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.

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 horrible. It was dark, and a snowstorm was passing through.

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.

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Joe fell.

He fell 150 feet, landing in a crevasse, alive.

When he came to, Joe realized he couldn’t climb out. His broken leg made it impossible. He had to lower himself further down the crevasse, hoping there would be a way out.

There was. Joe found an exit. It was at the top of a steep snow slope where he saw a beam of light, an entrance back onto the glacier.

But the discovery was bittersweet ...

Joe was 5 miles away from base camp. He had no food, a broken leg, and virtually no water.

It took him 3 days to make it back.

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 going to 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!’

Joe said that in Touching the Void, a documentary chronicling his experience, which is based on a book he wrote.

Joe survived his three-day ordeal twenty minutes at a time.

It was a great strategy. It saved his life! And if it worked for a starving, crippled mountain climber, it'll work for you, a writer.

Every time you're blocked ...

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, pitting him against specific, measurable, time-bound goals. 

Try it. You might amaze yourself.


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