Do This Every Day

It was 1990-something.

I was working in a small mom-and-pop publishing house just down I95 from Health Communications, the publisher of Chicken Soup for the Soul.

My boss wanted a series just like that.

Think of all the possibilities. Chicken Soup for the Cat Lover’s Soul. Chicken Soup for the 12 Year Old’s Soul. Chicken Soup for the Chicken Soup Hater’s Soul. Chicken Soup for everyone!

I can’t remember if my boss told me this or if I read it in a magazine or heard it on the radio, but around that time, either Jack Canfield or Mark Victor Hansen said something about doing an interview a day, or scheduling something every day—or just doing something every day. (Murky, I know . . . Getting old is a hateful business).

Point was: Do something every day.

Stuck with me.

Back to 2019. I watched Amanda Seales’ “I Be Knowin’” special on HBO last weekend.

Part of her routine hits on how hard it is to go out in the evenings when you’re older—especially when all you want to do is curl up in bed. It’s a funny bit.

Reminded me of authors.

Very few of the ones I’ve known have wanted to do interviews.

They want to write.

They want to eat in their own kitchen, not in restaurants on the road.

They want to sleep in their own beds, not in hotels, motels, or the Holiday Inn.

They aren’t interested in any of it, but they know they have to do it, and they have to get into the mood.

Back to Canfield and Hansen—or whichever one said do something every day.

Think about interviews, or networking or whatever it is that helps share your book just as you might think about losing weight or saving money.

You don’t have to do a lot every day, but you have to do something.

Something. Every day.

So what is that something?

This is where it gets frustrating—and where I get angry at sites that have all the answers for how to launch a bestseller.

There isn’t one plan that will yield the same results for two different people/books.

I can give you a long list of books that, at their core, were launched the same way (minus some tweaks here and there), and they didn’t all hit the bestseller list. Part of it is the author, part is the topic, part is just what’s going on in the world. I’ve known authors who were wonderful authors but awful speakers, authors who looked the part and had little to say and authors who weren’t “camera ready” and got little play because they were rough around the edges. I’ve had an author bumped because a plane was landing without all of its wheels and another author bumped because, yep, another plane story won out.

A few weeks back, I wrote about what does always works.

That’s where you have to start.

From there, look at what your favorite authors have done and make it work for you.

Adjust it a little every day, but do it every day.

I know. It’s not your thing. You want to write. Trust me. A little every day.

Here’s a small example:

Mary Doyle comments on almost all of our posts. I had no idea who she was years ago, but now . . . When Mary has a book ready to publish, I will buy a copy and let friends know about the book. Why? First, I expect it to be good and second, because Mary always shows up, is kind, and is a person I like. That didn’t come over night.

Don’t think this is just for authors you want to get to know. You’d be surprised to find that your neighbor runs the book club of 1,000 grandmothers at the local mega church, or that your kid’s teacher is a bestseller writer using a pen name. These connections are all around us.

You have to put yourself out there (or hire someone to do it for you).

In a worst-case scenario, that person might just save your life.

True story (though not 100% accurate because . . . memory and age):

A family friend survived the Bataan Death March all because of a cigarette.

He was an officer facing a Japanese soldier. He’d already been captured, but still handed a cigarette to the soldier. The soldier wasn’t high in his chain of command. A regular foot soldier. He couldn’t help the American officer and the American officer knew it. He just had a cigarette and offered it. The soldier took it. Later, during the march, the officer fell. The person who helped him? The soldier to whom he gave a cigarette.

What the officer did was no different from what he might have done on the streets of his North Carolina home, but this time? Saved his live.

Put yourself out there.

A little every day. Might help share your book. Might help save your life.

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49 Comments

  1. Paulinho Uda on February 1, 2019 at 3:41 am

    Thanks for a wonderful post Callie. Doing something every day is moving. Just like a bike that only keeps balanced when in motion. Moving brings changes, transformations and produces the balance we seek in our lives.

    Mary Doyle, keep on showing up. 😉

  2. Tinthia Clemant on February 1, 2019 at 4:06 am

    Hi, thanks for a great post. I try to do something everyday that will improve my craft but I make sure it’s worthwhile activity. I could say that eating ice cream is helping my creative process but I know that isn’t true (accept when the flavor is Chunky Monkey–a very creative flavor).

    • BRIAN S NELSON on February 1, 2019 at 11:37 am

      Chunky Monkey…dear Lord do I love that ice cream. At the Defense Language Institute in 1991-1992 I studied Russian. My roommate and I would go surfing after class EVERY DAY, then go by Safeway for a pint of Chunky Monkey while we did our homework. How youth is wasted on the young…I was still in the best shape of my life! Fighting the Pacific Ocean must burn a lot of calories.

  3. Ann Dalrymple on February 1, 2019 at 6:09 am

    Awesome post. One of my favorites. It’s the power of showing up for yourself. and what matters to you – work, kindness, values, etc.

  4. Pamela Hodges on February 1, 2019 at 6:14 am

    Hi Callie,
    Thank you for writing every Friday, and thank you for today’s post. A reminder to show up and be kind.

  5. Anonymous on February 1, 2019 at 6:16 am

    Thanks so much for this, Callie. I love that even a small effort “counts”; I’m a bit of an “all-or-nothing” kind of person, so the practice of doing something every day that all adds up is important for me to bear in mind.

  6. Mary Darling, senior on February 1, 2019 at 6:19 am

    Simple and powerful post. Yes, everyday do something to move oneself forward. Just a step at a time.

  7. Mary Doyle on February 1, 2019 at 6:25 am

    Thanks for the shout out Callie – I didn’t expect to see my name when I sat down here today. What I did expect, and what I found, was another healthy dose of inspiration and common sense. That’s why I keep showing up and why I’ll keep coming back. Okay – off to do the day’s work! As always, thanks!

    • Joe Jansen on February 1, 2019 at 7:19 am

      Yay! Always know you’ll be here cheering on the troops and showing your appreciation, Mary. I’d read your stuff, too.

      • Mary Doyle on February 1, 2019 at 7:48 am

        Thanks Joe!

  8. Bruce Jones on February 1, 2019 at 6:40 am

    Great post, I call this the chip away philosophy, just chip away at your project every day and somehow, magically it gets done. It kind of goes along with just keep showing up and after not too long a time you will find that you belong.

  9. Kathy Ostman-Magnusen on February 1, 2019 at 6:44 am

    You caused me to think of so many things because of what you wrote here. One example I want to share, just because, is that of my disabled, now homebound, Vietnam vet husband. While in Vietnam, the military lined up wounded and even dead Vietnamese in a row on the ground everyday. My husband ran the PX so would view them. At first he said that he felt somewhat fearful of them, because after all death staring anyone in the face is a fearful experience. Eventually he wound up going over to them and yes, offering them a cigarette. At 19 he was put in a horrendous situation but gained compassion like none other. One to pass on.
    My husband learned what war does, especially to children. He decided to do what he could do to change the world to look towards peace. He became a teacher. He taught in gang zones to JrHigh kids during the day and HS kids at night, bringing Ds and Fs to As and Bs, but also teaching peaceful solutions and respect for other people’s opinions.

    What was the payoff for all this?

    Even though it’s been years ago many past students have found him. They recount his stories and moto of peace and love for this man.

    Another remarkable thing about this Vietnam vet is that he says he still has things to do. Despite the fact that he is on oxygen 24/7, is in extreme continual pain due to severe small nerve fiber neuropathy among s host of other things, due to agent orange, he does do LIFE every day. He works towards his songwriting and music efforts. He presses on.

    To the rest of us that leaves no excuse to not schedule something that meets our goals on a daily basis,

    • Kathy Ostman-Magnusen on February 1, 2019 at 6:48 am

      Oops some typos I see, but you get the picture 😎

    • Joe Jansen on February 1, 2019 at 8:12 am

      Well, now. I clicked through on your link, Kathy. Your paintings and illustrations are impressive. And especially your painting, “Mr. Magnuson” and the narrative you’ve written to accompany it. Is the sculpture “Denny” also Mr. Magnuson? I love it. Chin up and forward, noble bearing, as sense of motion, going forward despite whatever. You’re talented.

      • Kathy on February 1, 2019 at 11:06 am

        How kind of you to look at my work. Thank you for the compliment of Mr Magnusen as well.

        • Joe Jansen on February 1, 2019 at 12:42 pm

          Tell him a Marine sends regards.

  10. Lyn Blair on February 1, 2019 at 7:05 am

    Loved the post. It brought tears to my eyes. Not sure why. I noticed that Mary Doyle shows up too, every day, and always with something kind to say. Here she is again, selflessly offering the outward praise and acknowledgement for a post that shares wisdom and valuable guidance. There’s such goodness in that. Such simplicity in your post, the persistence of doing something every day, the consistent actions that add up to something and always bring about something meaningful in the end. All that is worth a happy tear or two.

    Thank YOU for showing up Callie Oettinger and Steven Pressfield!

    We readers are very grateful!

  11. Anita Garner on February 1, 2019 at 7:11 am

    Something. Every day. Yes.

  12. BarbaraNH on February 1, 2019 at 7:15 am

    Fabulous, as always! So grateful that you and Steve show up every Wednesday and Friday – best email days of the week.

  13. Joe Jansen on February 1, 2019 at 7:16 am

    Here, there’s both a lightness (“Chicken Soup for the Chicken Soup Hater’s Soul”) and an intensity (a life being saved by a seemingly inconsequential and even futile kindness). And then this deep truth that’s often so easy to overlook: connections are all around us.

    Novelist Lauren Groff was here last night, speaking as part of the Butler University Visiting Writers Series. I made a note on what she said about her daily practice. I know today’s post is about doing something every day *in addition to getting your words down,* but this bit from her seemed to apply to the overall theme of daily persistence in “building something in three dimensions.” She talked about blocking her time every day, and getting the words down, getting the words down, getting the words down. She said they’re not always good, but she feels the process is like those 3D printer: one layer, another, another pass, another layer. After a period (onstage, her hands are moving like they’re now turning and examining a ball or a vase or a sculpture), she says she’s got something solid and in three dimensions. Something real and with depth.

    And then Vonnegut on the theme of daily practice, patience, and dedication: “If only that person will write the same thought over and over again, improving it just a little bit each time. It is a lot like inflating a blimp with a bicycle pump. Anybody can do it. All it takes is time.”

    Another good one to start a Friday.

  14. Kevin Waldron on February 1, 2019 at 7:53 am

    I’ve loved this quote forever … especially when I get out of my daily routine, and it seems I have to jump the chasm.

    “A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labors of a spasmodic Hercules.” — Anthony Trollope

    I think I got it from David Allen of GTD.

  15. Jeff Korhan on February 1, 2019 at 8:57 am

    Tracking these “every day” activities is what works for me. Before I start journaling in the mornings I log my previous day’s workout, client highlights, etc into a running list in Evernote. That for me is what makes “every day” happen with greater consistency.

  16. Anonymous on February 1, 2019 at 11:37 am

    Thanks for this lovely illustration about the power of showing up and doing something every day Callie. It pairs well with your quote “If you operate every day in favor of Future You,
    you’ll eventually achieve your goals” which I have had posted in front of my desk for 2 years now and which continues to inspire me.

    I’m with Jeff. Tracking my “every day” activities, including the amount of time I’ve spent in a writing activity (research included) and the number of words written, not only helps me continue to show up but reminds me of the value of showing up as I can tally the cumulative effect and see how far I’ve come.

  17. Evelyn Starr on February 1, 2019 at 11:39 am

    Thanks for this lovely illustration about the power of showing up and doing something every day Callie. It pairs well with your quote “If you operate every day in favor of Future You, you’ll eventually achieve your goals” which I have had posted in front of my desk for 2 years now and which continues to inspire me.

    I’m with Jeff. Tracking my “every day” activities, including the amount of time I’ve spent in a writing activity (research included) and the number of words written, not only helps me continue to show up but reminds me of the value of showing up as I can tally the cumulative effect and see how far I’ve come.

    [Sorry for the double post but I hit submit before identifying myself. Memory and age…or maybe just Friday afternoon. :)]

    Reply

  18. BRIAN S NELSON on February 1, 2019 at 11:46 am

    Great post. I came across something that may help others ‘do something every day’. It is the Bullet Journal by Ryder Carroll. Simply genius in its simplicity, but a way to combine one’s calendar, notebook, journal, lists, tracking into one book. He calls it the analog solution to the digital world. I’ve only been doing it since early December–but my focus, clarity, sense of calm are unlike anything I’ve felt in years. I was always trying to mash my life into a daily planner, Franklin-Covey planner, etc–and could never make it work. Here is a link: http://www.bulletjournal.com. There is an entire cottage industry on YouTube for people sharing their Bullet Journal tips: from minimalist to very artistic. It has helped me significantly. Haven’t played a phone game in 2019.

    Callie–it was so cool of you to give a shout out to Mary Doyle. I, too, always enjoy her short, positive comments. I like this tribe.
    bsn

    • Joe Jansen on February 1, 2019 at 12:43 pm

      “Like this tribe.” Ditto.

      • Regina Holt on February 2, 2019 at 8:22 am

        Me too! I can’t help but think back to posts that David Kauffman would make here before his passing. I wouldn’t know of him any other way. We are blessed by the connections here. -waves to Mary-

    • Debbie L. Kasman on February 2, 2019 at 11:55 am

      I don’t always comment but I’m loving the tribe too.

  19. Brock Stout on February 1, 2019 at 6:05 pm

    I’m not sure why I signed up for this email list. Very glad I did.

  20. Dorothy Seeger on February 1, 2019 at 10:02 pm

    Callie, I have read so many “getting things done” articles lately, and none of them seem to hit home to me, but this one is genius in its simplicity. Of course, I can write something, even a sentence or two, every day. Thank you for this gentle nudge.

  21. Gwen Abitz on February 2, 2019 at 5:51 am

    I always respect/commend Mary Doyle for “showing up” with every Blog. Love all the “gentle nudges” (stealing Dorothy Seeger’s words) you write, Callie. Liked Steve’s Interview with Brian Koppelman. For me, even though with no desire to be an author/screen writer or publish a book; Writing Wednesday and Friday’s What It Takes WAKES ME UP AND REMINDS ME to do “something” with WHAT I KNOW FOR SURE. Sometimes “the nudge” doesn’t feel so gentle; but is what I NEEDED to remember “the desire” within my soul and heart that “got there” before I was even born. Some way, some how!!!

  22. Veleka Gray on February 2, 2019 at 6:32 am

    Another wonderful, inspiring article, Callie. I loved the officer and soldier story.
    My question: because of health issues, getting out there causes me physical distress. So I would love to “hire someone to do it for you.” But who? Please, please recommend people or advise us how we can find such.

  23. Melisssa Sugar on February 3, 2019 at 8:27 pm

    Hi, your post truly resonated with, me urging me to reflect on recent events in my life. I haven’t been blogging or reading posts lately and I haven’t commented in a long time, but I felt compelled to let you know how much your article inspired me. After losing my dad, my kids’dad and my mom — all in the last couple of years, life’s been rough and I’ve sort of crawled into a hole and given up on writing and pretty much anything that gives me peace or pleasure. Your post reminded me of something my mom used to tell me … frequently. She’d say, “ If you’re not doing something everyday that you’re proud of AND if you’re not doing something everyday that might get you in a little trouble ( lol) but will make lifelong, fond memories long after you’re gone — then you’re not be living the right the way.” Your post made me miss her, and smile at the same time. She died a few months ago in a car accident. She was my biggest supporter and cheerleader. I feel like I’ve lost my mojo since losing her so close to the kids’ dad. Sorry for such a long comment. Your post just lit a fire under my butt and I believe it’s a sign for me to stop pittying myself and start writing again.

    I don’t make resolutions, but that’s my mantra or motto for 2019. Do something everyday. Thank you for the idea and the courage.
    Melissa
    Twitter@Msugar13
    Melissa @
    Sugar Crime Scene

    • Russell Wilson on February 8, 2019 at 6:19 am

      Thinking of you and sending good thoughts your way, Melissa. Sailors have an expression that makes a lot of sense in this life: Hold Fast!
      Russ

    • JL Allderdice on February 8, 2019 at 7:42 am

      Good for you, Melissa! My father used to say, “pray to God, but keep rowing to shore.” Good luck.

    • Renita Wellman on February 8, 2019 at 7:48 am

      Melissa, that’s a lot. I remwhen the year my mother lost two youngr brothers to cancers. The grief was overwhelming. It took away the ability to think.
      And you have children to take care of. I trust you are well and financially okay. Grief takes its own time.
      Renita

    • Shauna on February 8, 2019 at 7:57 am

      Melissa, you are an inspiration. I am sending you virtual hugs and support. Much love and peace to you.

    • Heidi on February 8, 2019 at 9:30 am

      Sending you much love Melissa. I know only the grief of the death of my husband, and I was lost in a black hole for what felt to be an endless amount of time. Steve is so right – baby baby steps. One step at a time. One breath at a time. One moment at a time. One day at a time. I hope you are surrounding yourself with as much goodness as you can possibly find. This is how I began my long climb out of the black.
      Love and compassion are being sent in abundance to you from London, UK.

    • Yvonne on February 8, 2019 at 1:26 pm

      Melissa, I’m so sorry for your losses, and for how much you must be hurting. I wish peace and healing for you. Neil Gaiman said something in the commencement speech he gave at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia in 2012 that resonated with me and encourages me when things in life are bleak; those times when the pain feels too great to write…I hope it helps you, too. He said:

      “And remember that whatever discipline you are in, whether you are a musician or a photographer, a fine artist or a cartoonist, a writer, a dancer, a designer, whatever you do you have one thing that’s unique. You have the ability to make art. And for me, and for so many of the people I have known, that’s been a lifesaver. The ultimate lifesaver. It gets you through good times and it gets you through the other ones. Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do. Make good art. I’m serious. Husband runs off with a politician? Make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by mutated boa constrictor? Make good art. IRS on your trail? Make good art. Cat exploded? Make good art. Somebody on the Internet thinks what you do is stupid or evil or it’s all been done before? Make good art. Probably things will work out somehow, and eventually time will take the sting away, but that doesn’t matter. Do what only you do best. Make good art. Make it on the good days too.”

      Wishing you the very best, and that you can do that one thing each day.

    • Eileen Broderick on February 8, 2019 at 2:43 pm

      Melissa. I am in a similar state of loss and being lost and just wanted to send a virtual internet-hug to you. My husband died on October 19, 2018 after a two year Cancer journey. I also lost my Dad on Valentine’s Day, 2014 so that anniversary is less than a week away. I was the caregiver for both so I feel like there is a lot of ‘residual’ clean up to do in that area, emotionally. The loss itself is one thing–and enough, really. But the strange and bonus sort of “How do I stop? Did I do enough? What if we had tried…” layers that come as ‘the person who tried to fix everything finds that no more that can be done’–well, that is it’s own process I am still working through. Anyway–my mind is swirling. Sometimes full of ideas and other times wanting nothing more than to crawl back into my bed. Some days I have dreams of doing things or going places that almost make my heart smile but also make my heart break when I remember that I cannot do them with my husband…I, too, found this blog post especially resonant and uplifting. It’s like taking off so much weight and gently reminding myself–I don’t have to do everything all at once; I have only to do ONE thing today and that is so much lighter. =) This reminds me a bit of Anne Lamott’s ‘bird by bird’ which is another favorite tidbit I use when I feel like being loving to myself.

      I have to confess. I have been getting these weekly emails for some time but because my only focus for so long has been to take care of my beautiful husband, I have a folder in my inbox where I dutifully file them away for the “someday” I will get to them and to my writing life. This is the first I have read completely through and the first group of comments and it feels so right that it should be today and be this. THANK YOU, ALL. I feel blessed to be here…And Melissa, love and light to you. And I am now following you on Twitter. 😉

    • Melanie Ormand on February 10, 2019 at 9:11 am

      Hi, Melissa — Been there, done that on the pain, loss, crisis, trauma. It’s the price of living. I won’t bore you with the details but will instead remind you that you are NOT alone. We’re all here with you with our experiences. I’ll be bold and suggest you don’t have to write every day. Just enough to get the voices in your head OUT. That’ll help your recovery more than you can know. And who knows where that will lead.

      Sending you hugs through the ethers, too. And off to Twitter to offer support there, too!
      Melanie @MelanieOrmand

    • Glin on February 10, 2019 at 6:37 pm

      Thinking of you Melissa – thanks for being so open with your sharing and for having the courage to dig deep at a time it’s hardest. Sending you lots of love and hugs.

      It is always darkest before dawn and I’ve no doubt with the fantastic advice your mum so generously shared to you and you now with us that each step forward will make the biggest of difference. After all it’s not always the big things but the small things we do everyday that count.

      Glin
      @simplyglin

    • Jon Schmidt on February 12, 2019 at 6:01 am

      My mom was a huge influence on me. She was a school teacher to emotionally disturbed teenagers long before ADHD and other diagnoses came along. She was my rock and my inspiration. I too hid for a while but now I’ve taped one of her quotes over my desk, along with her picture. It simply says ‘You are only worth the influence you can impart on someone else.’ I can’t tell you how to deal with the pain (my dad died not long after she did), everyone is different. But I know I will make her proud if I keep plugging along, trying to influence others with the talent God has given me. One day at a time. It doesn’t come all at once, but since your mom was your cheerleader, know she will be cheering you on. Keep trying, keep writing. Jon

    • BruceC on February 12, 2019 at 7:21 am

      Hi Melissa;
      Just for today, see their smiles, feel their love, and allow that to inspire you and fortify your perseverance. They’re with you in spirit, every day.
      Peace.

    • Lin Keeling on March 20, 2019 at 11:29 am

      Hey, Melissa, Just saw this and want to give you a hug of support. I lost my mom 6 years ago and I know how you feel. Keep at the work, even if it’s just a little each day. It will sustain you.

  24. Marvin on February 8, 2019 at 6:50 am

    Wow.
    I’m not putting myself out there.
    Hiding.

    Have to stop hiding.

  25. Tree on February 8, 2019 at 8:18 am

    So much love to this community. I also hide and rarely post but found this message inspiring.

  26. Eric Turner on February 8, 2019 at 8:31 am

    This is a much need nudge, or kick in the butt. Over the last year I’ve pretty much stopped the things that bring me joy (an over used term these days), no writing, no photography, nothing creative. From reading this, I now know it doesn’t have to be a masterpiece, or perfect. It just has to be something. Every day.

    Thank you!

  27. Uzoma Chimezie on April 12, 2019 at 9:39 pm

    Be your self don’t be a phatocopy. That will enable you know your lapsess because, you are not everybody.

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