30 Days Of Writing For Myself

This week I hit 30 straight days of writing in my private journal, and I thought it might be useful for people to know how I stayed consistent. To most writers this is certainly nothing to brag about and hardly something of which to be proud. For myself however, I’ve wanted to establish a daily writing habit for a while and have failed until recently, so 30 days seemed like a respectable milestone.

I chose to write privately and just for myself to remove the pressures that come with writing anything others might read. In doing this I became dramatically less hesitant about writing, and eventually it became like any other daily habit like eating breakfast or taking a shower.

Here’s how I accomplished this not-so-monumentous goal:

1) Better Tracking

This time around I’ve had one simple, centralized place to track my progress on daily tasks. I use Streaks, a wonderful little app that works on iPhone, Apple Watch and possibly other platforms. Only six tasks can be added to the habit list, and it’s separate from from my dynamic to-do list app where I add specific personal and work tasks (I use Things for that). What I like about Streaks is that it’s dead simple and only shows me what I need to know- what habits do I need to complete today, which are completed, and how have I performed over time. By having this at-a-glance light data on both my phone and wrist, its hard to “forget” to do anything. Better yet, seeing your progress overtime starts to feel pretty rewarding.

2) Low Barriers to Action

In order to make it easy to write every day, I needed to have a good place to create and store entries. I went with Day One, a popular journal app for iPhone and Mac. I tend to be the type of person who can generate an excuse with ease, i.e. “oh I can’t write because my computer is dead, oh I can’t write because I’m traveling a lot, etc.” The great thing about an app like Day One is that you can download and access it on all devices- desktop, phone, etc. The benefit of using a journal-focused application is that you can easily track your entries by date and time and start to see a log of your work over weeks and months. By having the ability to write anywhere on any device, it makes it much more difficult to avoid taking action. You don’t have to write the next great American novel on your smart phone, but you can write a quick post about your day without making excuses.

3) Minimal Requirements

I used to think that everything I wrote needed to be “good.” We’ve been trained to think this way. If you write an essay you’re hoping to get a good grade. Post on social media and you hope to get likes. Most of the time when we are writing down anything that requires more thought than a grocery list, we assume that our work is being presented to a potentially judgmental audience, and that our writing needs to be the best possible representation of ourselves. Then I watched this great clip on creativity by Ira Glass.

No matter what we do, writing or other habits, we’re not going to be great in the beginning, but we need to start if we want to get to where we want to be. By writing for ourselves we completely change the equation, and remove the stress that could come with sharing my work. I told myself that a 20 word post written in 2 minutes about a random thought was just as acceptable as an Op-Ed that I’d want to publish for the world to see. By making the requirements so low for a daily entry and removing the social pressures of having to write publicly, it made writing feel fun and low-stress.

4) Sharing Goals

The last thing I did that really helped me establish a daily writing habit was sharing my progress with friends and family. Not sharing every post or asking for any in-depth feedback, but rather telling people about my previous struggles and current efforts to stay motived. This helped me create a sort of “accountability network,” where I could rely on people to keep me going. When others know and ask about what your doing, it tends to become a bigger part of who you are and thus helps to cement the habits that you hope to build.

On to the next 30 days

These are the key strategies I used to start writing for myself for 30 days straight and beyond. Once again- it wasn’t rocket science, but sometimes its the most basic of goals that we find ourselves struggling the most to accomplish. You might have a million things on your plate and work crazy hours, and it might seem like you don’t have any time to do something like pick up a daily writing habit. Odds are however that you can, and that the problem isn’t the habit itself, but rather the mental barriers you’ve built to tell yourself that you don’t have the time or mental bandwidth to do what you want to do. Hopefully this helps a little.

PS This is my first Medium post. I hope to post somewhat frequently. Maybe once a month, quarter. No plans as of yet.