title: 500 Words subtitle: Building a Daily Writing Habit date: 2023-01-12 categories:
Early in 2023, I decided I want to write 500 words a day.
Why 500 words?
- I wanted to build a (mostly) daily habit.
To build up a writing skill, I knew I wanted to work at it a little bit every day. I didn't want to spend hours focused on all of the aspects of writing, I was looking to get something down and be done. I wanted to practice writing, I didn't want it to be perfect but I wanted it to be done.
Instead of writing one perfect article, I wanted to see how writing fifty of articles would do. Chase Jarvis, among others, talk about the pottery parable that comes from the book Art & Far by David Bayles and Ted Orland:
[A] ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the "quantity" group: fifty pound of pots rated an "A", forty pounds a "B", and so on. Those being graded on "quality", however, needed to produce only one pot — albeit a perfect one — to get an "A". Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the "quantity" group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes — the "quality" group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.
https://medium.com/@codenameyau/the-power-of-iteration-adc5f14e4f0a https://aliabdaal.com/pottery/ https://austinkleon.com/2020/12/10/quantity-leads-to-quality-the-origin-of-a-parable/
- I wanted it to be short-ish.
500 words is pretty easy to do, at least it is for me. I often write larger articles and when I wrote those articles, I get stuck in editing mode more than writing mode. 500 words is roughly 3-5 traditional paragraphs or closer to 8-10 online paragraphs (online writing seems to be less verbose but also less detailed).
Some Other Details
I had a fairly good idea that getting started wasn't going to be an issue. I have a strong belief that if you can't figure out what to write about that you're not doing anything. I'm naturally a curious person and it also turns out that I'm mostly detail orientated -- it's a bit ironic because I don't see myself as detail orientated because I was always told that I was not detail orientated by my teachers but as an adult, I'm constantly being told I'm detail orientated (I think it's because I disregard details that I don't see as important).
I started this project 10 days ago, and I checked a few of my websites to see my work-in-progress (WIP) articles:
- Hypercarry - 12 WIP articles
- Combat Math - 218 WIP articles. Yes, that's right -- 218. If I were to write one article per weekday for that site, it would take me most (80%) of the year to do it.
These numbers don't factor in notes in Evernote, any of my saved notebooks, any of the ideas I have ingrained in the back of my head, or any writing work I'd do for Betscope or any of my other side projects.
I use Markdown when I write, sometimes the count will be inflated by formatting (or links/images). Sometimes I might grab a quote. Again, the intent here is to get better at writing -- the 500 words part doesn't matter as much as the habit and practice.
Some things I'm trying to avoid:
- I want to balance batching: I want to write every day but I also don't want to write every day. I did a 60+ day streak on my Peloton, I broke it when I went to the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) hockey tournament and I was happy I broke it. Life happens and I don't want a daily habit get in the way of that. I don't want to feel like I have to write on vacation or if I visit friends for a weekend.
- 500 is just a number (and daily is just a number): My goal is 500 words, it's intended to be one published article a day. I know I'll hit the writing mode and publish a few articles in a day -- a lot of them much longer than 500 words (maybe some of them shorter than 500 words)... but a year from now, I'd like to see about 340 articles. Why 340? I don't like doing anything the weeks of Christmas and New Years (that's another article).