WE MADE IT!!
Before we start this final piece, I owe you a thanks, dear reader.
If you’ve been keeping up with these daily posts, then my hat is off to you. Thank you so much for taking the time to read these e-scribblings and travel this blog road with me. The main intention was just to practice writing, but talking to people about some of the topics and knowing they’ve helped a little, or at least been a bit interesting, has added so much to the experience. You have made it worth it.
Even if you’ve only been able to check out a few, that is pretty damn awesome of you. I know we’re busier than ever in today’s hyper connected world, so any time you’ve spent checking out my writings is greatly appreciated.
If this is the first and only one you’ve read - go read the others so you can be part of the crew.
I’m kidding, of course. One is better than none. (Did you not see all the social media posts? All the times I casually dropped it in conversation? Nothing? NOT EVEN A LITTLE CURIOUS?? Nevermind. It’s fine. Proceed to read.)
DOING THE WORK
I’ve tried to keep all the posts in line with the Next Level ethos of improvement over perfection, looking at this through ways of training, eating and how we think about things. Some I’ve taken more creative liberty than others, and some have been more food for thought than straight instruction.
Today I’ll be ditching the fitness world to show you some of the practices and habits I found helped me up my writing frequency by 3000%, going from once a month (ish) to once a day.
That is not to say this is a writing guide or I am an expert writer/blogger, these are just things I found whilst working through this challenge, and could be a good place to start if you’re interested in doing something similar. They could also be completely useless to you, but at least then you’ll know what doesn’t work.
Side note: while 3000% is technically accurate for 1 to 31, I wouldn’t bet on similar results if you’re writing more than 1000 words a month. I’m keeping 3000% in because it’s cool to say for my scenario and results, not because it’s realistic for every single scenario.
FINDING A TOPIC - WRITE WHAT YOU BELIEVE IN
One of the hardest parts was to think of a place to start. With all the bajillions of topics to choose from, it’s quite alright to pick the low hanging fruit and go from there. What I mean by that is just pick something you’ve been thinking about or an area you have an opinion on - even if that opinion is just “that’s cool” or “that’s weird” - and run with it. I found that curiosity was a big driver for me, in trying to talk about a topic I’d inherently do a little extra research, and from there I would learn more, having more to write about, and maybe even pick up a future topic.
Picking and writing about something you’re interested or having some kind of feeling towards makes it easier to get the ball rolling, building momentum in the form of raw paragraphs or just a long line of flowing thought.
Either way, it gets words on the page and you have something to mould and work with, opposed to something you don’t care about, and are struggling to write a sentence beyond “Webster’s dictionary defines blah blah blah as….”.
YAWN. Put some soul into it and see what comes out.
We can always correct course, edit and delete stuff later.
OVERCOMING THE RESISTANCE
So we’ve got a topic, and want to settle down in to get some solid work done, but the Resistance is still there (for more info on the Resistance, check out this post). We know we need to beat it, but it’s coming at us hard. Here, we can fight back in a few ways to achieve some kind of flow and get some words on the page.
Distractions - put your phone on airplane mode so you can’t check social media. Those apps are a wormhole of clickbait and “oo what’s that” that will take you hours away from now with 0 work done. We can’t get that time back, so don’t tempt it in the first place - ignore them. The world will still be there in an hour or two.
Background noise - I’ve read about people having films or TV on in the background to break the silence of writing sessions, so I tried it out. I’ll be honest - every time, sooner or later, I would stop and take myself out of the moment to see what was happening on the TV/movie. I found listening to music was much more effective for me, often just having the one piece on a loop to avoid thinking too much about what was happening outside of what I was writing about. I found instrumental pieces worked the best, if a song had lyrics in it I’d be thinking too much about what the artist was saying, instead of what I was trying to put on my own paper. I’ve learned I may just need more willpower, but in the meantime instrumental only music worked best for me. Personal favourites were mostly scores by Hans Zimmer, with the Inception soundtrack being a regular feature.
Bare bones - there was more than one occasion where I’d be writing, and suddenly realise I had gone nowhere. Everything up to that point was just repeating the same thing, with no direction or conclusion in sight. To work around this, I’d take a few minutes to write down a skeleton of what I wanted to write, be it general headings or points to discuss, and then flesh them out in a more organised fashion. While distractions and looking away can cost you focus and flow, taking a step back to look at what you’re doing from a different angle or perspective can give you great clarity and direction.
Just write - if all else fails, just put something on the page. It doesn’t have to be good work, or something you’ll keep in the final draft, just get the gears moving. Play with the wording of a joke, try to work a concept into a story or metaphor format, talk about the opposite viewpoint. Sooner or later something will click, and you’ll find your flow to get some real work done.
Setting out with a topic, there’s more than one way to write about it. Depending on your personal style/preference, what the topic is, and what you want to achieve with the piece will factor into your approach. For this challenge, time was also a factor, so I categorised a couple of different ways of writing (not an exhaustive list, just a few ideas) into how much work/time they would take.
My quick list, from least time consuming to most, was as follows:
Lists (top 5, 3 things to do, etc) - lists encompass several different aspects and areas, so while we have plenty of variety, we just need to squeeze them all in. This means keeping them short and to the point by summarising/generalising instead of exploring each individual topic. By making “in my opinion” lists, we have all the reasonings for including them in our heads already, so there’s not much extra research to do. These reasonings will come mostly from your practical experience - which can be more valuable than theory alone.
Opinion Piece (presenting an idea, writing about something you’re thinking about) - like the lists, all the reasoning is inside your head already. The trick is just to get it out in enough depth to talk about the subject, while forming a coherent path for the reader to follow. Unlike the lists, summarising here will just leave you with a piece that feels half finished. Don’t be afraid to go deep, our unique view of something could be what makes it click for someone else. We can always delete things later.
Research Based (finding studies and empirical data) - these can be a blend of practical experience and the science of today. Sometimes it can be difficult finding research that is directly relevant to what you want to discuss, because there may be new findings or research that opposes something you once thought to be fact. This can be a good thing, as we should be finding conclusions to match the data, not data to match our conclusions. If we need to rethink our approach, we just need to do a bit of learning and discuss what we’ve found. If we’re just talking about a particular piece or area of research, we may need to learn a little more and digest it before putting it on paper. This is a great exercise in itself, breaking down and understanding a topic to present to others as a way to learn more yourself, but it can be time consuming. For this reason I’ve put it at the bottom of the list - while it may be the most valuable, in learning more and presenting confirmed scientific facts, I found them to be the hardest of the three to sit down and complete. These will take more preparation and, depending on your background knowledge, more time to get into flow - as we may need to stop and start when confirming ideas and definitions. I think that the more comfortable and familiar you are with the research, the easier it is to get into flow and write about, as you’re able to throw more personal style and opinion on it. But if you’re like me, leaving some posts to the eleventh hour, the pursuit of new knowledge can be a stressful one. Valuable, but plan accordingly.
Maybe I'm biased, but I found a lot of similarities between this writing challenge and a fitness endeavour:
It doesn’t matter where you start, just start. Something is better than nothing - we can always add more, change course and correct along the way. It’s easier to stick to and finish something you enjoy (so if you’ve got a general goal, choose an approach and methods you actually like). We can’t get better at something by doing something else (watching FailArmy and perusing Instagram did not help my writing endeavours; practicing writing by completing posts made each subsequent piece easier). And most importantly, there’s still a tonne I don’t know (or, looking at it differently, a tonne of stuff to discover and learn about from other people and through experimenting - which is pretty exciting).
I believe these can be applied beyond writing and fitness - maybe more nuance is needed for individual situations, but they’re a good place to start.
I hope these posts have been of use to you - even if they’ve been mildly entertaining or an example of how not to grammar - and I’m happy to say the experience has been an enjoyable one. Yes, there’s been a good few hours of sleep and benching time lost, but overall it’s been worth it.
As for next steps, now that I’ve learned more about myself - finding ways that work for me to get down and focused on writing something - I’d like to bring up the quality of my work. I feel quantity, or speed, has been covered with this challenge, so the next step is to up the quality.
Doing spellchecks, learning some grammar, and playing with more ideas and ways of expressing them, who knows what the next thing will look like? I’ll not set a time frame, instead just work away and crank pieces out when I feel they’re done.
With that, thanks again for reading and sticking with my work thus far. It’s only the beginning, so I look forward to seeing you again soon, with a more crafted and intricate post.
Or I’ll leave it to the last minute, and you’ll be stuck reading absolute garbage.
Who knows? Variety is the spice of life.
Until then, keep crushing it,