On August 14, I committed to writing one post per day. For an indefinite period. I wanted to start writing again. I didn’t want to optimize for search rank, views, or likes. I wanted to foster intrinsic motivation. So I made my goal output. Not vanity metrics.
Today is September 14. Yesterday marked 30 consecutive days of posting. Today makes it one month. So what did I learn?
Here are a few notes for others that might consider a similar challenge:
- Use a good tool. I use Ulysses. It is phenomenal for taking and organizing notes, writing, and publishing. (I intend to write in future about how I use Ulysses.)
- Write down ideas when they come to you. Knowing my need for a post a day, I thought of ideas for posts often. If I didn’t write them down, I often forgot them. Having a bucket of ideas to choose from is easier than facing a blank sheet. There are (likely, I haven’t calculated) an infinite number of things to write about. When you have a bucket of ideas, it becomes a choice about what to write when.
- Read, be mindful, be curious, and be well-rested to get ideas. I noticed that I came up with more ideas when I was reading interesting books. Also, when I was mindful and curious about the world. I also noticed that when I’m tired and haven’t slept well, my ideation suffers. It’s harder to think when you’re sleep-deprived.
- Choose topics you want to learn more about. This experiment prompted me to learn more about things I might not have. Like pumpkin spice lattes. It’s an opportunity to research topics you might only think about in passing.
- Don’t set word count goals. It’s daunting enough to commit to a post a day. It becomes much harder if you feel compelled to write a certain length. Write as much as you feel you can each day. Pushing for a specific word count is a different challenge.
- Use your writing to better understand your interests. I decided I wasn’t going to focus on specific topics. I was going to let my interests dictate my posts. I can now see from work over 30 days what topics most interested me. This meta-view provides interesting self-insight.
- Do what you can under the circumstances, and plan ahead. I wrote on planes, trains, and buses. (Not cars. I get sick.) On family vacations and business trips. I factored my need to write a post into my schedule. This allowed me to think in advance about when I might write, and about what.
- Focus on the intrinsic value, not extrinsic rewards. This is hard, but important. Especially if you’re doing this for yourself and not for money or reputation. It’s easy to get sucked into optimizing for likes, follows, and other extrinsic rewards. It feels like a game. But this will skew your posts towards those external factors. You will start to write to get likes and follows, not for its own sake. Try to do it for yourself. It’s easier said than done, but the next point can help.
- Focus on feedback that supports your intrinsic motivation. I do look at likes and follows. But only once per day, after I write my post for the day. I try to use likes and follows as feedback to support my intrinsic motivation. For example, I like to know when someone read something I wrote. It feels different to write for someone else rather than yourself. That’s motivating. I’m also curious about what topics of interest to me are of interest to other people. It’s a way to gauge resonance with a broader community. I also enjoy engaging in meaningful dialogue through comments. This can help me deepen my thinking on a topic. I do find myself drawn sometimes to the dark side. For example, after seeing lots of likes for parenting posts, it can spark desire to write more of them. But I won’t let myself go down that path. It will kill the joy of writing for writing’s sake. I still struggle with balancing intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, to be honest, and hope to better resolve this in future.
So what now? I’m going to keep up the pace and keep learning from my experience. It feels like a habit now. And I’m starting to develop a system and process for turning ideas into posts. I’ll continue to share what I learn for anyone who’s interested.