Habits & Writing Reboot
For those who are perusing this entry close to its release, scrolling down on the main page of Obviate.io 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.
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).
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.
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.