Dylan Smith

Breaking good habits

My “write 100 words a day” experiment is over. I removed the daily recurring task from my Todoist list. Actually, I just removed the date from the task, hopeful that I’ll see it again someday soon and pick it back up. For now, it’s on pause.

I began on June 14th with the intention of trying it for 30 days. My hypothesis was that setting a low bar would make it easy to accomplish and help build a habit of writing. Writing consistently is the key to writing well.

I started off strong. On the first three days, I hit my goal and then some. It wasn’t uncommon for me to knock out 200–500 words in one sitting. I published two articles and kept one private. I was hoping that burst of productivity would happen, and I’m glad it did. It seems easy to write “only” 100 words, but it’s hard to stop there, once ideas are flowing.

Then I missed a day. And another. And another. I missed a whole week. I bounced back with 500 words in one day, then another few hundred to finish the article the next. And it repeated like that until the end.

What I’ve learned is that, for me to be productive in writing, I need to both have something on my mind and I need the discipline to tell myself, “okay, now I’m going to write.” (I also learned that it’s totally fine to write 500 words when I’m fired up about something and then not publish it.)

On having a topic, I do keep a list of ideas, but nothing inspires like a thought or conversation from earlier in the day. The best topics have had a few hours bouncing around my head but haven’t had a few days to let that initial impact subside.

Some of the best fodder for me comes from copy and pasting messages I’ve sent in conversation with friends, coworkers, in online communities, or on Twitter. I like fleshing out my thoughts on the topics with the benefit of retrospection and time, then reframing for a different context. Plus, I’ve already written most of it. It’s cheap content.

On discipline, nothing gets me going like an unchecked todo list item. This is doubly true when I’m on my phone before bed and notice something I can do to bring my daily total up. Sounds corny, but after years of serial procrastination I’ve found something that works for me and learned into it.

Moving forward, I’ll aim to recognise and embrace in the moment when I care enough about something to write it out, and carve out the time to do it.

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