Day 100: what I learned writing 750 words every day for 100 days

I have written 750 words every day for the past 100 days. There are few things I do every day that aren’t necessities like eating, breathing, sleeping, showering, and going on the Internet. But I have managed to write every day for the last ~3 months. Unlike my previous project where I read 52 books in 52 weeks, the daily commitment meant that I did not once fall behind.

Chances are if you follow me on Instagram, you’ve seen a whole lot of entries that look like this:

These are my daily updates for The 100 Day Project, a joint collaboration between The Great Discontent, a print/web magazine of in-depth interviews with all kinds of makers, and Elle Luna, an artist and designer. The idea behind the project was to choose one thing to do every day for 100 days in order to explore some passion or to hone your craft. Its goal was to focus more on the process of making rather than on the product itself.

Why I chose writing as my daily action

On the list of Things I Love/Should Be Doing But Don’t Do Enough Of, writing is number one. When this project started, reading and exercise were things I finally started doing more regularly, and even though I’ve always loved writing, I realized I wasn’t writing anymore unless I had a deadline. Instead of making some half-baked New Year’s resolution to “write more,” I set myself a daily minimum of 750 words with a daily midnight deadline. As a result, I’ve written at least 75,000 more words this year than I otherwise would have (85,557 to be exact).

This past year has been a really tough year for me in ways I never thought possible. As Roxane Gay says, “Writing is not therapy but it can be very therapeutic.” It was a way for me to appreciate things, reflect on my relationships, work through hard times, respond to articles I’d read, connect with others, and taught me about myself.

Establishing a process

When the project kicked off, I was adjusting my schedule for spring quarter as well as traveling to a designathon that first weekend. Pro tip: if you want to test your commitment and dedication to some habit, try to do it while traveling. Since I have a tendency to buy a lot of nice notebooks that I never use, I decided to physically write my daily 750 words.

For the first week or so, I took photos of my actual handwriting , but I realized that each day would be pretty indistinguishable from the next. It also made sense to actually share things I’d written in a more readable format. This gave some uniformity to each day’s submission. Since then, I typically share excerpts, though for certain days I’ve taken photos or blurred the words for privacy.

How I wrote 750 words every day for 100 days

I didn’t want to just journal, so I started a running list of writing prompts. When I was in school, I usually wrote these prompts down on scraps of paper and then threw them into a fez that I got from a trip to Istanbul. If I didn’t get daily inspiration from elsewhere, I would randomly draw a prompt from the fez (I mean what else are you supposed to do with a fez?).

the writing fez

I write 750 words in one sitting, which can take anywhere from twenty minutes to two hours. Although the original concept behind writing 750 words everyday involves “morning pages,” I typically write mine at night between 8–11:30 pm.

I then type up each entry on my computer using iA Writer (that’s the format you see in my daily Instagrams) and copy/paste it into the corresponding day’s entry on 750words.com to keep up my writing streak. For most days, I choose an excerpt to screenshot (sometimes edited for clarity and coherence), which I crop and scale in Photoshop, then upload to Instagram with that day’s prompt and the relevant hashtags.

About halfway through the project, I decided to start posting full entries here on Medium.

What I learned about process

You develop a process quite easily. The trick is to experiment with things at the beginning, and just settle on something that seems consistent, doable, and a little unique. The key is to focus on completion rather than on detail. I have certainly written a lot of crappy things in the past 99 days. Especially with something so ambitious like a daily habit, it’s important to just take it one step at a time.

I’ve learned to suck it up and, in the words of Shia LaBeouf, JUST DO IT even if you really don’t feel like it. There have been so many days when I feel tired and I would rather focus on work than on my writing. But then I remember the importance of producing things even when you’re not in the mood. Cheryl Strayed has this great quote that motivated me on my off-days:

You have to surrender to your mediocrity, and just write. Because it’s hard, really hard, to write even a crappy book. But it’s better to write a book that kind of sucks rather than no book at all, as you wait around to magically become Faulkner. No one is going to write your book for you and you can’t write anybody’s book but your own.

Or take it from Ira Glass:

It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions.

There will be (many) days that you will produce shitty things and there will be (some) days that you will produce not-so-shitty things. I’ve always read that quantity is essential to improve quality — and I definitely feel that has been the case. The 100 Day Project taught me to JUST DO IT. No excuses, JUST DO IT. Every day. The only way to get better at something is to keep doing it. Focus on the process and not the product. Focus on the process, and sooner or later, the product will follow.

What I learned doing The 100 Day Project

Set a (crazy) specific goal, but make it manageable. If you’re going to do something every week or every day, make sure you can sustain it. The more granular the task, the easier it is to achieve it.

Establish a process and routine for making. Find your tools of choice (mine is a pen, paper, and laptop). Set aside time in your schedule just as you would a meeting or phone call. The first two to three weeks will be challenging, but afterwards, it will almost feel second nature to you. Even if the process is still challenging, you’ll have formed the discipline to keep going.

It helps to have some form of accountability. I did this by sharing screenshots of every entry on the Internet with strangers, though that prospect can be daunting and it isn’t for everyone. Do what makes you feel comfortable, but find some way to track your efforts. I use 750words.com because it locks entries at midnight. Again, I suggest something that you can keep up fairly regularly, like using an app or writing a short blog post somewhere. It’s also a nice way to reflect on all that you’ve accomplished every now and then.

That being said, I’ve learned that sharing your work can be a pretty great thing. I have typically reserved social media as a space for communicating with friends, sharing the hilarious things my parents say, and posting photos of my food that would otherwise just rot on my camera roll. But with The 100 Day Project, I decided to use social media as a place to be vulnerable. Every single entry I post was basically a 20–120 minute brain fart that I decided to put on the Internet. But I’ve received a lot of really great feedback from people. I appreciate every single heart, but I’ve particularly enjoyed the comments and conversations that happened as a result. It’s helped me to get in touch with old friends and reminded me that a lot of the experiences and feelings I was writing/working through weren’t unique, that I was not alone in them. I hope that it’s also inspired people to do something similar.

So what are you waiting for?

http://giphy.com/gifs/shia-labeouf-just-do-it-wErJXg1tIgHXG