I have a Writer’s Boot Camp secret today. Don’t tell your colleagues. Don’t tell your students. I only want you to have this information, as this knowledge might give you some kind of advantage. The secret? Writing is hard work. Yea, I know that’s not really a secret. But this post had to start somewhere.
Here at ProfHacker, we have written many posts detailing ways we can make the writing process smoother, faster, easier. Or doable. We strive to make writing doable. And we share our ideas. Writing hints that work for me might work for you. Your hints to produce usable writing might help others, and we hope you’ll share those hints. Some hints are simple; others are more difficult. But we share, nonetheless. The “butt in chair” method of producing written text, a hint that is shared by many, is probably the best way to accomplish a writing goal. Just do it. Today, however, we offer a different tool that might help you produce words.
Andrew Mara (Twitter’s @docmara) at North Dakota State University alerted me to 750words.com, a website that provides space for writing. But unlike an average word processor, what most of use in writing, 750words.com is very simple. It doesn’t provide textual manipulation tools (bolding, italicizing, etc.), as those tools can be distracting. The free online site encourages you to write, to produce 750 words of text a day. It does this by counting your words as you type and by providing small incentives to keep you going. It’s a very simple, but brilliant, idea.
750words.com is a combination of two favorite writing hints. First, the website gets its name and mission from Julia Cameron and her notion of “morning pages.” If you have read The Artist’s Way, you are are familiar morning pages, typically three pages of longhand, stream-of-consciousness writing that you do in the morning before you have done much else. This writing is not meant for anyone but you, and it’s probably not writing that you would publish. However, it is writing that can push you into a mode to create usable text. 750words.com, though, allows you to move beyond handwritten text and into online writing. For many of us, writing on a computer is much quicker and more convenient.
Secondly, the website keeps track of your writing process day after day, and this mimics another favorite writing hint: Jerry Seinfeld’s “Secret of Productivity”.
Initially reported in 2007 on LifeHacker. Seinfeld’s “secret” is to mark writing progress on a big calendar. You would purchase a wall calendar, for example, and after each day of writing, you would put a big “X” over that day. After a few days, he notes, “you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain.”
750words.com offers a method of keeping track of your pages: as you reach a 750 word goal each day, the site places an “X” in a box that represents that day. While it’s not a calendar, it can still be a “chain” of writing. You can link your 750words activity to your Facebook profile (get props from your friends!) if you desire, or you can link to your Google or Yahoo accounts.
The combination of both morning pages (writing early) and marking a calendar (writing daily) can be powerful motivators to continue the writing process, as these habits build discipline. How about you? Do you have writing hints to share? What do you do to stay motivated and disciplined? Please leave your suggestions in comments below.
[Creative Commons licensed photograph by Billie Hara]