How to write each day, from someone who has tried and failed

Write for the sake of writing — and nothing else

Courtesy of Andrew Neel via Unsplash

About six months ago I penned a Medium blog entitled writing to engage. It was a commitment to myself and my followers to write more frequently— five days per week, to be specific. I was brimming with optimism and productive vigour, and that blog post was a declaration that I was serious about producing content more regularly.

Six months and a grand total of four posts on, I’ve clearly failed to keep that promise.

I didn’t fall short because of lack of time, commitments or anything like that. Why I failed was simple: I made several errors of ‘too’.

I set too many rules

I recall, before getting started, spending an entire afternoon and evening obsessing over how I would pull this off. My logical, anxious mind urged me to implement a system so that I would follow through (or rather, so I wouldn’t not follow through). I created a lengthy content calendar, within which I meticulously planned out three months of almost-daily content. I also thought it wise to focus in on one or two topics in particular, so as not to get sidetracked.

As it happens, my spontaneous soul said, “Fuck that noise, mate.” I ended up publishing just one planned post.

While I have nothing against forward planning and content calendars for more formal writing and content-management situations, they have no place in a daily writing challenge. The sole purpose of this sort of activity is creativity. And for myself at least, formality and structure are the death of creativity.

That doesn’t mean I won’t be drafting future articles. To the contrary, freedom to write what I want without deadlines (besides: “publish a thing today”) will free up my mind to observe life’s quirks, think spontaneously about them and weave together interesting posts. Perhaps counterintuitively, less rules can often mean more productivity and ultimately, more content.

I paid too much attention to stats

In the past, I would obsess over ‘claps’, read ratios and earnings. The second I’d hit publish on something, I was compulsively refreshing my stats page for updates. Then I’d message fellow Medium writers to find out what sort of numbers they were doing, trying to compare myself to them. When things didn’t go viral, I gave up. I lost most of my motivation before gaining any momentum.

In short, I lost sight of my reason for writing.

I didn’t start writing for the likes, shares and comments. I did it because I enjoyed the process of stringing words together into ideas, and ideas together into content. I used to find absolute pleasure in conceiving something with my mind, and giving it life with my pen. Unfortunately of late, my social media-fed brain has been warped to the point that all I care about are performance statistics.

No longer. Regardless of how ‘well’ or ‘poorly’ a post of mine performs, I will try to ignore my narcissistic tendency to give too many fucks about it.

I possessed too much fear

Fear of sharing, of judgement and of failure. No one likes to be judged. And, as mentioned, the stats-oriented social media world provides a perfect system for having others assign us value.

When I failed last time, I was overly-concerned whether people would want to read anything I wrote about. Or if anything I wrote would be good enough that people would want to read it. This is something I think most writers deal with from time to time. But committing to write each day makes those fears especially potent.

However, the questions I was asking were fundamentally wrong. The only question a writer should consider, especially in this sort of forum, is, “Is this something I would like to read myself?” Nothing else really matters.

I tried to be too perfect

Because of my self-imposed fear, my stats obsession and my overzealous rule-making led me to overthink everything. I would be struck with a brilliant idea, then draft it for weeks until I’d forget it had ever existed, or until it became a different idea entirely, one that I had no interest in; or another thought would usurp its immediacy, only to restart the cycle all over again. I was editing my posts to death, as if I was publishing to The New Yorker or The Economist, rather than my 179 Medium followers.

Perhaps that’s my weakness — perfection. The sort of thing I should’ve mentioned in all those unsuccessful job interviews when HR would ask that most standard, yet impossible of all questions. But I digress…

This time around, fuck all that.

Fuck rules.

Fuck stats.

Fuck fear.

Fuck perfection.

From here on, I’m writing for the sake of writing — nothing more. My only rule is to publish at least one piece of content each day.

Here goes nothing. Until tomorrow.


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