Years ago, I had a vague idea for a web site. It was going to be called something like Story Starts, or On a Dark and Stormy Night, and of course I registered the domains first — then never did anything with them.

The concept was that I’d write the beginnings of stories, and the growing repository of fragments would either serve as inspiration for other writers, or be a way for me to play with ideas and work out which ones could be expanded into longer works. Or both.

Life happened, years passed, the pandemic hit (along with everything else), and I was forced to realise and acknowledge the value of two things:

  1. Brief distractions, which can be lifesaving at the right time.
  2. Carving out the time to practice your art regularly.

The original idea sits nicely on both sides of those points; for the reader, and for the writer, respectively. Thus Once Upon A Time was born, which also has two additional purposes: it lets me engage with potential readers in a low-commitment way for both parties, since the tales are short and free, and it also builds up a repository of material which I can collect into compendium volumes, so I’m still publishing regularly between novels. Win-win.

This week, I sent out the 100th mini-story in the series, and I still can’t quite believe I’ve reached that milestone. It feels like only a few months ago that I started, but it’s been almost two years.

I’m celebrating reaching the triple-digits of tales by offering an ebook compendium of all 100 stories, and of course you can also subscribe to get all the future stories in your inbox each Monday morning, at no cost. I hope you’ll consider at least one of those options.

The thing I really want to tell you, though, is that even though I’ve sent these one hundred tales out over the past one hundred weeks, the result is much more than the sum of its parts. For me, it’s really just been an hour or two, once per week, and it adds up on its own. That’s the beauty of making modest but regular progress. That’s the core of what feels so good about it.

My work has benefitted, and I have a concrete milestone to enjoy, but the most important message is that it’s eminently achievable. It’s the same with learning to play an instrument, or speak a new language. You don’t need to spend every waking moment; you just have to regularly commit some time. That’s the nature of practice.

Whatever your art is, whatever that thing is that you want to achieve, it’s a lot more reachable when you see it as a series of small steps. I went to university for four years, but it didn’t take four whole years of work to get my degree.

A hundred weeks ago, I had a name for a series of stories, and an empty digital folder. Today, I have a 640-page book of mini-tales, and I’ve already written the first story from the next hundred. An hour and a half per week.

Three years ago to this very day, I thought it would be cool to be able to have a little chat with some of the many Chinese people who live here in my city, using their own official language. Today, I can do that. Ten minutes per day, while I’m eating breakfast.

That sounds much more achievable, doesn’t it?