avatarEthan Ginsberg


The author describes their journey of transforming a daily journaling habit during the 2020 lockdown into their first published book, emphasizing the power of consistent routines and seizing opportunities for personal growth.


In the early summer of 2020, amidst the global pandemic, the author found themselves isolated in a new city, having moved across the country and spent considerable time traveling for work. Faced with an abundance of free time due to lockdowns, they decided to channel their energy into a 10-week writing challenge, journaling daily without constraints on content or style. This practice not only served as a therapeutic outlet but also significantly improved their writing skills and productivity. By the end of the challenge, the author had produced over 80,000 words, which laid the foundation for their first book, eventually leading to its publication by a New York-based publishing house. The article underscores the importance of adaptability, recognizing opportunities for self-improvement, and the transformative impact of establishing consistent habits.


  • The author believes that challenging times can be transformed into opportunities for growth and self-development.
  • Consistency in daily routines is seen as a key factor in developing strong habits and achieving goals that may initially seem daunting.
  • Writing daily is not only advocated for its creative and productive benefits but also for its positive effects on mental health.
  • The author emphasizes that breaking down goals into smaller, manageable steps can make them more attainable.
  • They suggest that personal adaptability and the ability to seize opportunities are crucial in overcoming difficult circumstances.
  • The article conveys the idea that simple routines, when turned into habits, can lead to significant personal achievements.

How a Daily Journal Turned into my First Best Seller

The Power of Turning Simple Routines into Life Changing Habits

Photo by Aziz Acharki on Unsplash

Enter: 2020

On a Saturday morning three and a half years ago, in the early summer of 2020, like most other people, literally everyone around the globe, I was sitting at home wondering how I was going to spend my secluded, socially distanced weekend at home.

Just a few months prior to the pandemic I had moved across the country, 2600 hundred miles away from my friends and family. I knew absolutely no one in the area I moved to.

The move initially didn’t bother me. I had moved away from my community a few times prior for work in my early 20s. I knew the drill. I would make the move, spend the first few weeks getting settled and learning the lay of the land. Around the same time that I was able to get to the grocery store without Google Maps, I would start to meet like minded people at work and start getting out into the community to meet people and make friends.

This move turned out being a little different.

It was June of 2019, I had driven across the country with my dog and girlfriend at the time. She hung around a few days after the move then flew back home (my girlfriend at the time, the dog stayed).

Within my first two weeks of work I was told I would be getting on a plane to Tokyo and spending time working there on and off for the following few months.

I had 2 weeks to find an apartment, move in, find a good sitter for my dog and update my passport.

The following 6 months through February of the new year I was on a plane almost every two weeks.

The trips were amazing, seeing new places, meeting new people, and learning about wild new pieces of technology for work.

Each time I would return home though, reality would set-in. I would pick up my dog from the sitter and head home to an empty apartment not having a single local area number in my cell phone let alone a friend to call to grab dinner.

It was weird.

Flash forward to late February of 2020.

I had just gotten back from a trip and I wasn’t feeling too hot. I found out a few people on the trip had been out of work sick for weeks with what they thought was a virus they had picked up from one of the international projects.

I was down and out for almost 10 days. It was the sickest I had ever felt in my life, and trust me I know what sick is, I worked in entertainment for years and had gotten what we refer to as the “Circus Bug” a few times.

By the time I was starting to feel better and was about to return to work, I received an email saying that the office was shutting down through April to allow time for the “Novel Covid-19 virus” to pass.

I didn’t return to the office for over a year, but you all know that part of the story from living it yourselves.

So now what?

I had only been living in the area for 8 months, I didn’t know a soul in the area, I lived alone in an apartment with my dog, and now I’m not allowed to go anywhere or see anyone.

Turn the Situation into an Opportunity

One of the first weekends of the 2020 lockdown, I calculated the following:

24 hours in a day

7 days in a week

168 hours in a week

(-) 49 hours for sleep
(-) 45 hours for work
(-) 7 hours for meals

= 67 hours of unallocated time

That reality hit me like a bag of bricks.

On one hand it felt like I was in prison, 67 hours of seclusion per week for the unforeseen future.

I tried to be far more pragmatic than that though.

What I really saw was 67 hours per week of opportunity.

Opportunity to learn

Opportunity to grow

Opportunity to connect with like-minded people virtually

Opportunity to develop better habits

The list is infinite.

Taking Action

So this takes us back to that Saturday morning in the early summer of 2020.

I had already gone for my morning bike ride, took the dog out, ate some breakfast and checked in on my parents over the phone.

I had the whole day, and the rest of the weekend ahead of me, and I was determined to make some use of it.

I sat down on the couch, opened up a Google Doc, and started writing.

At the time I had no idea what I was going to write about, I just knew that I wanted to start journaling my experience of being stuck at home, living through one of the most unique times in human history.

I spent 40 minutes writing about everything on my mind that day. The current state of the world, seeing all my friends being laid off in the entertainment industry, my mixed feelings on my own reality of the situation.

My typing was slow and I kept pausing to fix typos and thinking about how to improve my tone. The constant stopping was infuriating and distracting, but getting the words on paper felt so freeing.

It almost felt like talking to a therapist but it was just me and a blank page, and all my thoughts were right there on paper in front of me.

Before closing the document, I titled it:

“Summer 2020: 10 Week Writing Challenge”

Creating a Consistent Routine

There were only two rules I set for the challenge:

  1. I have to write every single morning, 7 days per week for the next 10 weeks
  2. I can write about anything but I have to be truthful in what I am writing

The first rule came from the concept of consistency and creating habits.

“The secret of your success is found in your daily routine.” — John C. Maxwell

“Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement.” — James Clear

The second rule had two intended purposes:

  • To unblock myself from writing each day no matter what was on my mind
  • To get everything off my chest and to not lie to my future self

Going into the challenge I did not have any clear word-count goals and I definitely did not intend to ever do anything with the document. It was simply a therapeutic new habit that I wanted to create and stick to.

Turning Routines into Habits

The first few days were tough, but each day I would set new guidelines that would make the next day easier.

There was a lot of editing as I wrote, slow typing, and putting too much thought into what I was writing.

I found that if I did not stop to edit anything, even a typo, my thoughts would flow more freely.

I reminded myself constantly that no one would ever be reading the words that I was writing so it was more important that I got my words on paper than for the words to be grammatically correct or in any cohesive order.

The first week I was trying to at least write one page single-spaced per day. I was typically spending about 20–30 minutes writing each morning.

By the third week I was writing 40–60 minutes each morning and churning out 3–4 pages.

As week 6 came around I wasn’t just writing when I woke up in the morning, I was adding to the journal at lunch, between meetings, and before bed.

By this point I was averaging 10–12 pages per day.

By week 10, I had written over 125 pages of single-spaced, 11 point font text that consisted of more than 80,000 words. That’s the equivalent of a 250–350 page book.

10 weeks and I was addicted to writing.

“It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives. It’s what we do consistently.” — Tony Robbins

Sitting back in my chair staring at that document, I was blown away by what I had created. It hadn’t felt like any work at all. I was simply putting my thoughts on paper, every day, consistently.

I thought to myself:

“If I could write 80,000 words in 10 weeks of casual writing, what can I accomplish if I actually put my mind to it?”

I continued daily journaling

My typing got much faster

My note taking and document writing at work improved dramatically

Most importantly, I had proven to myself that I could turn a simple daily goal into a habit that produced something amazing.

Over the following months I wrote, pitched, and published my first book. It was published by a NY-based publishing house in March of 2021.

Photo by Chris Spiegl on Unsplash


Adaptability in Challenging Times: Find ways to adapt to your environment during challenging times and take advantage of the opportunity.

Seizing Opportunities: Recognize the opportunities that lie in front of you even during your most challenging times. Take advantage of those opportunities as times for growth, self development, and finding the beauty in the simple pleasures in life.

Consistency and Habits: Create achievable daily routines that turn into strong habits that will help you meet and exceed what you originally thought possible.

Growth Through Writing: Write something every day. Consistently writing improves creativity skills, productivity, and mental health.

Achieving Goals: Your goals are likely not nearly as hard to achieve as you make them out to be in your head. Break your goals down into smaller achievable steps and get started.

“A dream written down with a date becomes a goal. A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan. A plan backed by action makes your dreams come true.” — Greg Reid

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