March 8, 2021

880 words 5 mins read

Habits & Writing Reboot

For those who are perusing this entry close to its release, scrolling down on the main page of shows a sad state of affairs. We’re quite bereft of fresh new content as the 10 most recent entries cover all the way back into 2018. For those who aren’t familiar with our backlog of work, this is quite different from some of our past years. It’s time to “reboot” our writing, but most importantly focus on the habits.

Out of curiosity I thought I’d start this exercise by doing a quick dive into the archives and seeing exactly how many posts we have per year. Not that quantity is an indicator of quality, but it helps to understand how (in)consistent the writing has been.

Year Article Count
2005 195
2006 181
2007 69
2008 82
2009 143
2010 235
2011 74
2012 80
2013 36
2014 15
2015 82
2016 31
2017 21
2018 8
2019 1
2020 4
2021 2

The peak in 2010 is roughly 5 articles written per week, for most of the year. In 2019 we hit a record low of 1 and, in fact, that entry was written by Josh. In effect I didn’t write a single article for the 24 months of March 2018 through February 2020 - not a great time for the blog. Was it because I was busy? No. Really, there is no good excuse… other than I was out of the habit.

When I started writing in 2005, it was a fight. Taking any random article from those days, you’ll see neither the quality nor length wasn’t particularly stellar. The only reason the grammar and spelling are even “reasonably” decent is because of the dedicated (and tireless) copy editing work of John. This is just a really long way to say “I didn’t like to write”. Any of my college classes that were writing heavy were extreme struggles to get through (sometimes only passing by the skin of my teeth… and a lot of help from John).

Now jump ahead 16 years (crazy to think I’ve been writing a blog for that long) and last week I wrote a “quick” goodbye to Smule post. That took me a single sitting and roughly 90 minutes to write. The end result was nearly 1800 words or almost 6 pages printed (with spacing and images). There was more I had in mind to write about, probably at least twice as much if I had put down some thoughts in advance. However I was on a time table that day and that’s “all” I got done in the time allocated. 16 years prior writing 6 pages would have been an immense struggle. Doing that with ease and in a single sitting? Nearly impossible. Let’s not forget that John nows spend a few minutes copy-editing each entry rather than up to an hour (or more).

So what was my big “secret” to getting better at writing? Practice, of course. While I’m an articulate orator, my writing has always lagged behind my ability to talk. Now I have roughly 1200 articles worth of experience of writing lengthy freeform missives. Everyone is always told “practice makes perfect”, but if it was such a pain getting started, how did I get to over a thousand pieces of written & published content? Making it a habit.

If it’s hard to do, then a schedule or other forcing function is required to make sure the activity happens. Even today, I’m writing this entry in part because I need to continue to force myself to write. Since I’m out of work (by choice) for a few weeks it’s a perfect time to help get myself back into the writing groove (Editor’s note: How Jon Got His Groove Back unlikely to do well at the box office). The goal is an entry a day, for the next two weeks, no matter what they are on.

Once the habit is established, it needs to continue to get reinforced. For me on the blog, it was keeping a schedule. Years like 2010, where I wrote more than every other day were driven 100% by having a schedule - at that point, it was posting every weekday. When I was busier the schedule fell to 3 times a week, then twice a week. But when I gave up the forcing function of a schedule I had nothing to force me to keep my good habits up. When I started saying “I missed a week, oh well, maybe next week” is about the time it ended up being months (or years) between entries.

Along with writing I’m trying to spend a little more time on my photography. In the old days I did a lot with my DSLR, now it’s with my phone. On todoist I have a reoccurring daily task to post a picture. Seeing overdue tasks really chafes my OCD, so it helps drive me towards posting something on instagram everyday. Even if sometimes that post is just a flower with the caption “flower”.

Small or large, there are always life skills that can be improved. Especially with the pandemic continuing and normal life not yet back, might as well try and make oneself a better person… with a little practice and good habits.