Don’t Break the Chain!

My Twist on the Mythical Seinfeld Method

Sara Bates
3 min readApr 23, 2021


Photo by Jackson Simmer on Unsplash

Before I knew The Seinfeld Method (a.k.a. Don’t Break the Chain!) was a myth, I tried it on for size.

As legend has it, Jerry Seinfeld’s big secret for writing better jokes was to write jokes every day. He motivated himself to write these jokes by getting a large paper calendar and marking off every day he wrote with a big red X. (Again, this is not true.) The longer the chain of Xs, the less likely you are to skip a day, Jerry (denies ever having) said one time after an open mic night in NYC.

When I tried Don’t Break the Chain I didn’t know it was a myth. All I knew was that, because I was so lazy, this was going to be a simple way to hack the motivational center of my brain. So, after several months of marking red Xs on one of those calendars that shows the entire year on one page, I stepped back and, rather than swelling with the pride of my accomplishment, rows and rows of unbroken chains of Xs, I zoned in on the handful of days I didn’t work and fell into a pit of despair.

I guess I should quit since I’m way too lazy to write a novel.

Le. Sigh.

Obviously, not the point.

What happened to me is an utterly laughable example of my negativity bias (the brain’s default mode of giving greater attention to the negative-the gaps in my chain) paired up with my confirmation bias (the brain’s tendency to confirm that which its operator has chosen to believe-that I’ll never finish because I’m lazy).

After a good deal of inner work, I realized that laziness is not what’s holding me back. It’s my lack of self-compassion. My rigid, unforgiving personality does not jive with rigid, unforgiving methods for tracking productivity. This is why I decided to use a different, more forgiving type of chain.

Enter: the paper clip.

My Paper Clip Key

Rather than mark Xs on a calendar, I give myself a colored paper clip every time I sit down to write. After I complete more than one writing session, the paper clips begin to form a chain. Each paper clip represents a…



Sara Bates

Functioning Perfectionist. Library Enthusiast. Recovering Lawyer. Stay-at-Home Mom. Not so patiently writing my first novel from five to seven each morning.