How I Write

In order to be able to write one new post for this site every day, I have implemented a framework that optimizes my chances of success, i.e. not missing a single day.

I’ve laid out my framework below, in three parts: Tools, Habits, and Environment.

Tools

I use Bear Notes as my personal note-taking app, and drafting posts is no exception. I have a section in Bear where I keep a running collection of all drafts in-progress.

Any time an idea comes to mind, or if inspiration for a new post suddenly strikes, I need to make sure that I capture it. I open up Bear on the nearest electronic device I have (usually my phone), and I create a new note in the drafts section with a working title. I make sure to add supporting context, if any, into the body of the note.

It’s important to mention that I don’t worry about coming up with the perfect title or about refining the contents, at this stage. I simply capture the idea and any relevant information. I’ll come back later and refine it.

Habits

Coming up with new content every day is a habit in and of itself. I’m already a frequent writer, in the form of private journaling almost every day. Writing a post each day for this site is an extension of that habit, with a specific purpose.

The most important habit is when I write. Sometime between 8 and 9 PM each weekday night, I take some time to sit down and work on a post. Unless I’ve written several posts in advance, I must finish and polish at least one post during this time in order to hit my daily new post goals. On weekends I like to write during the afternoon, and I will occasionally finish several posts in a day.

There is another habit that is not time-based, but tied to specific cues: A quick review of my backlog of drafts. This is simply a quick refresher on what is pending, for the sake of giving me time to think and ponder.

For example, if I’m out for a walk, I will usually pull up my phone and briefly scroll through the pending drafts. Then I put the phone away. This puts the content at the forefront of my mind, where I can ruminate on the topics until my mind wanders off onto other thoughts. Wandering thoughts are okay at this stage, though; I don’t need to worry about doing any actual writing, only giving my brain time to think.

Environment

One of the most powerful things you can do to ensure success is to create an environment that will naturally push you in the direction of your goal, without any input from you.

As of this post, my site is static content generated by Hugo and hosted in Amazon S3. I have set up an AWS CloudWatch timer that triggers an automated process early every single morning. That process will grab the latest state of the content of my website, and publish any articles that are due to be published.

By setting up a daily automated timer, I have done more than just making the posting process easy and automatic: I have created an environmental motivator. If the automated process is going to run early each morning, I had better have a post ready to go the night before. Otherwise, I must not only write the post, but I will need to take manual action above and beyond the easy routine that the automated process provides.

Summary

By setting myself up with the right tools for the job, the actions I need to take become easier.

By implementing a specific routine, a habit is more easily formed; the mind knows what to expect, and when to expect it.

And by crafting an environment that makes it easy to stick to the process and hard to deviate from it, my brain has come to believe that it is actually harder to break the habit than to stick with it.