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Arts & Entertainment

Passion + Habit

James Patterson

Lesson time 08:37 min

Getting into the proper mindset is an essential first step to writing a best-seller. This lesson explores James's secrets for staying focused, productive, and motivated.

James Patterson
Teaches Writing
James teaches you how to create characters, write dialogue, and keep readers turning the page.


Somebody said you're lucky if you find something in life that you love and then it's a miracle if somebody will pay you to do it. And I think that's what ideally you want to move toward. That you found something you love, and you know, look, when you start doing this, if you don't love it, you're not going to finish the book. You're not going to finish the outline. And that's OK. That's telling you that's not what you're going to do. You have an interest in it, you like it, but you're not that passionate about it. If you are passionate about it, you can't help yourself. You've got to write that outline. You've got to write that book. The great thing about Vanderbilt was I had a professor there by the name of [? Solomon ?] and he said you are very, very good. You can do this. You can be a novelist. Practice, practice, practice, practice. And through this period I was reading 10 to 12 novels a week, I swear to god. Novels and plays. I was reading everything I could get my hands on. I was scribbling everything I could. At one point I went up and I stayed a week in a Trappist monastery, just thinking about my vocation and whether I could do this thing. And you know, the Trappists have this silence thing which was kind of weird but it was also very cool in terms of really focusing. Is this what I want to do with my life? Do I want to be a writer? Can I do it? And I really came out-- it was a life changing thing for me-- I came out of there going, I'm going to go for this. You know, once again, passion. No, I'm going to do it. I'm going to do it. I'm going to do it. I get a job in advertising. I knew I had to go to work. I was getting up at 5:00 in the morning to write. I didn't really want to get up at 5:00 in the morning, but that was the only place I could fit it in. I would fit in a couple hours. But when I was writing The Thomas Berryman Number, it really was that sort of 5:00 to 7:00 in the morning. And I did have to force myself, just because I didn't want to get up at 5:00. It wasn't that I didn't want to write the book, I didn't want to get up at that time. But I did it every day. I really think it's useful to get into that and do not sit there like, oh, I don't feel like it today. I don't feel like it tomorrow. Feel like it. Do it. Force yourself, even if it's half an hour. And half an hour isn't enough. Try to at least figure out an hour, somewhere. On the train, before you go to work, get up earlier. When you come home, before dinner, after dinner. You're going to have to figure out when it's going to be comfortable for you to do it. But I think it's really, really useful to get into that discipline. It's like any other habit, running. Once it becomes a ritual, a routine in your life, you don't even have to think about it so much. And then hope...

Set out to write a best-selling book

James Patterson, the author of 19 consecutive No. 1 New York Times bestsellers, reveals his tricks of the trade. In his first online writing class, he guides you from the start to the finish of your book.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Great class materials and even better teaching style. Much appreciated

Throughly enjoyed the class, this has relieved my fears I had about writing. Thank you Mr. Patterson

A very positive and informal view of the writing craft. Interesting, helpful and funny.

I have only been through 4 videos so far and I have loved every second of it. I can't wait to learn more.



How many words should a 13 years old kid (me) write each day if he wants to be a professional writer? Currently, I write 1100 words on average each day.

Angie A.

Great post! Thanks for sharing your writing journey, both here and in the notebook. I have an accountability partner. We're good friends and we meet (online via Skype or FB Messenger) every week to share news, talk about craft, and create goals. Just having someone who understands and encourages me has kept me from quitting many times. Writing is such a solitary profession, but if you interact with other writers, you won't feel so lonely.


One thing I learn from this is do not give up. Writing takes not only time, but patience and perseverance to succeeded.

Raana J.

I understand what it means to have passion+habit. For some years, my problem has been my inability to form a habit. I want to write. I have ideas. But I am not consistent. There was a time when I wrote everyday and some days I could write for several hours. I published several of my stories in my native language (Urdu). I think I need to get get back into the same mindset and develop a consistent routine of writing.

Nikki G.

I love the idea of just doing it. I often find excuses to quit or not do the writting each day. (kids, chores, eating, sleep) so i think just finaly deciding i am going to do it and making that commitment will be helpfull.

Barbi W.

Hi! I like this lesson, making this a habit and being passionate about it. I write freelance and love writing, but long to write a novel (I prefer creative writing) and like some of you here, I've started and stopped this course half a dozen times. Now on COVID-19 social distancing and what feels like house-arrest, I'm pretty sure I have loads of time to finish the class. Does anyone have a suggestion on the best way to proceed with the workbook and assignments? Say, like watch a lesson a day, then write/work on your novel for 500 words or an hour? Or any other thoughts and suggestions? And have others attached their work? Thanks! Lastly, I have a couple of novels in the works and wondering if I should pick one for class and work on it or come up with a new idea, any suggestions on this? Thanks!

Paul L.

I am on day five of lesson one. I have attached page 2 of my 1100 effort for today. What do you think?

Paul L.

I am on day five of lesson one. I have attached page 1 of my 1100 effort for today. What do you think?

Cameron P.

Hello all from New Zealand, finding inspiration for my creative ideas - thanks so much Masterclass and the Community!

John Paul A.

Here I go again. I purchased this course about two years back, hoping it would help. Hey, I think it's a great class. The problem is me. As an unknown published horror writer with a novel, two novellas and more shorts than I have digits I suffered block about six or seven years ago. I have tons of unfinished ideas and need to kick it in gear. One only has so many years to do this stuff. I'm going to try it again ... just set up a writing calendar to keep track of my words per day - starting with 500 and seeing how that goes.