How I Write Every Day

Yesterday I talked about my guidelines for writing every day and today I want to talk about how I write every day. As I mentioned yesterday, regularity, without rigid rules, has been pretty key for me, but it wasn’t really clear to me until I gave it some thought, how to go about doing this.

In terms of physically doing the writing, I usually do it every morning before work and then publish more or less immediately after (let Twitter be your copy editor!). Writing first thing in the morning has worked really well for me because my head is mostly clear when I first wake up. I try to stay off Twitter / social networks before I get started, because they often pollute my head (sadly this is true any time of day) and make it harder to focus on what I’m trying to say.

Each posts takes me around half an hour to write, depending on how long the topic is and how much of a groove I’m in (as mentioned yesterday, this has gotten easier over time but I still struggle from time to time).

This groove is something I strive for, and it’s made easier by obsessively thinking about what I’m going to write before I start typing it out. This is your standard “literally walk around outside with the idea in your head / shower thoughts” sort of thing, but I find it helps me explore points I want to make in the post. As I’ve mentioned before there’s no real “true form” of the idea, what’s in my head and what gets written are different, but thinking about the idea before writing it definitely helps. And because I write one post per day, that means I get about one day to pick an idea and let it bounce around my head before I write about it.

The idea, which I keep in a todo list, tend to come from three primary sources:

  1. My idle thoughts while going for a walk, riding the subway, doing the dishes, or writing other posts. I tend not to listen to music or podcasts while doing these activities and instead let my time be my time (i.e., don’t kill time).

  2. Conversations with people. Jeez this is a great way to get ideas, take them from your friends! But more seriously, riffing with someone is a great way to explore ideas. (I wonder, what would a writing medium look like if was based on riffing with people?)

  3. Reactions to things I read elsewhere, be they books or posts, or industry trends (in my head, many of these posts start with “I got a lot of problems with you people!” in George Costanza’s voice). Sometimes I rant, but often seeing or reading something inspires a little nugget of an idea, which eventually grows into a post.

When I have an idea for a post, I try to write it down as soon as possible (I embarrassingly forget them sometimes) and leave any notes I can think of on the subject so I’ll have something to start with when I revisit.

That’s about all I can think of for my writing process. It’s not perfect but it’s been working well for me. Though I’m writing mainly to get the ideas out of my head, I try my best to write accurately, to not assert anything I’m unsure of, and to note when I plain just don’t know what I’m talking about. I don’t want anyone to treat my writing with authority, but I’m so glad when people like what I write. It’s the best mental exercise I’ve ever done.

If any of this sounds like fun to you I highly recommend giving it a shot, and please let me know when you do, I’d love to read it.

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