Here’s How Jeff Goins Writes

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We are at war.

Each day, facing the blank page and our own fears, writers around the world do battle with the same forces that would prevent us from simply producing the words, no matter their purpose.

Thankfully there are trailblazers — allies that arrive in times of uncertainty — our fellow writers and teachers who offer their wisdom, courage, and assistance.

Jeff Goins is one of those guides, an author, award-winning blogger, and coach, who stopped by The Writer Files to share some of his battle-tested stories from his own journey as a writer.

In this installment, Mr. Goins shares his advice for beating Resistance, the nobility of writing every day, and the one trait every great writer must possess.

Let’s dig into the file of Jeff Goins, writer …

About the writer …

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Jeff, and I’m a writer. I write nonfiction books and share what I learn with my tribe.
Part of what I do (writing and publishing books) I consider my “art.” I do it because I have to, but I don’t expect it to pay the bills. The other part (selling professional education to other writers) is what I consider my patron that makes everything else possible.
What is your area of expertise as a writer or online publisher?

I also help other writers and artists beat resistance through my blog, books, and courses.
Where can we find your writing?

You can also Amazon me. Do people say that? They should.

The writer’s productivity …

How much time, per day, do you spend reading or doing research?

I read every morning for about an hour. I don’t consider this research, though.
Research for me happens when I start writing; I’ll get stuck and have to look something up. I like it that way, because everything I’m learning is practical and applicable.
When I read, it’s just for my love of good books and to deepen my understanding of the craft.
Before you begin to write, do you have any pre-game rituals or practices?

Sometimes, I pray. Usually, I just tell myself to shut up and write.
What’s your best advice for overcoming procrastination?

Stop calling it procrastination. What most people call being “lazy” is really just fear. Fear of failure. Fear of rejection. Fear, fear, fear.
Call it what it is and face the blank page, anyway.
What time of day is most productive for your writing or content production?
Definitely early morning. I try to wake up and write before any of my distractions do.
Do you generally adhere to a rigid or flexible writing system?
Rigid: I write every day, no excuses or exceptions.
Flexible: I don’t do word counts or timed sessions. If I’ve written, even just a few words, then it’s a success.
How many hours a day do you spend actually writing (excluding email, social media etc.)?
I write for various projects about two to three hours a day. Beyond that, I start to see diminishing returns. But I’m still new at this, so who knows.
Do you write every day?
This is like asking if I sleep every day. It’s not so much a matter of want to as have to. I can’t not do it.

The writer’s creativity …

Define creativity.
I think that’s like saying, “Define the wind.” Not to get all Zen or anything, but it’s easier (and more helpful) to describe what the wind does than to say what it is.
Creativity brings good things in the world that otherwise would not exist. It’s a noble act of pushing back darkness and giving hope to despair.
Who are your favorite authors, online or off?
Ernest Hemingway. Seth Godin. C.S. Lewis. Anne Lamott. Michael Hyatt . Shauna Niequist. The Apostle Paul.
Can you share a best-loved quote?

 Life isn’t a support-system for art. It’s the other way around.
~ Stephen King

Do you prefer a particular type of music (or silence) when you write?
Ambient. My go-to channel on Spotify is Explosions in the Sky.
How would you personally like to grow creatively as a writer?
Lately, I’ve been fascinated with narrative nonfiction. My next book is a memoir, and it’s kicked my butt more than any other single piece of writing. But I love what I’m learning and how I’m growing.
Do you believe in “writer’s block”? If so, how do you avoid it?
No. I like what [Anne] Lamott says about this. To paraphrase, there’s a difference between being blocked and being empty.
Sometimes when we feel blocked, we need to do something that is not writing to fill back up. Other times, we’re just afraid.
Who or what is your “Muse” at the moment (i.e. specific creative inspirations)?

For me, writing is a calling. It’s not something I chose; it chose me.

My muse is the conviction that I don’t just write for myself, I do it, because I have to.
Would you consider yourself someone who likes to “take risks?”
Not really. While I like doing new things and the thrill of the unknown, I’m terrified of failure. So as much as I can, I try to play it safe. But then I get bored and have to do something that might not work.
What makes a writer great?
What doesn’t make a writer great is talent or intuition or giftedness.

What makes a writer great is one thing: perseverance.

The writer’s workflow …

What hardware or typewriter model are you presently using?
I use a MacBook Pro, 13 inch. I also own an old typewriter, but I’m not sure of the brand.
What software are you using for writing and general workflow?
I usually write on Text Edit, a basic text-editing program for Mac. I also use Ommwriter, when I need to be free of distractions.
Do you have any tricks for staying focused?
I’m sorry … what’d you say? I wasn’t listening.
I am terrible at this. I’ve tried systems and procedures and think what really works for me is to create urgency.
If I can procrastinate or do something besides write, I will. So I force myself into a situation that requires me to write. That may mean a public deadline or going some place I know won’t have wifi. I have to trick myself.
Have you run into any serious challenges or obstacles to getting words onto the page?
Yes. Myself. I always get in the way.
How do you stay organized (methods, systems, or “mad science”)?
Once a week, I throw away anything on my desk, in my office, or on my computer that I haven’t used in a while. Other than that, it’s more like managing chaos than staying organized.
How do you relax at the end of a hard day?
I play with my son, read a book, and cook dinner. Then I usually watch a movie with my wife.

A few questions just for the fun of it …

Who (or what) has been your greatest teacher?
My favorite book on writing was Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle. She taught me that a writer writes not because she wants to, but because she must.
What’s your biggest aggravation or pet peeve at the moment (writing related or otherwise)?
No time. Where does it all go? I’m spread too thin and consumed with busyness when I want to be getting better (not just more popular). It’s both a great and tough thing being a writer in this Information Age.
Choose one author, living or dead, that you would like to have dinner with.
Definitely Hemingway. But we’d probably have to go hunting.
Do you have a motto, credo, or general slogan that you live by?

You can outlast those who are lucky
and outwork those who are lazy.

What do you see as your greatest success in life?
Other than staying married and creating life (no two small feats), when it comes to writing stuff, I’m really proud of the online course,, I started last year. People tell me it’s changed their lives. That’s really rewarding to hear.
If you could take a vacation anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you go (cost or responsibilities are no object)?
Seville, Spain. I studied abroad there and have been dying to go back. Once a month, I literally dream of returning.
What would you like to do more of in the coming year?
I want to write more words that people don’t see. I feel compelled to do more of the deep writing that professionals do — the long, hard stuff that doesn’t get noticed or applauded. But, it’s what makes you great.
Can you offer any advice to writers and content producers that you might offer yourself, if you could go back in time and “do it all over?”
Yes. This is the one thing I didn’t do for years, and it defeated me more than anything else:
Don’t give up.
Keep going, don’t stop when you get discouraged. Go, go, go. This is about endurance, not energy. As the cliché goes, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Please tell our readers where they can connect with you online.
Twitter: @jeffgoins
Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?
I’d be remiss if I didn’t say this, and it’s a lesson I learned from Copyblogger:

All good writing is copywriting. Every writer has to earn a reader’s attention, word by word and line by line.

And finally, the writer’s desk …

Line by line we wage the battle.

Thankfully, the only weapons we need are our wits, our will, and a reliable method by which to record our best ideas.

And whatever you do, don’t forget to celebrate your victories, however small, as Mr. Goins reminds us with his strategic placement of maracas. Olé!

Thank you Jeff!

Image of Jeff Goins' Desk

And thank you for flipping through The Writer Files …

We have more Q&As in the pipeline from our favorite writers.

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Now put on your flak jacket and get back to work!

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Reader Comments (57)

  1. says

    Happy that you’ve featured Jeff on here! He’s a great writer and one of the “good guys” online (that last part can’t be underestimated when it comes to helping people).

    Thanks for publishing The Writer Files — it’s so cool to get a peak behind the curtain to see how your mentors work.

  2. says

    Good interview Kelton,

    I’m finding a trend where the most successful people prioritize faith.

    Meanwhile the masses are focused silliness like reality tv and video games and then they wonder why they are not finding success.

    This series is good because it helps us see how successful people think and how they work.

    So I’m not the only one with a messy desk? ok cool.

  3. says

    Thanks for sharing this post. It’s great to get to know more about Jeff. I’m a part of the TribeWriters class, but it’s always inspiring to hear Jeff’s perspective and thoughts. Thanks copyblogger for a great interview.

  4. says

    Cool interview!

    I enjoy seeing the photo of the desk/office of the featured writer. My desk and office must be neat, clean, and organized. Clutter makes me anxious. The office that I am working in now has too much stuff and furniture for my liking; however, it’s not my office space. Thank goodness it’s temporary. 😉

  5. says

    Jeff is an inspiration and motivator for my work. He has helped me claim that I am a writer. I love his TribeWriters course and highly recommend it to anyone who really wants to move their writing forward and expand their tribe. Love The Writer Files too…Thanks!

  6. Nita says

    I feel most at ease when my desk is messy.

    As a magazine Editor, I used to wear torn-up jeans and an old shirt when I knew I would be pulling an 11-hour work day (deadlines, mostly).

    I still remember the irritation with which a member of my editorial team complained to me that a friend of hers visiting our office said: “That little girl wearing a torn jeans and sitting cross-legged and barefoot in front of a computer…That’s YOUR BOSS???!!!”

    I guess I just like being messy and untidy…

  7. Jennifer Zach says

    Reading through this post was a great way to start my day. So much of what Jeff shared resonated deeply within me. I’m inspired to find my copy of Walking on Water and dig out Anne Lamott and remind myself that although I’m slogging copy 24/7 to pay the bills right now, somewhere inside I’m still a Writer.

    Brilliant series – and I love the desk photos. Very affirming!

  8. says

    Great interview! I like Jeff even more now. He seems very down to earth as a writer, which I respect very much. And I’m an Explosions in the Sky fan too! Really talented band. I saw them play in Houston a few years ago. One of my best concerts to date.

  9. says

    Thank you for a great interview. Boy, could I ever relate to Jeff. It’s nice to know I’m not alone in fear-based procrastination. Every time I need to write something new, and particularly every time I write for a new client, the fear comes up and I drag my feet. Once I get going, I’m off. But it doesn’t matter now long I’ve been writing. This always happens!

    Btw, I appreciate the picture of the desk. Sure matches mine.

  10. Vicky Cox says

    I’m in Jeff’s Tribewriters class too and have found it immensely helpful as a newbie writer to define what it is I want to write about and who my audience is. Jeff gives due credit to others’ quotes and writings but I have found him to be far wiser than his years and terribly insightful. I particularly like his statement: “Creativity brings good things in the world that otherwise would not exist. It’s a noble act of pushing back darkness and giving hope to despair.”

  11. says

    Another Tribewriter here. I just keep going over and over Jeff’s material. This was a great post. First time I’ve been to this site. Had to come and check it out. And great idea showing the photo. That was fun.

  12. says

    Lets see, Seth said:
    “..writing is a calling…”

    Seth said his favorite authors were:
    Ernest Hemingway. Seth Godin. C.S. Lewis. Anne Lamott. Michael Hyatt . Shauna Niequist. The Apostle Paul.

    Seth said his favorite book was:
    Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle.

    If I was looking for Seth’s “secret”, I would guess he would say he doesn’t have one, other than maybe, “get to work.”  However, it does appear that his secret, in fact, is found in his answers to the three questions noted above. “For those who have ears to hear, let them hear.”

    Trail blazer? Appears to me it is more a matter of “the road less taken.”

      • says

        Mr. Goins, you took the words out of my mouth. And if the “the road less taken” is a nod to Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken”, then I believe you are mistaken. Trailblazer: one that blazes a trail (i.e. one that does something different). The road “less traveled” is a common metaphor for the path to individuation.

        • says

          To be fair, I think Curtis was referring to the faith element (i.e. that I pray and some of my inspiration comes from Christian authors). And if that’s the case, then yes. My belief in God certainly has been a part of my pursuing the call to be a writer and to become a better one. I thought it was interesting what Darnell said about successful people making faith a priority. I hadn’t considered that, but it made me think.

  13. says

    Jeff is awesome. I love devouring his honest and refreshing newsletters when they drop in my inbox.

    Favourite line from the transcript above: “Sometimes, I pray. Usually, I just tell myself to shut up and write.” Ha!

    I hate how easy it is to give up as a writer. But it’s great to hear how another writer is living the dream by persevering and working hard. I’ve recently launched a new support site for women freelancers called and while it can be deflating to see so few comments on what I know are useful and engaging posts, I’m going to keep on truckin’ and grow my audience.

    Thanks for yet another nudge, Jeff!


  14. says

    Another good source of inspiration and encouragement to continue making effort to write as often as possible

  15. Trudi Roth says

    I really love how Jeff describes the relationship between his art (writing & publishing) — which he doesn’t expect to pay the bills — and his “patron” (selling professional services to writers). That’s a very elegant and freeing way to describe all aspects of the writer’s life — makes me feel like writing for commerce (which I do) is noble and not a sellout at all; instead it’s enabling, not compromising, the writing I do for love of the art and creative expression. Thanks (as always) for the inspiration, Jeff, and the great interview, Kelton!

  16. says

    Thanks for a great interview, Jeff and Kelton!

    As a writer myself, I can definitely sympathize with a lot of what Jeff said. Sometimes my love for writing is stronger than others. My head is full of fresh idas and my fingers fly across the keyboard. On other days… well, it’s a grind.

    But I keep coming back for more. I can’t help myself. I agree that writing is a calling. It chooses us. It’s taken me a few years to realize it, but giving in to the call (and managing the day to day frustrations) is easier than ignoring it.

    Sometimes it gets lonely being a writer, so it’s nice to read about other writers’ struggles. Especially writers as accomplished as Jeff!

    Thanks for the great interview,


  17. says

    Great interview. I know Jeff is a serious writer, less because of his actual work available and more in how he answered these questions. We have many common thoughts about writing. Thanks for providing this post.

  18. says

    That’s really awesome. Jeff is one of the persons, whom I admire the most. GoinsWriter really helped me in becoming a better writer. His blog posts are so inspiring.
    It’s so good to see him here.
    Thank you

  19. says

    Jeff is such an inspiration. It’s great to hear this insight. I was just thinking of re-watching his interview with Michael Hyatt on Platform University today when I saw this piece! Awesome!

  20. says

    Thanks, Jeff, for pointing us here! I need to start subscribing to Copyblogger. I read so much of their stuff anyway. I have to admit I’m pretty lazy about writing sometimes, unless I’m on a deadline. Writing just for me was something I had abandoned in the past. I’m trying to do it more often as a way to put thoughts to print and out of my head. Great interview!

  21. says

    Here are two quotes that keep me going from “gurus” I followed when I was trying to learn blogging. The first is from Joe Vitale and the second is from Jeremy and Jason at Internet Business Mastery.
    “money loves speed”
    ‘good enough is good enough”
    The fact is, if you get an idea don’t sit on it. Write it and publish it. It’s not doing you any good if you don’t get it out there.

  22. Archan Mehta says

    I came across Jeff’s work several months ago and liked it. Jeff is on target and is a pleasure to read.

    That’s why I have been a fan and decided to become a subscriber.

    Jeff has been an inspiration and he has helped me understand the artistic and professional sides of writing: writing as an art and writing as a business.

    Therefore, I can’t thank you enough for publishing this post and running a series on what makes writers tick. Sharing their personal stories has been a great learning experience.

    Regarding the debate about inspiration v/s hard work, one needs both. Persistence pays. Too many writers have abonded ship without trying to remain faithful to the long journey. That has been my learning experience.

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