellent companies from the rest. What characteristics allow one group, rather than another, to succeed?

Among other things, consistency.


To explain this, the excerpt used the analogy of walking across the United States. If you walk twenty miles every day, no less and no more, regardless of weather or other external circumstances, you will achieve your goal a lot faster than if you walk 40 miles some days and not at all on days when you don't feel like it.

The excerpt then analyzed the race between the Amundsen and Scott expeditions to the South Pole through the lens of the "20-Mile March".

Amundsen's group made progress toward the pole every day, no matter how terrible the conditions were. But they also did not overreach themselves. The expedition had both a minimum and maximum amount of ground to cover.

Scott's expedition, by contrast, often did not move at all because conditions were, supposedly, impossible.

Results: Amundsen reached the pole five weeks ahead of Scott, whose entire expedition died on the return trip.


The rest of the excerpt, which examined contemporary companies, was not particularly scintillating. But the idea caught me.

Now that this phenomenon has been brought to my attention, how can I use it to inform my creative pursuits?

Write a little, more often. Comma optional.


When you are writing, momentum is essential. I am afraid when I don't look at my work for a while - I am afraid that my progress will ground to a halt. It's a valid fear.

Part of the fear comes from how I feel obligated to write a lot whenever I do write. When I do not make my "quota", I feel dissatisfied. That quota being the 1400 that I made in the summer I finished my novel, when I wrote for about three hours each morning.

How does that make sense at all?

I propose for myself a new system. An experiment, let's say, or my version for NaNoWriMo.

  • I will write four times a week.
  • I will write between 400 and 1000 words each time, no more and no less.


Increase the frequency, decrease the amplitude.

Who's with me?


  1. Hi, I was surfing blogger and landed here. This is inspiring, as I'm trying to beef up my writing. I also like arctic exploration, so I found the coincidence pretty cool :).

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed the post. :) What kind of writing do you like to do?