What I Learned from a Year of Writing Everyday
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At the beginning of 2020, I set a goal to write every day for a month. A month turned into two, two months turned into 100 days, and 100 days turned into a year. One year later, it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Here’s what I learned:
The Secret to Good Ideas
Some people ask me how I have so many ideas. The truth is that I have a lot of bad ideas, but some of them end up being good.
So what’s the secret to good ideas? Don’t be afraid of bad ones.
When I first started writing, I thought my work had to be novel and original. I was scared of bad ideas. Now I’m not afraid of them anymore. I’ll have stretches where my daily blog posts aren’t great, but eventually, the good ideas will come and that’s what keeps me going.
How to Think for Yourself
When the George Floyd protests happened back in May, my social media feeds were flooded with commentaries and hot takes on police brutality and race relations in America. I myself read many of these pieces. One reason was to educate myself, but another reason, though I may have hesitated to admit this at the time, was because I didn’t know how to react. I’d read these commentaries, take these opinions, and rephrase them in conversation masquerading them as my own.
When any major world event happens the first thing I do is check Twitter. It’s fine to read other opinions to refine my own thoughts, but the issue is when I don’t take the time to reflect. Then I’m not thinking for myself but outsourcing my thinking to others instead.
One thing I’ve gained from writing everyday is that it forces me to think for myself. When I write I challenge my ideas, opinions, and thoughts. I ask myself questions like: Where did this come from? What does it mean? Do I truly agree with it or not?
I don’t need to scroll on Twitter, read every book, or listen to every podcast. While it’s okay to read the opinions of others it’s also important to think for myself.
Read less, think more.
Every Thought Matters
I’m often surprised by the feedback I get from my readers.
Some pieces I spend hours refining but when I release it, radio silence. Other pieces I write 10 minutes before bed, and I receive positive feedback.
You never know what will resonate.
Better Inputs, Better Outputs
Some weeks I’ll have a ton of ideas, other weeks not so many. I call this idea flux. Idea flux describes the number of ideas going through my head at any one time.
Idea flux is a leading indicator of creativity. It tells me the quality of my inputs. The better my information diet, the higher my idea flux. The higher my idea flux, the better my outputs.
In order to write and ship everyday my idea flux needs to be high. Just like how working out and eating clean go hand in hand. The more I write, the better information I consume. The better information I consume, the better I write. This starts to compound over time as my idea flux and the quality of my ideas improve.
Writing Gains, Rapid Progression, and Breaking Plateaus
Focus on consistency and eventually quality will come.
I can say from experience that this is true. However, when improving rapidly it’s natural for progress to plateau.
When a plateau is reached, breaking it requires deliberate practice or taking a creative risk.
The Daily Practice of Shipping Everyday
A friend of mine told me about his monthly newsletter and how he hasn’t written in months. “You write every day, I can’t even write once a month,” he said to me.
However, I find that writing every day is much easier than writing every week or every month. For my personal newsletter, back in May I said I’d switch from a weekly newsletter to a monthly newsletter. Since I announced that back in May, I’ve published one newsletter since. Compared to writing every day, I find writing every month difficult because there’s added pressure to write something great. The added pressure leads to publishing anxiety, and in my case procrastination.
I don’t have that excuse when I’m writing every day. Every day there’s the expectation to write and ship before I sleep. And I take that commitment seriously.
Learning to See
Learning art is more than drawing a picture, writing a story, or taking a photograph.
Learning art is learning to see.
Writing everyday changed how I view the world. It’s forced me to be more observant and curious because I’m constantly looking for ideas. It’s helped me see the beauty and wisdom in even the most mundane things.
When I learned to see, I realized that inspiration is everywhere.
Writing is a Form of Mental Cardio
Before, I used to consume information en masse. If I was commuting, doing chores, or at the gym, I’d have my headphones listening to a podcast or audiobook. I’d read any chance I get. But I wasn’t applying this knowledge anywhere. I was simply hoarding information. Without an outlet to apply this knowledge, this leads to information overload.
Like eating, our brains can become obese with information. And in this day and age, it’s an information buffet. Consuming is easy, it’s our default setting. But too much information leads to restlessness and brain fog.
This is why it’s important to create. Creating acts as a release valve.
Lawrence Yeo from More to That, describes the release ratio.
To make content consumption meaningful, you must create or build something with it. It can be something concrete like a product or a service. It can even be something more process-driven like a habit or culture.Regardless of what you build, it is this very act of creation that releases the brain fuel inside your head. All the knowledge you have is a store of wisdom, but you will never unlock that wisdom if you never act upon what you know.
The key here is to never let that ratio be zero. In other words, create. Create anything, no matter how small.
This is one of my motivations for writing a daily blog. Writing daily is like cardio for the mind. It’s a great way to process and curate the things I learn and consume on a daily basis.
Writing as a Means to Change Behavior
The point of daily blogging isn’t to write masterpieces. The point isn’t to virtue signal intelligence. The point isn’t to impress people.
The point is to write for yourself. If I wasn’t intrinsically motivated I don’t think I would’ve kept writing every day for this long.
Even if no one reads my blog I get so much out of writing it. Here, I can ask myself why I do things and start to change behaviors I don’t like.
For instance, Stumbling Through taught me the beauty in the struggle. That sometimes it’s better to stumble through things then to ask for the answer.
Reflecting on experiences, adjusting ourselves, improving processes that don’t work. All of that is worth sharing.
Writing is an Incentive to Live an Interesting Life
A neat side effect of writing a daily blog is that it motivates me to live an interesting life. It motivates me to take risks, do what scares me, and do hard things.
I want to live a life worth writing about.
Thank you to Ethan Benjamin, Rishi Dhanaraj, Rhishi Pethe, Vinit Shah, and Meeta Sharma for reading drafts of this.