For the past two months I’ve been writing for at least 30 minutes a day. I’d like to quickly reflect on what I’ve accomplished so far, and my thoughts on the process.
First off, accomplishments… Since I started this experiment, I’ve:
- Written 18 new blog posts, and 10 article drafts.
- 30 days worth of private journal entries.
- 4 chapters of a book I’ve been working on.
- API documentation for a startup I co-own.
- Documentation for a handful of projects I work on in my free time.
- Had over 150,000 page views on my website. Crazy.
Before starting this writing adventure, I never would have guessed I’d do all that. While almost all of it has been an accident–looking back, I feel pretty happy with the results. Through the process of writing each day, I’ve learned a lot about writing, communication, and more importantly, myself.
Writing is all about expression. Probably the most important thing I’ve learned so far is that if you suck at writing then, chances are, you suck at expressing your ideas and thoughts as well.
For the longest time, I considered myself a decent writer. In school I easily passed the AP English writing classes, and had no problem at all cranking out essay after essay of required writing. When I left school and started working professionally (which, incidentally, is when I decided to commit to my personal development at a much higher level), I had a major realization: I am not a good writer.
My ability to write on topics that made me excited was almost non-existent. Sure, I could produce specially crafted five paragraph essays to explain a piece of literature–but writing a clear and concise technical article? No way.
Even though I love technology and programming, and eagerly wanted to write about the various things I was working on, and techniques I was learning–I simply didn’t have the skill set to make it happen. Articles I wrote came out jumbled, disorganized, and chaotic.
At the time, I simply thought that if I chose to write whenever I had inspiration, than I’d easily improve my writing skills and become better. But you know what? It didn’t happen. Not until I decided to actually commit to writing each day, did I finally make the breakthrough I was looking for.
By looking at writing as part of my life, as central piece of who I am–writing has become so much easier. While I’ve mentioned this before, I think it warrants another discussion.
Previously, I thought of writing as something I should do from time to time. It always seemed like something extremely useful, but also extremely tedious. As I would write, I’d labor over every sentence in my head, making sure it was absolutely perfect before writing it down. Sometimes I’d sit in front of the computer for hours staring at my text editor, only to find that I’d written down only two paragraphs of text.
While I was able to finish pieces after long periods of time… It just didn’t feel right.
When I started my writing habit, I knew that I’d have to force myself to write down whatever I was thinking if I wanted to accomplish anything. I knew that with only 30 minutes a day of writing time, I’d have to rapidly jot down my thoughts, and save the heavy analysis for later if I wanted to actually get anything done.
After a few weeks of writing in this manner–jotting my thoughts down and really “letting loose”, I had a realization: writing is fun. While I enjoyed writing before, the mental effort it took dissuaded me from writing more frequently. After forcing myself to drop my inhibitions and write freely (so that I could actually be writing for 30 minutes a day), I realized how fun writing can be.
Writing doesn’t have to be difficult, it can be as easy as writing what you’re thinking–as you’re thinking it. For me, this was the breakthrough.
Since I realized that I enjoy writing much more when I’m simply dumping my thoughts onto paper, I’ve become extremely attached. The process of writing each day feels good, and has become a critical part of my daily routine.
While I’m in no way a good writer now, I feel a lot more comfortable writing, explaining my ideas, and sharing information with other people.
In addition to the obvious benefits, I’ve also:
- Developed several friendships with people whom I never would have had the pleasure of meeting if not through my writing.
- Discovered my passion for writing.
- Had several job offers and other opportunities come out of writing that I never would have had without it.
- Greatly increased my ability to clearly communicate ideas to friends and co-workers.
In particular, meeting new people through writing has been a wonderful experience. I’ve met several extremely talented programmers who are, without question, some of the smartest people I’ve ever spoken with. I maintain a pretty close circle of friends (you should come say hi if you use IRC (irc.oftc.net/#heapify)), and I find it extremely difficult to meet other highly self-motivated people who share common interests (like personal development, programming, etc.). Through writing, I’ve been able to close that gap and connect with lots of great people.
Through journaling and private writing, I’ve been able to step back and take a look at my thoughts–analysing my actions, behaviors, and habits in a way that I’ve never done before. This has helped me resolve a lot of internal questions I’ve had about myself, and given me a new level of understanding and self-consciousness. Since I enjoy working on personal development, this has made a profound impact in my day-to-day life, and I’ve found new ways to incorporate my new self understand into my habit building regimen.
Of all the habits I’ve built, writing has been my favorite. The benefits are vast, the payoff is great, and it’s internally rewarding to work on.
Over the next several months I plan on improving my writing style, ability, and fluency even further. My end goal is to become skilled enough so that I can effortlessly dump my thoughts onto paper in a way that clearly describes my thoughts to my audience, in an organized manner.
While my writing has matured quite a bit over the past few months, I still have many years to go before I reach the level of fluency that I’d like to attain.
ALSO: Are you working on a writing habit? If so, I’d love to hear how your journey is going. Please send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org), and let’s keep in touch!