Three weeks ago I said I would run some experiments around my habit of writing in the morning. I felt that my 30 minute train ride wasn’t really enough to write the things I wanted to write a lot of the time, which I still think is true.
My first experiment was to give myself two days for each post, for a total of one hour. I wrote three posts instead of four that week: the end of work, product selection assistant, and one push-up. I wasn’t particularly happy with this approach—one hour wasn’t enough to write about the end of work satisfactorily, but was probably too much for writing about one push-up and the product selection assistant idea.
Then on Sunday, I spent a little time coming up with a plan for what to write about in the upcoming week, intending to spend just one morning (30 minutes) writing about each thing. I wrote about the “I’m so dumb” effect, a Minecraft ecology, that’s not AI, and The Resistance. This worked out reasonably well, but the sparse notes I wrote for each post turned out not to really be sufficient to make the process of writing the post simply one of writing down ideas I’d already had. In particular, when I made notes ahead of time, I didn’t go as far as writing down a structure or a conclusion for the post, which I think would have helped a lot.
This week I intended to be catching an earlier, slower train so I’d have longer to write, but still write about whatever popped into my head. Turns out I don’t really want to get up earlier, so I haven’t been doing that.
I haven’t published anything this week, but I have been writing. I’m working on a post about planning, and why you shouldn’t do it. I’ve spent about four mornings working on it so far, and it probably has another two or three mornings left before it’s done. That kind of longer-term writing project is something I don’t think I would have stuck with if I wasn’t already in the habit of writing every morning. But the habit’s starting to stick, and I think doing this longer kind of project occasionally will work for when I want to write about something in a longer or more considered form. (I’ve also been writing about how to make a Minecraft mod, which is a different kind of writing from what I’m doing here, but just as much satisfies my criteria of “writing something”.)
What have I learned from the experiments I ran? First, the highly rigid structure (“spend no longer than N minutes on this”) doesn’t work past the scope of a single contiguous hour. Breaking it up makes it lose its fangs. Writing notes and thinking about ideas and structure ahead of time does work, but I need to go into more detail than five two-word bullet points. But most of all, I learned that this writing habit is starting to stick.