I achieved my challenge of writing 30 Atomic Essays in 30 days, and I cannot stop. I am continuing to cultivate my daily writing habit. Why? How? What did I learn?
Thanks to @MG1896 on fs.blog community for asking me inspiring questions about my challenge in building a daily writing habit. They sparked the reflections in this article.
The time to write: fixed or opportunistic?
When you wrote, was it always in the morning as a habit, or did you vary at times?
Like many others, I have a busy life. Although it’s smarter and more comfortable setting the same time to perform a habit (it solidifies it and makes it a ritual), it’s not always possible to do it always at the same time.
Check the box daily. Wrote today? Yes!
The most pressing motivation was the need to check the box for the day. The constant thought of “I need to write, I need to write, I need to write” is not always positive, but it is useful. After the first 4-8 weeks, it is so ingrained in your day that you know, no matter what, at any time, in any way possible, you must write those 500 words. So, while I had a daily reminder at 07:00 am every day of the year, I moved and postponed that reminder several times during the day with no exceptions. Unfortunately, that is adding stress to the daily schedule, and it forces you to juggle with another item to make the magic. I would like to improve this aspect, when possible, it would be better to set a fixed time on the calendar and do it always at the same time. Morning or evening, it’s up to you, make some tests, and check the results. If I have learned anything from this, it was essential to measure actual effects on the field rather than living on approximations and speculations.
In 30 Atoms in 30 days, the schedule was tight. Again, It was impossible to plan a time to do it. Sometimes I wrote at night because I could not sleep. I must say I didn’t care. I liked to think that I must do it, and I was confident I would have done it. So, as soon as I can dive into my daily essay, I feel like I’ve reached my happy place. It is a great experience if I think how painful it was starting the first day on a blank page.
Writing free-flowing or with prompts? Why not both?
Transcribe your thoughts
When you start, you feel stuck, stupid, and empty. What the hell shall I write about? The beginning is very hard. So prompts are making a difference. It could be anything: what are you thinking about right now? What do you see? What did you do today? But, still, you feel stupid about doing it. Then, after many times you start, and you suffer, the magic happens. You feel like you must write something that you need to dump, to download from your brain. It doesn’t matter the style and the content. Writing is not anymore the goal. You must put it in words because it becomes a way to think. And so you realize that you “have been writing” your whole life. Since the day you were born.
“What did you think when you couldn’t talk,” I’ve asked once to a 4-years old kid, “That I wanted to talk,” she replied.
The trick is: transcribe your thoughts. That’s it. Nothing more than that. Difficult? Yeah. Sometimes senseless? Of course. Long and boring? You bet. Do it for 200 hours, and you’ll own the World.
Curate your thoughts
Thanks to half a million words I had in my dirty drafts, I went from “what the hell shall I write about?” to “How the hell shall I put an order in this monstrous mess?“. That became curation, then. And that is one of the best evolution you can do. To go from struggling to produce thoughts to curating your ideas. I cannot believe what I am about to say. It was easy! I had so much written down that I have to read, copy, and paste it into drafts and revise it. I was able to plan 30 essays from day zero. I had no shortage of ideas but rather the opposite. I have 100 ideas for articles, and I had “only” 30 slots to fill. Isn’t that amazing? That is why I participated in the 100-Twitter-Thread challenge.
Clean the pipe, gather the gems, polish the jewel
How did you analyze/pick out the themes/patterns and then use them to inform yourself about your behaviors/tendencies etc.?
Trust the system and write freely but consistently. Reflection and synthesis can only come later, sometimes much later. My 500 drafts are untidy, messy, fragmented, incoherent. But when you put each of them organized, in each line of a boring spreadsheet, and you put a title summarizing its content, you start to see patterns. You should track your mood daily. You should highlight the key topics of each daily item to identify, precisely, themes and threads. If you want to have fun, you should use color-coding and zoomed-out, over-encompassing, synoptic views to explore the landscape of your mind. You will discover wonders, and you will ask yourself: is this me?
It’s only after having “cleaned the pipe” of your free-flowing creativity that you will start to see raw gems. And, since you are talking to yourself, you just have to acknowledge that you feel some sort of interest in some of them. Stop. Enjoy the patterns. Listen to that strange music. Polish it. Put it on a shelf. Repeat. Day after day, week after week, month after month, you’ll be amazed at looking at your rack. Now you have lines of shiny pearls waiting to be joined together in brilliant jewels. That’s your serendipity made tangible. That’s your group of themes. That’s you, but now you can touch it, shape it, and share it. You won’t be able to contain the joy.
That’s precisely the process of identifying threads, topics, and themes with an effort to polish them and make them public. And it feels terrific!
Write daily: a lot, a little, but write. Write free-flowing or with intentions, but write. Collect, organize, and connect, but write. Review, revise, and publish, but write!