The writing habit
I’ve had some thoughts on writing recently. As you may or may not know, as a founder of Ubernote, writing notes is a habit that I am very serious about, and is near and dear to my heart. However as critical as notes are, I think that writing clear and finished pieces of work is also very important.
That much is not exactly earth-shattering.
What I want to propose though, is that it doesn’t count unless it is public. Steve Yegge’s post, You Should Write Blogs comes to mind to back this up.
This is a disconnect that is a fundamental problem for me I think, and one that I am working on in gradual steps through a combination of habits. I could be wrong about what the most effective set of habits is, but here is what I’m starting with:
Habit #1 : Posterous Blog
I have started a Posterous blog as a place to write very small or personal narratives that I don’t want to put on my main blog. This has turned out to be the single biggest breakthrough for me. Since I don’t have a set of followers like I do on Twitter, I can sort of dump stuff here in great volumes without feeling constrained by the feeling that I am spamming stuff out at an annoying rate for anyone. The second advantage is that I am more at ease to write something shorter or more informal here which also turns out to be a huge help. Many times I will start here and end up with something that I will want to expand on to post on my regular WordPress blog.
Habit #2: Twitter:
I listed this one second, since I think that while this habit had some real initial benefits for me, it has now been relegated to building relationships. Writing tweets does help you with good post titles and headlines though! The 140 character limit means that you are forced to really convey the message succinctly, which is perfect for coming up with post titles.
The advantage that Twitter had for me was that I could write many more posts than I could with my blog, since they were so short. I think that Posterous is a better solution for small posts now though, since it encourages real writing, even if it is only a single paragraph. Writing is the art of the paragraph, and twitter will not help there.
Habit #3: WordPress Blog
This is the heaviest habit that I have for writing at the moment. I could see that maybe I would move up into the world of essays after having gotten more comfortable with the blog format. The Blog is actually the first of the three habits here that I started. I have found that my blogging has changed a bit since the introduction of Posterous especially. With Posterous now absorbing smaller posts and thoughts, my WordPress blog is now the place for bigger ideas or posts. However, many times a post ends up taking much longer than I had anticipated, and so I have nearly 100 posts that were never posted! This is not great, since my whole thesis here is that the writing must be public in order to ‘count’
The writing habit is an important one, I think, since the act of writing is a deliberate one, and as such must be approached with deliberate practice with the goal of reducing the mechanical aspects to rote and allowing one to focus on the message. I’ll continually modify these three habits, or perhaps add/remove some to further this goal.