I was never good at writing. Not in school, not at university. It always feels hard. I like the rare moment when I have a thought that I want to write down, but I hate the process of editing. The moment when you realize that the sentence is too long, too complicated, or when you are struggling with certain words. The moment when I see that half an hour is gone just for a few sentences. I am a damn slow writer. English is not my first language and that makes it even more a painful thing to do. The hardest part writing in English is the insecurity before clicking on any kind of publish or send button. Did I loose again all my credibility with my inability of mastering basic English grammar?
95% of my writing starts with a click on a "New Message" button. Emails all day. And when there is the need of writing a concept paper, a blog post or a talk, I struggle with the process of writing so much, that my content suffers.
I want to change that! In a world with technology that enables everyone to publish your thoughts I have to work on that. So I started to write. As I heard about #Fork, I thought: Let's make it an official project. 365 days, 365 words.
For the last three weeks I was writing on an daily basis. Not very much, about 400 words in average. Like a long distance runner, I want to build my “writing muscle.” The more I read about writing the more I resources I found that writing is something you can exercise.
But there is another important reason to write. I think writing can change me. At least a bit. It can help me to become a more reflective person. In times when I give myself less and less time to let my mind wander around, because the internet is always in my pocket, writing helps me to clear my mind. A way to think out loud without having to worry. A daily landfill for my thoughts.
The thing that tricked me into writing was the promise to myself that I don't write for a specific outcome. No deadline, no waiting recipient. Writing without pressure! 365 words takes a bit of effort but not too much as that you can't do it on a daily basis. Remember, it's not important to write a good text, it's important to start typing and not to stop before 365 words.
I like to do it in the morning, but often I finish some thoughts right before I go to bed, or when I am waiting on some boring places. I try to avoid any distractions. No other browser windows, no research during writing. No wifi, is sometimes a blessing.
What to write about
Most of my writing will be part of a private journal.
Some texts maybe will end up in blog, some in concept work for my job or a public talk.
I have a list on my Evernote app, where I collect topics, thoughts, themes that found me sometime, somewhere, that I am interested in and maybe could write about sometime.
Everyday I take one of these ideas/thoughts and start scribbling a short outline or a line of argumentation. That takes sometimes just a minute, sometimes half an hour, but I never start writing without it.
Then I write 365 words as fast as possible, that means no going back in the text or editing. Just writing. Then I start editing the content. Did this make sense at all? Final step, some grammar editing, trying to make the sentences shorter, eliminating most of the typos.
The most important part of the process is to stop writing when I reached my word count limit during the first draft phase. 365 words, stop. It's a good thing if your thought is not finished yet, there is still more on the outline. There is another day tomorrow. And there is a second limit: Not more than 60 minutes. I try to keep the editing process short. Maybe the text is not ready for publishing, but that is not the goal.
What I learnt after a few weeks
It keeps me sane. It calms me down. Typing feels like making progress. Even if I had a bad day, I did something that day. An awkward thing to admit, but it makes me feel better. I am not sure yet, if my writing already got a little bit better, probably not, but I feel more confident and I become faster.
Stuff to read about writing
A great place to find inspiration for the process of writing is the brainpickings blog.If you want to learn about the habits of fiction authors and their workflows I highly recommend the The Paris Review interview series "The Art of Ficition". If you want to read one book on writing, I would recommend Stephen King's - "On Writing"
Great advice on storytelling by Philip Glass of "This American Life".
No excuses. You can write with everything and everywhere. That said, I really enjoy using the Draft App by Nathan Kontny. It's a great simple distraction free text editor with many little features that will make your writing workflow better (By the way: It has a daily word count tracking.)
If I write on my iPhone I use the Note App by Squarespace. A super simple text editor that let's you send your text where ever you want it to with just one swipe.
For editing my text I recently found the Hemingway App. It's a text analysis tool that gives you some feedback on your text. Algorithms can't make but it helps.
Photo above by Phil Hearing
A project by:
Wayne Phillips (64)
Bio: Nowhere is Somewhere
Did you like the project? How about trying it yourself? Fork it and make it your own!