It’s been a week since I last wrote. I started 3 months ago with a commitment to write something every day, but I’ve missed days here and there and I’m not going to beat myself up about it. But a week without writing is a long enough lapse that I want to examine the potential causes of that lapse, and take a moment to reflect on why I committed to writing in the first place. I’m not done with this project. I hope never to be.

3 months ago, I identified the major issues that were between me and regular writing as (1) insecurity about publishing things I knew weren’t very good, and (2) choosing a good time to write. I’m really happy with the progress I’ve made on the first issue. Having a body of writing (nearly 50 posts!) means that I’m less worried about how a single sub-par post will reflect poorly on me. Each post is just a star in the sky; some are brighter than others.

The second issue, choosing a time to write, has been a little more troublesome. Writing in the morning rather than the evening is definitely way better for me, so that’s been a successful experiment. Writing on my Caltrain commute has been a good trigger, in that commuting is something I do regularly in the morning, and the train ride is pre-boxed time in which to do something. However, it’s an inconsistent trigger — I don’t commute on the weekend, and even during the week I work from home one or two days. It’s also not quite enough time to finish a post, and it’s a hard-stop: when the train arrives, I have to pack up and get off.

On the days I didn’t write, why didn’t I? Some days (days I didn’t ride the train), I just straight up forgot. But mostly, I didn’t write because I didn’t feel like it. Because I was tired, or frustrated, or caught up in some other problem or project. Is there benefit to forcing myself to write on those days? I’m not sure that there is. The way to get good at something is to enjoy being bad at it, and I’m not going to enjoy writing if it’s a chore. But there’s a line to walk between not forcing myself and goalpost optimisation. Perhaps one push-up can help me here.

On the subject of goalpost optimisation, it’s worth exploring what my goals actually are in writing regularly, so I don’t end up meeting a different goal than the one I started out with. So here’s a little goal factoring:

  • I want to write regularly because I want to learn to write well.
  • I want to be able to write well because writing is a powerful way of communicating, and I want to communicate my thoughts.
  • Writing often helps me to clarify my thoughts, frequently I change my mind on something when I write about it. That’s valuable to me.
  • Though it’s a little embarrassing to admit, I want to be respected and seen as intelligent and thoughtful. Writing is a way I can show that.

I don’t think it’s necessary to write every day in order to meet those goals, but it is necessary to write often. But even more than that, it’s critical that writing brings me joy. If I have to drag myself to the keyboard and force myself to write, I’m going to associate the act of writing with drudgery, resentment and frustration, and then I’m going to not write. If I focus on designing my writing habit around what makes me happy when I write, I’m going to be a lot more successful.

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