Are You Taking Massive Action or Passive Action?

My friend and mentor, Brooke Castillo, has often spoken about taking “massive action.” Her definition of massive action is taking action until you get the results you want.

Well, as a part-time writer with many projects in the works, I feel like I don’t see results very often—but I realize that depends on what results I’m looking for.

If the result I’m looking for is to finish my novel, I’m definitely not there yet. But if my result is to write for 15 minutes every day, then I’m seeing the result I want.

Even though 15 minutes a day (my minimum) doesn’t seem like much, it keeps the momentum going and I often write for much more than that. I’ve noticed if I start skipping days the days can turn into weeks very quickly.

So writing for at least 15 minutes a day is “massive action” for me right now.

The difference between massive action and passive action is this: massive action requires you to create something while with passive action you create nothing.

In my daily life, passive action might be talking to my husband about cleaning the basement. Massive action is actually going downstairs and cleaning the basement.

Reading a book on the writing craft is passive action, and so is attending a writer’s conference. Writing a story, a blog post, or an essay is massive action because I’m creating something new.

So, even though to many people my 15 minutes a day of writing doesn’t look anything like “massive” action, compared to the years I spent reading novels and books on the craft of writing without writing a word (outside my journal), the last few years have been a huge (massive, even?) shift for me.

Once I started thinking about massive action I asked myself, “What are the results I want to achieve as a writer right now?”

  1. I want to rewrite my most recent short story until it is polished and ready to submit.
  2. I want to rewrite and finish the essay I’ve been working on (for way too long.)

If I am going to take massive action, all I need to do is keep plugging away at my short story and my essay until they are finished.

Reading the two books on craft I recently bought doesn’t count as massive action so I’m going to put them away to be read after I finish my story and my essay.

Talking to my critique group about my short story isn’t massive action, either, even though it feels productive and truly is helpful.

I’m not against passive action; I just need to tip the scales toward massive action if I really want to achieve my goals. We all do both, but passive action is so much less effort, we can easily spend all our time taking passive action and making very little real progress.

In your life as a writer, how much massive action are you taking compared to passive action? Do you need to change that balance?

Dont’ forget to consider attending my One-Day Writer’s Retreat on September 20, 2014, in Nashua, NH. Please click here for more information.

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon, MD, is a life coach, family physician, blogger, and writer. Writing this post has made me more aware of all the places in my life where I take “passive” action rather than “massive” action–and I’m taking steps to change that. My first non-writing goal is to get that basement cleaned out. I took massive action on that one today!

21 thoughts on “Are You Taking Massive Action or Passive Action?

  1. I really appreciate this distinction between massive and passive action. As a parent, writer and consultant, I am always pressed for time and my lists have sub-lists. This gives me a new framework to think about my time and project prioritization. Thanks. Helpful post!

    • Hi confidentparentsconfidentkids,
      I’m glad you found the post helpful! I’ve been asking myself whether I’m taking massive action or passive action a lot lately and I do seem to be getting more done. I want to reach my goals and this concept has helped me figure out why I’m spinning my wheels sometimes!

      Happy writing (and parenting, and consulting!)


  2. I am now engaged in taking massive action! I set a goal for myself to show up to the page every day for 30 days to write around 250 words. Now on day 25, I’ve broke out of my habit of passive action (reading and talking about writing). I feel like this momentum has helped me create a writing habit. My goal to finish writing my novel will happen through this massive action.

    • Hi Writer,
      Congratulations! How wonderful! You are really seeing the results you want. You are an inspiration–keep going!


    • Hi Kylie,
      Thanks for your comments. My friend Brooke coined the phrase “massive action” and “passive action,” but she may also have gotten them from someone else. I agree, the terms are very helpful–and I’m guilty of passive action myself. 🙂


  3. Such a good reminder, Diane. I need to get back to writing, beginning with 15 minute segments. It’s definitely doable!

  4. Pingback: Are You Taking Massive Action or Passive Action? | Annalisa Parent Author

  5. What a post! You literally helped solving one of my everyday dilemmas!! I wake up everyday with the feel of guilt that I achieve too little! with you putting it that way and ‘naming it’ its clear, helpful, and digestible!! so the answer is: Yes, I achieve a ‘massive’ amount of PASSIVE actions everyday! That is to be changed!!

  6. Wow this is something a lot of us need to think about and not just in terms of writing but in everyday life. 🙂 But in order for it to be really helpful, acting on our thoughts should also be done because I too have done mostly passive action in my life. Thanks for this! 🙂

  7. Good one. I take “massive action” often–I am not a person who likes to be too inactive for more than say, a half hour, an hour if something really interests me. Right now I am writing 6-8 hours daily, three times a week. I am attempting to write more there are other committments in everyday life. I am producing work I like, overall. My skills are better than one and a half years ago (when I was working at a paying job which I quit to write and breathe happily). But the work goes on. I have many books on writing by great writers and teachers–most of them unread. I keep thinking I need to avail myself of their wisdom. I also tend to put off researching markets and submitting as it is too passive, though indeed action. Have attended many conferences and been in too many writing groups so need a break for awhile. I did pay a great editor to edit the first 100 pages of my novel ( what I could afford) and got helpful feedback to examine and then determine what to do next, if anything, with it. I need to research again and submit more work! I resolve to get to that passive action soon–perhaps this fall… Regards.

  8. This helps tremendously. As with general procrastination, I often find that my biggest stumbling block is actually sitting down to write. I will spend so much energy doing everything but! Mentally categorizing my actions as either active or passive will help me to move forward and stop being so afraid to just jump in and write!

  9. Pingback: Sometimes the universe is with you | SWimMinG WitH ScorPionS

  10. Pingback: Are You Taking Massive Action or Passive Action? | Annalisa Parent Author

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