7 beautiful, meaningful writing projects that you can finish in a single day.

Recently, I sent out an email to everyone who purchased my online writing course, Unstoppable, this year.

I asked five questions. My intention was to collect feedback, see how people were doing, and hopefully provide a little encouragement to keep going.

One question I asked was:

“Have you gotten around to using the course yet? If not, why not?”

I got many diverse responses, as you might imagine, but one woman’s answer struck me as exceptionally honest — and a little heartbreaking.

She explained that she felt frustrated because when it comes to writing, but also other areas of her life, she feels like she never “finishes” anything.

“I try to do too many things and don’t really finish anything […] I’ve done a few writing classes, worked with coaches, but haven’t completed anything.”

… she told me.

I felt a sting in my heart as I realized, “You and me both, sister.”

Now, I do finish a lot of things. Some would consider me to be fairly prolific. I’ve had a couple of books published and sold in bookstores. I’ve also self-published numerous other books and hundreds of articles for this site and others. I’ve also written and edited thousands of pages of content for my clients over the years.

On the surface, I’m aware that I appear very “put together” and “efficient,” and a good deal of the time, that’s true.

But if you dig a little deeper into my world, you’d also discover a staggering array of discarded dreams and half-finished pieces.

Postcards I (still) need to finish. Emails I (still) need to send. Ideas for programs and courses and art projects that I’ve sorta half-birthed but not quite.

I wrote an entire novel this year — brand new, possibly my best fiction writing ever — and then I stopped just before the last chapter. Why? Dunno. I taught a few workshops. Took on a few extra ghostwriting projects. Went on a trip. You know. Stuff. Things. “Life.” Basically, I just got distracted and I lost my momentum. The book remains unfinished and it haunts me. Every time I see the manuscript on my desktop, I cringe. When will I finish the damn thing?!! I honestly don’t know.

All of this may sound dramatic, but if you’re an “artist” (and I believe everyone is) then you understand this particular flavor of pain.

When you long to create something — but you can’t seem to finish what you’ve started — it is like a little ghost haunting you, whining, crying, “Why why why? What about me?”

Conversely, when you yearn to bring something into the world and then you actually follow through and finish it? Whoa. Fireworks explosion of goodness. It’s like adding a one thousand dollar bill to your confidence and self-esteem bank. Nothing feels better than saying, “I did it. I finished it. It’s done.”

This goes for writing, all kinds of creative pursuits, fitness, you name it.

I think we can all agree:

Finishing is sexy.

Which brings me, at last, to the inspirational list that I wanted to share today:

7 beautiful, meaningful writing projects that you can finish in a single day.

Sometimes, when you are stuck in a cycle of non-finishing, the best thing to do is to radically change your goals.

Instead of trying to tackle a gigantic, War & Peace-sized writing project, shrink things down so that you can actually finish something (anything!) and feel good about it.

I call this “setting sane, humane writing goals.”

“Sane, humane” writing projects — simple mini projects that don’t take very long to complete — can still make a real impact in someone else’s life, despite their “tiny-ness.”

After all…

It’s not the “length” of your writing that makes it powerful.

It’s the love you pour into it.

Got love to give? I know you do. Try one of these:

. . .

1. THE “SIX MINUTE FAN LETTER.”

Set a timer for six minutes. Write a fan letter (or fan email) to someone you admire.

Say something like:

“I love your work because ______. My favorite thing you’ve ever created is ______. You inspire me to ______ and I wanted to thank you for ______. This is purely a fan letter. No response required.”

Finish it. Send it. Know that you’ve just created a positive ripple in someone else’s day.

. . .

2. THE “LOCAL HERO” LOVE NOTE.

Set a timer for ten minutes. Write a gratitude letter to someone in your local community who is just flat out awesome. A bartender. A grocery bagger. Your yoga teacher.

Say something like:

“I’m so glad you’re my neighbor because ______. I can always count on you to ______. I always notice when you ______ and I appreciate it so much. You make my day better every time you ______. Thank you for being ______.”

(Or use a template from my book.)

Finish it. Fold it into an origami heart or if that’s too complex, just tuck it into an envelope. Deliver it. They will never forget it.

. . .

3. THE “GRACIOUS HOST” WELCOME NOTE.

Set a timer for twenty minutes. Pretend that a guest is coming to stay in your home tonight. They’ll be staying for a few days. Write a list of instructions for the house, things to know, important phone numbers, and neat local attractions that they ought to check out.

Now, the next time you have a guest, tenant, or AirBnB boarder, you’ll have a delightful print-out to give them.

4. THE “FUTURE ME” LIST.

Set a timer for six minutes. Write a list of six things that you want to do, try, or experience in the upcoming year.

Load the text into FutureMe.org and set it up so that your list will swing back into your inbox on January 1st, 2016. Now you’ll get a reminder from your past self… in the future.

. . .

5. THE “DINNER PARTY” SURPRISE.

Set a timer for twenty minutes. Jot down the names of a few people that you would love to invite to dinner (real people or, if you want to make this a fiction-writing exercise, imaginary people). Write a dinner party invitation.

Say something like:

“I miss all of you. I want to catch up, face to face, without our cellphones, just sharing an evening together. So I’m throwing a dinner party! I will make ______. You can bring ______. We’ll talk about ______ and sip ______ and it will be ______. It’s happening on ______ at ______pm at ______. I can’t wait. I hope you will come.”

Send out your invite — you can email it or get it printed and snail-mail it if you want to be exceptionally fancy — and then enjoy your beautiful night.

. . .

6. THE “NO EXPECTATIONS” MEDIA PITCH.

Set a timer for ten minutes. Jot down the name of a blogger, journalist, essayist, writer, producer, radio host, or podcaster that you genuinely love and whose work you follow closely. Write an email to them.

In your email, mention an idea for something you’d like to see them discuss, write about, or create in the future.

Say something like:

“I love your work and I especially enjoyed your recent ______ which inspired me to ______. I’ve got an idea for you: have you ever considered doing a [piece / episode / talk / program / article] on [topic]? I bet your fans would love that. (I know I would!). Just wanted to toss that idea your way. Thank you for being you… and I look forward to your next ______!”

Send off your email. Release all expectations of getting a response. Just send it.

Maybe you’ll hear back. Maybe you won’t. Maybe this will be the beginning of a wonderful friendship or professional relationship. Maybe not. Maybe you’ll exchange several enthusiastic emails back and forth and it will all culminate with you getting invited to come onto the show. Or not.

Don’t worry about the end-game. Just send it. Feed someone an idea and leave it at that.

. . .

7. THE “FAMILY RECIPE” BOOK.

Set a timer for fifteen minutes. Write down the recipe for your favorite “family meal” or “childhood snack,” no matter how silly or simple it is.

Add a little “intro story” about why you love it so much, who made this recipe first, or the memories it brings up for you.

Paste your recipe and story into an email. Send it to your family — or people who feel like “family” to you. They’ll love it.

You’re done! If you want to take this project further, you could…

Invite everyone in your family to contribute a beloved recipe of their own. Say, “Email your recipe and story to me.”

Collect recipes from everyone. Then get the collection printed through Blurb or Lulu. Too complicated? Just print it out using a regular printer and staple it together. DONE. Now you have a cookbook of family stories, memories, and meals to recreate and remember forever.

. . .

Try one of these mini projects. Or try all of them. Or choose one and do it once a day for seven days. Or do them all in one day. Do whatever feels good.

The beauty is that none of these projects require “masterful perfection” in order to really make a difference in someone else’s life — or your own.

A love letter with a typo is still a love letter. A recipe with a stain on it or the “wrong” font formatting will still delight your grandkids in forty years. Love is love is love.

Don’t worry about being “perfect.” Just get to the finish line.

Every single time you finish something, no matter how small, your focus and confidence will grow.

Finishing is seriously the best. You know how good it feels.

You’re just six, ten or maybe twenty minutes away from that feeling. Go get it.