When I started this blog a couple years ago, I intended to write a blog post on a near daily basis – the expectation would be that I’d post something new at least several times a week. Looking back at my output, I am clearly not hitting my intended goals. However, this past month, I’ve started a daily writing habit – I spend about 10 minutes physically writing down thoughts in a journal. Looking at my calendar*, I started on the 21st of April and have only missed one day in that time frame. Thinking about the two habits, they seem quite similar, but for whatever reason, one failed and the other has been pretty successful. Why is that? Let’s dig into that.
There’s a tweet about “dumb tweeting” vs “smart writing” which I found relevant to my own struggle with blogging vs daily journaling. For one, the barrier to entry for my journaling is a lot lower than my blogging. When I journal, I set a minimum writing timer of 10 minutes. Sometimes I’m a little less, sometimes I’m a little over. The important thing to me is that I write stuff in that time frame. I don’t really edit my thoughts or plan specific topics to write about. The barrier to entry is incredibly low. But when I blog, I can’t just start typing. Writing a blog post requires a lot more intent – I have to think of a topic and try to expound on what I’m trying to say. I also edit while I type and lightly skim the post to make sure it’s at least somewhat coherent. I’ve never taken less than 30 minutes to write up a blog post. Immediately, we can see the startup costs of blogging vs writing are much higher. I’d say the intentionality of writing blog posts is a large barrier to entry to me being prolific compared to my scrawlings. There’s another factor I think is worth addressing, however.
Going back to the “dumb tweeting” vs “smart writing”, I do think people have some natural affinities to certain mediums in that they just play to their strengths better. One example that comes to mind is Mark Wiens. I remember reading his blog posts about Thailand, and they always came off as kind of shoddy. His writing voice just didn’t sound good to me. However, when I started watching his video blogs, he would speak in the same “voice”, yet for whatever reason, he came across as much more natural and relatable compared to his food writing “voice”. Likewise, the “dumb tweeting” vs “smart writing” dichotomy can show you where it might be worth focusing on – the dumb tweeting can enable “smart writing” in a way, as well – that’s what I’m trying to do with my new journaling habit.
There’s a concept called “habit stacking”, in which you build up new habits by attaching them to your preexisting habits. Think of something like building up a pull up habit – I have this pull up bar that I attached to the doorframe of my bathroom. Say I decide to do a pull up every time I go to the bathroom. I already have a habit of going to the bathroom to do my daily necessities. By hijacking that habit with the additional feature, I’m incrementally building up a new habit with lesser friction than just building up a daily pull up habit from whole cloth. Right now, I feel like this daily journaling habit has become moderately ingrained now, but so far, I haven’t really internalized or synthesized my writing in any way – I merely write every day and move on. I think my next step will be to comb through my material and try to type up a blog post based on the best material on a weekly basis or so. This has a dual advantage of me having to self reflect on my writing on a regular basis to enable improvement as well as also building a regular schedule for writing up blog posts again. It also takes out at least one friction point for me on my blog posts, which is coming up with inspiration for writing. Instead of trying to come up with topics and elaborate on them, I’m basically refining my previous thoughts and making them a little more coherent.
* I read this book called The Comedy Bible which recommended building a daily writing habit in order to generate material for your performances. One of the anecdotes in the book involved famous comedian Jerry Seinfeld outlining one of his keys to success – a daily writing habit. He would buy a calendar and physically cross off each day he wrote – this act of positive affirmation basically gamified his desire to keep writing in order to “not break the chain”. I stole this same concept to fuel my own writing.