How I’m going to build a writing habit in 2024

Once I figured out that the key to building my writing habit was to separate the process of writing from the outcome of publishing, I realized I could do this.

It’s a bit of a cliché. I sold my struggling business two months ago, and to fill the void, I’ve decided to start writing more. Immediately after selling, I knew I needed a break from starting another software business. But I wasn’t going to do nothing. For the past year, I’ve had a part-time job, so I’m able to take however much time I need, which is both a blessing and a curse. But knowing myself, I knew I had to do something besides my job. The only problem was I didn’t know what. It’s not because I lack ideas — I’ve been a professional “ideas guy” for ten years.

So I decided the best thing I could do was start writing. I’ve never heard anyone say, “I wish I didn’t waste so much time writing”. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone describe writing anything as a waste of time.

I started thinking about how I could do it. Should I take on a book project? Start blogging? How about having a concrete writing goal every day?

One of the only ways I know to get myself to do anything slightly unpleasant consistently is getting a streak going. Eventually, the pain of breaking the streak is bigger than the pain of doing the thing. That basically meant I had to write every day. 500 words sounded like a good number, so that’s what I set as my goal.

It’s not the first time I’ve set myself a goal to write more. The thing that always kills my motivation is feeling like I have nothing interesting to say. It always happens around day three when I’ve used the few good ideas that were already in my head when I decided to start writing. It’s devastating, and there’s this voice in my head saying I’m not actually a writer and that this doesn’t matter.

But then it occurred to me that I could simply eliminate the pressure to publish from the goal of writing, and it all clicked for me.

If I’m able to form a habit of writing 500 words per day, surely I’ll have stuff to publish eventually. It might take a while. But it’s not even a real concern to me. So I decided to make that the goal. I can write about literally anything. If I can’t think of anything to write, I’ll just write about not having anything to write. Every word counts. I heard Jason Fried say recently that “no one has talker’s block” (I certainly don’t), so the point was to write as you talk.

Having this very clear, low-pressure goal meant I could start thinking about the implementation of it. I decided that I would create a single document called “Daily writing”. Every day, I would add a date stamp and write at least 500 words. No editing. What’s already there is basically immutable. But if I end up writing something that I want to publish (like I think I will with this idea), I’ll grab the raw, unedited text from the daily writing document and bring it into its own document where I can work on making it publishable.

I think this is going to work.

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