I’ve cracked the code. Well, maybe not the code but at least a code. The sad thing is, I’m not the first person to have some up with this secret, nor am I the first person to write about it. Now some background.
For the second year in a row, I started 2017 off with a personal challenge to update this site daily. I didn’t give myself to many other rules on what constitutes an update. Sharing a podcast I created counts as an update, as does posting a review of something, sharing a wrap up of what I did that day also counts. AS does a well thought out argument about the ups and downs of over a decade of being a part of Japan’s health care system. Widely different subject, widely different amounts of thinking and skills. All of those count as updates.
But then there is the low end of updates. I would also let myself get away with a few simple lines just saying why there wouldn’t really be a more detailed post coming that day. Maybe I’d caught a cold, or was in the throes of a migraine. Maybe my two year old was just running me ragged and a bit of parental exhaustion was seeping in. As long as I got the words on screen and posted them before midnight, that was a successful day.
Last year I made it until about August. Sometime in the middle of the long hours of camp season, I goofed (or fell asleep) and the daily posts stopped. This year May was roughy my breaking point. In about the month and a half since then, I haven’t been very consistent with writing.
Some readers probably can guess where this is going.
Here is the problem. I went from making myself sit down and get some writing down, no matter what, on a daily basis. Writing was becoming a switch that I could turn on and off. And then I stopped. I went without that particular exercise for over a month. I’d write, but when the mood hit me. When I felt like it.
And then the time came whenI needed to work on an upcoming project. I had the idea. I had the outline. I just needed to sit down and start. But I didn’t have the mood.
When I finally did sit down, it took time. I stared at the screen not really knowing what it was I should be doing. Finally I started to type. It was rough. The words didn’t want to come. But slowly they did. And the thing turned out pretty well.
But that process of starting took at least twice as long as it should have. Because i was out of practice.
In the middle of writing, when you are connected to the words coming out of your fingers, it can be the easiest thing in the world. Just a flow of ideas. It’s gliding down a river.
But starting. Starting can be a rough, bumpy road. Which is why this site is such a boon. It’s a reason to write. It is exercising that muscle that lets you just get started.
So, yeah, that is the big secret. If you want to write, then you have to write. You can’t wait for inspiration. You can’t wait for the mood. You have to just sit down and write. But getting to that point where you can just sit and turn it on is a result of constant practice.
When I look at this site as a collection of numbers, how many views do I have, did this piece that I worked hard on get what I feel is a decent amount of reads, those questions almost always leave me cold. I want more views. I want more reads. And when I don’t get them, that can easily turn into a reason to not sit and write.
But I love writing and I want to get better and better at it. And to get better I need to continually develop that skill that allows me to sit down, open up some work, and just write.
Maybe that isn’t much of a secret. “In order to write more you need to write more.” But seeing past the short term and knowing that why you are writing is to set up good practices, that and believing that, is as close to a secret to good writing as we are likely to get.