Creating a writing habit

By Marc Littlemore
4 min read

At the start of 2020, I wrote a review of 2019. One of my main goals for last year was to find my writing "voice". The plan was to write more in 2020 but I wrote a grand total of 1 blog post. I'm not sure that a single blog post can really be considered a big win for my writing! 2020 really wasn't a year that was conducive to getting things done for me. We all struggled in different ways throughtout the pandemic and I couldn't manage to kickstart a writing habit.

I've always been an avid note taker in meetings but I'd never looped back to use my bullet points to build coherent writing. At some point during 2020 I discovered Roam Research as a tool for networked thought. I moved my note taking into Roam from Dynalist but then I discovered an application called Obsidian. While very similar to Roam, it was the community that drew me in. A lot of friendly people who were encouraging each other to write more and link ideas using Obsidian as their tool of choice. I continued to use this to create private notes for myself, but have not been great and bringing them together to write more in public.

Now is the time to change this.

I've been reading a lot about consitency in everything you do. It's a fundamental for building any habit. My ability to write software and quickly pick up new technologies is born out of my love of learning and applying new languages, frameworks, or libraries when I find them. I tend to spend many evenings reading through documentation and writing code to apply what I've learnt. But with public writing I tend to stumble. I can write README files for my code repositories. It's much easier to be factual. But I get nervous about sharing my thoughts with the outside world. So is this a habit we can learn to get better at? I hope to find out.

I admired Nathan Barry of ConvertKit for his challenge to write for a whole year. This feels like a long time frame to try and commit to. Instead, I'd like to create a small habit by sharing my thoughts publicly for 30 days. I'm sure James Clear writes about similar ideas in his Atomic Habits book (which is on my Kindle but I've not yet read it). I noticed the hashtag #ship30for30 in some tweets from people I follow. It's a community of writers who are sharing their blog posts for 30 days to build their own habits. While I've not joined the community yet, I'm going to attempt to write something new every day without thinking too much about it. If I can do this for 30 days then I'll be incredibly happy and hopefully will have built a habit and found my writing style. It's really easy to get bogged down with attempting to share your best work so by being habitual I hope to stop worrying.

Here's my plan:

  1. Capture daily thoughts in Obsidian. Most days I attempt to write down ideas that come to mind during the day. These are sometimes linked to things I've previously thought about and using Obsidian to link my notes, I can hopefully find new ideas to write about.
  2. Find a quiet space away from where I normally work. I sit in the same room in our house every day and it's become my office given that I've worked at home 100% of the time since March 2020. By finding a different environment within the house, I hope that it'll inspire me to not think about work and instead free my mind to write from my notes and capture coherent thoughts into a blog post.
  3. Set a time. A habit needs regularity. I'm planning on writing a blog post after my working day is done. As the whole family are currently locked down and working or schooling from home, I can normally start and finish my day early. This affords me an hour to write from around 4.30 pm.
  4. Set a word goal. Honestly, I'd be happy to write a couple of paragraphs but it seems sensible to aim for a word count each day. I like the #ship30for30 idea of "atomic esssays". These are up to 250 words and encapsulate a theme. I think this is manageable each day. Although I'd quite like to write 1000+ word essays, I think the consitency of writing matters more than the length of the work.
  5. Don't overthink things. Says Marc as he writes a list of rules he's going to try and stick to! Seriously though, I want to write and not worry too much about what I commit to the internet. To write, quickly edit, and share is the main goal.

This is the first of 30 days of writing. Let's see if I can keep it up.

Marc Littlemore avatar

I'm Marc Littlemore.

I’m a Senior Software Engineering Manager who works with high performing development teams and loves to help to grow other software leaders and engineers.


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