Joe Simpson, an English mountaineer, messed up:

In 1985, while descending the Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes, he slipped, landed awkwardly, and shattered his tibia into his knee.

Joe’s climbing partner, Simon Yates, was forced to lower him down the side of the mountain using a belay and rope. But the conditions were less than perfect -- it was dark, and a storm was coming through -- and Simon accidentally lowered Joe off a cliff.


The pair were tied together, so, after some time in a weight stalemate, Simon was forced to cut the rope.

Joe fell.

He fell 150 feet down the cliff and ended up in a crevasse. But he didn't die.

When he came to, Joe realized he couldn’t climb out. Not with his leg. It would've been impossible. He would have to lower himself further down the crevasse, hoping there would be a way out.

Somehow, lightning struck twice, and he found one: at the top of a steep snow slope, Joe saw a beam of light. It was an entrance back onto the glacier.

But the discovery was bitter sweet...

Because Joe was still 5 miles away from his base camp.

He had no food, a broken leg, hypothermia, and virtually no water.

It took him 3 days to make it back.

So, how did he do it?

Twenty minutes at a time:

“I’d look at a rock and I’d go ‘Right, I’ll get there in twenty minutes.’ Once I decided I was going to get that distance in twenty minutes, I bloody well was gonna do it.

And it would help me because I’d get halfway through the distance and I’d be in such pain, I just couldn’t bear the thought of getting up and falling again, but I’d look at the time and I’d think ‘I’ve gotta get there!’

And then I’d think, ‘Oh, I’ll just lie a little bit longer,’ but then I’d think ‘No! You gotta get there, you only got ten minutes left!’

Those were Joe's words in Touching the Void, a documentary chronicling his experience, which is based on a bookhe wrote.

Joe got through his 3-day ordeal twenty measly minutes at a time.

It was a great strategy. It saved his life. And if it worked for a starving, beat-up mountain climber, it sure as hell is going to work for a beat-up, starving writer. (Or a rich one.)

Every time you need to pound out words...

Think of Joe. Think of his strategy, and apply it to your writing goal:

Step 1: Pick a word count goal. Say, 100 words.

Step 2: Allocate a specific amount of time to that goal. Say, 20 minutes.

Step 3: Get there. Write until you run out of time or words. Just write.

This method motivated Joe. It gave him many specific, measurable, time-bound goals to work towards -- and those, ultimately, helped him achieve his overall objective.

Like I said, if it worked for Joe, it'll work for you. Give it a shot. You'll be amazed at what you can accomplish when you've made it your mission to beat the clock.