In December 2020, Dickie Bush tweeted out "is anyone interested in doing a daily writing challenge for 30 days?"
At the time, I'd been struggling to find some consistency in my own writing, despite writing on my own blog for the past five years.
I had also met and chatted with Dickie for the past several months, and when a friend starts a new project, I try to encourage it however I can.
So in early December, around 20 of us joined a Slack group and started writing.
That's what the first cohort was: a group of people keeping each other accountable and writing for 30 days.
Almost a year later, Ship 30 for 30 has grown well beyond that first cohort. Over 1000 people have become writers. The course curriculum is extensive. Cohorts are bigger.
I participated in 3 more cohorts after that first one, continuing to write, and as an alumni mentor leading a small group.
In short: you should do it.
Let's talk about why.
Ship 30 is for Shipping
At the end of the day, Ship 30 for 30 is about shipping.
It's about publishing something you've written every day for 30 days.
It's hard to understate what this can do for you.
For beginner writers, it builds confidence. You learn to shape your ideas. You get exposed to what better writers can do with a short essay.
For more experienced writers, it's a wakeup call. Part of why I had been struggling with consistency was that my bar was too high. I felt that I needed to write an outstanding post if I was to publish anything at all.
Of course, that wasn't true. Shipping every day for 30 days lowered the bar and allowed me to get past the mental barrier I'd constructed.
The focus of Ship 30 is on publishing, and they've worked to remove as many barriers to that goal as possible. It remains the greatest strength of the program.
When you're starting something new, nothing kills your motivation like someone telling you it's stupid.
The opposite is true as well: a supportive group can make all the difference.
Ship 30 provides that group. I re-enrolled not because of the writing habit—though that was nice—but because of the people I knew I would meet.
Twitter is a large part of Ship 30. You follow your fellow Shippers there, read their writing, and publish your own. You can retweet and comment on essays that resonate with you.
The camaraderie you build with your cohort is a key part of building your confidence as a writer, but also as a broader citizen of the internet.
You'll gain confidence in participating online: publishing your work and commenting on the work of others.
That support is hard to come by; you'll find plenty of it in Ship 30.
Though Ship 30 started as a bare-bones-ship-at-all-costs writing challenge, the curriculum has improved a lot.
You can expect regular instruction, both through live Zoom calls and pre-recorded material.
You'll learn to write compelling headlines, how to structure your writing, how to maintain your writing habit, and much more.
The curriculum is secondary, but it has come a long way, and there is immense value there if you choose to make use of it.
The cost of Ship 30 may strike you as high at first, particularly if you haven't participated in many online courses.
Write of Passage, often considered one of the flagship online writing courses, ranges in cost from $4K-$7K USD.
By comparison, Ship 30 is a bargain.
The aims of the two courses aren't the same. In Write of Passage—which I haven't taken—you will no doubt receive more individual feedback. The course seems focused on taking your writing from good to great.
Ship 30 is more about taking your writing from 0 to 1. Though, as I've mentioned, there is plenty of value for experienced writers too.
How much would you spend on a university course? Or a night out?
Assuming you can afford it, the cost of Ship 30 shouldn't be a barrier to taking the course.
It's an investment in yourself, at a modest price.
How much time will you need for Ship 30 for 30? It depends.
You should plan for at least an hour a day.
In my experience, you can write, edit, and publish in 30-60 minutes if well-prepared.
In that amount of time, you won't be writing heavily researched pieces.
Some participants spend 90-120 minutes per day writing. But they chose to write deeper essays with more research.
You'll also want to plan for time reading other material, interacting with other participants, and attending the live sessions (or watching the recordings).
When I participated, I made my essay the first thing I did in the morning. It was when I felt fresh and motivated, and turned out to be a very satisfying start to the day.
What To Improve
I don't have many suggestions for Ship 30 that haven't already been integrated. There have been too many changes over the past year for me to cover completely, but some include:
- Much more detailed curriculum, which you can consume asynchronously
- An extra week for onboarding, which lets everyone get up to speed
- Smaller breakout groups for more detailed feedback and more interaction
- Live weekly sessions on specific topics designed to improve your writing
- Software designed for writing atomic essays (short essays that are the focus of Ship 30)
- Discounts and instructions on using various Twitter tools for publishing
There are many more.
What I wish still existed from the first cohort was a monetary incentive. In the first cohort, we got part of our money back if we completed all 30 days.
While that incentive sort of exists with the initial investment in the program, I'd happily pay more knowing that I'd get some of it back.
Financial incentives are a powerful thing.
How to Make the Most of Ship 30 for 30
Like many online courses, your results from Ship 30 will depend on how much you invest.
There are a few things that will help you make the most of it.
Set Up Your Daily Dashboard
I usually did this with a tab group (I use OneTab, but most browsers allow tab groups now).
What I mean by this is I created a group of links that opened all the places I needed for Ship 30. This might include things like:
- The Ship 30 Twitter list
- My own Twitter
- The Ship 30 writing tool (we were using Figma at one point)
- Key educational links (how to outline, how to write headlines, etc.)
- The list of topics I'd brainstormed ahead of time (I kept this in Roam, but any note tool will do)
I wanted to remove as many barriers to getting started as I could. Having this tab group ready meant all I had to do was open the group, and I was ready to go.
Take Part in Live Sessions
I skipped many of the live sessions, either because they weren't super convenient for me, or I figured I'd watch them later. It was a mistake.
I've experienced this in other programs too, but if I don't take part live, I'm not going to find the time to watch the recording.
Instead, plan your time around the live sessions, and attend! You'll be glad you did.
Oh, and take notes! You can add them to your daily dashboard and refer to them later.
Set Aside Time for Feedback & Interaction
You should plan some time during your day to read other essays and give feedback to your group members.
Go through the Twitter list and find people interested in similar topics.
Read their essays, message them about it, and schedule Zoom calls to meet and say hi.
I've met lots of interesting people this way, and it's one of the largest benefits of cohort-based courses.
But it will only happen if you make time for it.
Don't Miss Two Days in a Row
The bar for a successful day of shipping is low: ~250 words of something.
You can write that on your phone. You definitely write more than that in text messages every day.
So you should aim to ship every day.
But sometimes things happen, and you don't manage to ship for day.
That's fine! But don't miss the second day. Habits get built by continuing on, even if you stumble, and Ship 30 is no exception.
I met several people excited about the program, who shipped for a day or two, and then missed a day and felt like they were behind.
They let it become an excuse, and missed out on the rest of the program.
It's okay to miss a day, but don't miss two.
Writing is For Everyone
No matter your profession, your age, your industry, where you live, etc.—writing is an important skill.
Writing is the basis for better thinking and communication throughout our lives.
I truly believe that those who learn to write better have a significant advantage over everyone else.
Ship 30 for 30 is the best available option for building a consistent writing habit, and for seeing the largest jump in your writing skill in the shortest amount of time.
What are you waiting for?