Something to Write About

Not a week goes by where someone doesn’t reach out and ask how it’s possible to write and publish a blog post a day, with Janie being one of the more recent people to ask. Writing daily is not at all an easy thing to do and there are times when I feel just too mentally exhausted to spend yet another hour in front of a glowing screen to hammer out a few dozen poorly-constructed sentences just to satisfy some arbitrary objective that will neither earn rewards nor be remembered for very long after the streak finally comes to a stop. That said, there are a few things that I do in an effort to ensure something can be completed daily.

The first is that I write. A lot. On any given day there will be anywhere between two and seven rough posts written into Evernote. Sometimes these are little more than a list of talking points. Sometimes it’s a completed editorial1. The primary goal is to keep writing whenever possible in order to trigger tangential ideas and to practice penning a concept. Clearly conveying complex ideas that rely heavily on context with as few superfluous words as possible takes time. As Blaise Pascal famously wrote: I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time. Anyone who might read more than a handful of posts on this site will see that I still have a long, long way to go.

Sometimes writing isn’t enough, though. There have been a number of occasions where two or more hours have been invested in an essay that will never see publication. After completion, another post needs to be written in order to maintain the daily publication streak. It’s not enough for me to simply write. It needs to be out there for people to read. This often happens on weekends when extra time avails itself for a more nuanced piece. To deal with this, I decided many months ago to “cheat” with a recurring theme called Five Things, which was taken from another blogger who I accidentally stumbled upon while reading a ten year old blog post from Jeremy Cherfas2. By having a set weekly post type that is quite a bit different from the standard fare, there’s an opportunity to explore different writing styles, ideas that are still just early concepts, and maybe reduce the self-imposed burden of a daily release schedule.

However, when writer’s block hits, it hits hard. There are a lot of people that have either given up blogging or failed not start due to some type of writer’s block. When this hits me, I often write a meta post about not being able to write3. Unfortunately this can only be done once or twice before it’s clear that writing about writer’s block is no longer meta, but a recurring subject. So to keep things interesting, I wrote a bunch of “templates” that start with a question, then asks anywhere from two to five follow up questions. All in all, I have 38 of these templates ready to be called upon to help me break through the logjam that is writer’s block — or just creative exhaustion — and have used seven. Lots of these are vague enough that questions can be used again for future posts without coming across as a retread.

Here is one of my favourites:

What did you do as a child that you don’t do now?
⇢ When did you start?
⇢ How did you start?
⇢ Is there a specific memory that brings a smile to your face?
⇢ Why did you stop?

Silly as it may seem, these little templates have helped quite often, even when I don’t use them specifically to write a blog post.

This is how I write and publish a new post every day. It’s not always easy. There not always time. There is, however, always something that can be shared.

  1. Many of the posts I complete are never published. This is primarily because doing so would warrant the kind of attention I wish to avoid. Some things are better left unpublished.

  2. Rabbit holes can sometimes lead to some pretty interesting places. I encourage anyone looking for something wonderful and/or unexpected to follow links on blog posts just to see where they go and where they lead to next.

  3. This is not a meta post.