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To Become a Writer, Track Your Writing

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The great secret about writing is that there isn’t any particular secret to it: You just have to show up and do it. Again, and again, and again. (There’s a reason there are books like Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day, but not any called Writing Your Dissertation in a Single Caffeine- and Adderall-Fueled Week.) If you make writing a habit, then that habitual work pays off in words. Sometimes it even leads to inspiration.

And it’s also not a secret that to form a habit, it helps to be able to register your progress. As Natalie wrote a couple of years ago, this goes all the way back to Ben Franklin. Billie Hara’s written about using 750Words to track your progress, while Erin has issued the Rule of 200.

But while there are no secrets about how to write productively, it’s still helpful to read practical accounts from folks doing that work, and Christian Tietze wrote a terrific post last week about how forming and reinforcing the daily habit of writing (via Eddie at Practically Efficient) transforms your self-conception:

The idea is that you have to find an alternative and state it in a positive way to make a lasting change. When you just say “no” to your old behavior all the time, you still keep it around and ultimately reinforce it. You really have to ditch parts of your past. So find an alternate possible reality for yourself, state it positively, and change the environment to support you.

In my case, it helped to think of myself as an industrious writer and programmer.

If self-conception were enough, of course, we’d all be boss German midfielders today. The key, as Tietze explains, is tracking your progress until that habit beds in: “So if you want to change a habit of yours, you need to observe how well you do. It’s not enough to want it. It’s not enough to occasionally think about it. Instead, you need to put it on a daily auto-pilot for a while until you’re certain that the habit sticks.”

There’s lots of great stuff in Tietze’s post, so do read the whole thing!

Do you have a preferred way of tracking your writing? Why not share it in comments?

Photo “medieval writing” by Flickr user Hans Splinter / Creative Commons licensed BY-ND-2.0

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