I have what one might call a love-hate relationship with writing. I find the outcome extremely satisfying but cringe at the process. The exercise of writing something which is valuable, is intelligently written, and which doesn't make me look like a fool, usually puts a knot in my stomach.
There it is.
I've been blogging, sporadically, since my adolescence. At 19, I wrote a blog about my summer holiday. One post described in detail, with maps and photos, a kayaking trip in Funday National Park with my sister and father.
Upon moving to France at 21, I blogged to stay in touch with family and friends back home in Canada. This project died after five months and 22 posts.
Sometime after starting my first job in a web agency, I wrote at seb2point0.com about trends the then-nascent Web 2.0 space. This blog fizzled out after about a year.
Then there was sebastiencouture.com – a kind of journal where one could read about Bitcoin, but also cats in Montenegro, and how to crack your own passwords. In 18 months 24 posts saw the light of day, in French and English. Yes, my blogging was now totally schizophrenic and had developed a sort of linguistic identity disorder.
I wrote about Mac OS Snow Leopard for a while in 2011 (then sold the site), quirky notes to France, for various employers throughout the years, and God knows what else. There are certainly many more forgotten projects in the graveyard of my “blogging career”.
Then came the Epicenter Podcast. Surely, producing weekly podcast episodes would provide ample subject matter about which to write. Well, this is partially true – I often write the short descriptions accompanying episodes. However, they are short and aren't particularly enriching to produce. Apart from a few company updates, my contribution to the podcast is predominantly in spoken-word form.
Why all the fails?
All of these failed attempts at writing projects have something in common – they lack any notion of habit. It usually goes something like this.
I should write more! ? Let's start a blog! ?
Domain names get bought. WordPress gets installed. Some posts get written. Time goes by. A few more posts, more time. Then...
Bouts of “I should exercise more”, “I should quit smoking”, and “I should meditate every day” have produced similar results in the past. It was only when these goals came with a proper habit-forming technique that they became achievable.
I never looked at writing as a habit, until now.
It's also worth mentioning the role that fear, uncertainty and (self-)doubt may also have to play. The notion that what I publish on the Web shall live on for eternity is unsettling.
Recently, I contacted my co-founder's wife for advice on improving my writing skills. She's a writer.
Her advice resounded with me, and I took it as a challenge. From this moment, the wheels were in motion.
Just days later, I received this message from my co-founder.
We sometimes talked about how we both would love to write more consistently. But with this message, I began to think about how one would form a habit of writing consistently every day.
Getting smart about habits
Any good habit begins with clearly defined goals. I like the SMART criteria for goal setting.
- Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
- Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
- Assignable – specify who will do it.
- Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
- Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.
Generally, it’s a good idea to begin a new habit on a specific future date. I find this provides the time required to get mentally prepared and make the necessary life adjustments to accommodate the new habit.
Starting February 1st, I will write a blog post of a minimum of 300 words every day for 30 days.
In the days leading up to the challenge, the goal will be to get in the habit of waking up early, so that I can incorporate writing in my morning routine starting February 1st. This time will also be useful to define the topics on which I plan to write
I hope this desperate attempt at fixing my relationship with writing will inspire others to take similar steps. Reach out on Twitter if you've ever done or thought of doing something similar.