Last week marked one year of me keeping a journal. As I’ve mentioned previously, writing is not something that comes easily, but has always been something I’ve wanted to do more of. Being able to look back and see that in the last 12 months I’d written over 70,000 words came as both a surprise and a great sense of accomplishment.
One thing that became apparent while writing my journal was that while not every entry was great, within that quantity of words was some really great writing. David Bayles and Ted Orland talk about something similar in the book Art & Fear, that given the task of producing just one good photo or as many photos as possible, students aiming for quantity over quality ended up producing better photos than those just aiming for one good photo.
In the same period of time I was keeping a journal I only published 3 blog posts, and I think all of them are about writing more. Similar to those students, I’ve been waiting for the ‘right’ thing to talk about, and as a result didn’t produce very much at all.
I was thinking about this while listening to the Design Better interview with Julie Zhuo late last week. I’ve heard Julie talking about her writing a number of times and I’m always inspired by the commitment she made to write once a week. I’ve tried to do the same a number of times but have never been able to keep it going. Listening to her talk about it again this week however, something was different. I have achieved something similar, and know that if I set the right goal and make the time it’s a goal I can reach.
The difference was understanding what the goal actually is. Deciding that you’re going to post a blog post every week is fine if you are in the habit of writing every day. However if you’re not, like I was, then it’s likely to fail. To get to the point where I could write a blog post every week I needed to start small and make the goal about the ritual, not the outcome.
In the book Atomic Habits, author James Clear talks about exactly this. The goal isn’t to run a marathon, the goal is to put your running shoes on every day and go for a run. Just as the goal with my journal wasn’t to write 70,000 words, it was to sit down each day, open up my text editor and start writing. Is every journal an exceptional piece of writing? Far from it, but I’d much rather have written 70,000 average words than nothing at all.
So today starts my new habit and my new goal. For the next year, I’m going to get up a little earlier on a Saturday, make a coffee and write a blog post. If I can stick to that goal, this time next year I should have around 52 additional posts on my blog. There’s going to be a lot of average posts, but I know there’s going to be some great ones too, and I look forward to sharing them all.