Yes, it’s true. I gave up on the daily blog format. That is, I gave up on the 200 word format that I originally came up with. It was a good practice for as long as it lasted. It’s dead now.
After about one month of writing 200-word posts every day, I started feeling increasingly annoyed. I never really felt annoyed about writing before, so I knew something was off. So then I asked myself: what is it that annoys me so much? It didn’t take me long to figure out that it was the word limit I had imposed upon myself.
I came up with the idea of 200 words for several reasons. First of all, to keep it short. Nobody likes to read 3000-word blog posts every day. I know I can ramble on and on sometimes, and I am not sure how much people appreciate that, so it was also a way to limit that. On the other hand, maybe it is just me that doesn’t like to read 3000 word blogs every day… Who am I to tell people what to like… (and who’s reading my blog anyway). Second, I thought it would be a good practice to create a story that would fit in a fixed short format. It was almost like writing a scientific abstract, which really is a skill in and of itself. Each short post needed all the elements to make it feel like a coherent story. I sometimes felt that the stories felt a bit off, like if some nuance was missing here and there. Like writing an abstract without results or conclusion.
So then I asked myself: why did I start this daily writing in the first place? Well, the answer to that was pretty clear to me. I write because I like it, and also simply to prevent the writing muscle in the brain from atrophying, especially in times where my daily workload does not contain too much writing. Often teaching, experiments and what I would refer to as ‘administrative bullshit’ dominate my days, and sometimes even weeks or months. I thought that by writing every day in my private time, on whatever topic, I would at least not lose that feeling of flow. I also thought it would not be so bad to keep my English writing more or less in shape, as during lockdowns, it feels that I am less in touch with those colleagues I usually speak English to. In some sense, I also find writing very meditative, and the process of journaling about my thoughts is a good way to get them off my mind, or give them more shape. So all things considered, there was very little reason to limit the amount of text. I am wondering if less really is more, especially when you are doing something to improve a skill. In hindsight, a better approach is to just let the words flow, with some healthy sense of moderation.
One thing I can say after writing those daily posts for a while, either short or longer format, it really does have an effect on ‘the grind’. I have to say that the daily practice works really well. It really is a little slot of time allocated to writing, and hence, to myself. The words flow much more smoothly. Perhaps it does not make any sense story-wise, but who cares. I am convinced that this will improve with time as well, so I will stick with it. One other aspect that very clearly has changed, quite rapidly I must add, is the development of a sort of ‘story radar’, if that makes any sense. Within a matter of days to weeks I felt that I was looking at my days a lot more as an outside observer, like a journalist, trying to find something to write about. I think that this, also as a young academic, is a very valuable skill to develop further and strengthen. Writing an academic paper in the end is very much like writing a story, and seeing a story in things (such as data and results) can make it much much easier to write about them when push comes to shove.
So, long story short, I can highly recommend it to everyone who likes writing, or has to write for their job, but sometimes struggles, to start up a daily routine.
Just bloody do it!
If you don’t know what to write about, just start simple. Write a detailed description of your coffee cup, or the mess on the countertop (or is that just our countertop?). It doesn’t matter. Anything will do. It doesn’t have to be long. It can be a short haiku, or a 10.000 word chapter. Who cares. It’s your challenge…
But don’t ever set stupid word limits, they will only piss you off!