I have wanted to be a good non-fiction writer since I was 21. I don’t enjoy the writing process itself. Nor do I aspire to reach the heights of storytelling like Malcolm Gladwell or Michael Lewis. Rather, I want to improve my clarity and expression of ideas. These days the ability to write down one’s ideas is a standout and rare skill. As Jordan Peterson said, “The primary reason to write an essay is so that the writer can formulate and organize an informed, coherent and sophisticated set of ideas about something important.“ I have a lot of ideas I want to share and writing is a powerful vehicle for spreading ideas.
I have a new plan to master writing and publishing after a year of silence. Last year, I set a 30 day writing challenge to publish a daily new post. It was really challenging, but I did it. I was frustrated though that I found myself often writing and revising my posts in 30 minutes or less. It was not very sustainable. This year, I aim to work smart to overcome the past limitations with an emphasis on improving my process of writing.
Time and energy are a limited resource at the monastery. My days are regimented from 4:30 AM to 9 PM with a two and half hour break in the afternoon. Often, I find myself working during those times too. By the time, I begin writing in the afternoon, I’m drained from already spending ten hours of doing my best work.
I plan to do more writing starting in October. This is my second October writing challenge. First, I am going to start slow and gradually do more. I’m aiming for quality over quantity. I’ll start by committing to a monthly review of how the past month went and what the next month holds. I’ll track a few areas including the Monastic Academy, meditation, circling, general life attitude/psychology shifts, progression on habits/commitments, and so on. I haven’t finalized the categories. I feel cautious about how much I want to share publicly. What’s off limits? Is it okay to name other people? It’s a continuous not knowing. Eventually, I want to include long-form essays as well as more open, vulnerable posts that aren’t polished. A mixture between essays and more journal-like entries.
HOW & TOOLS
I’m following a cue from Sebastian Marshall and using the classic writing system method outlined in Extreme Productivity of separating the writing process into brainstorm, categorizing, outline, writing, editing, and publishing. I’ll also utilize Jordan Peterson’s template on writing essays.
To counteract the low energy of afternoon free time, I’ve decided to automatically go take a 20 minute nap at the very beginning of free time no matter what. I use AutoHotKey Windows program to automate setting up a WorkCycle: it launches productivity music, sets a 25 minute counter, and opens my work tracking spreadsheet. I also use ColdTurkey Writer for brainstorming when I want to write minimum 700 words and can’t do anything else.
Finally, I’m looking for writing accountability feedback partners, clear rewards/celebration for success, and clear penalties for failure. Last year, committing to donate money to my least favorite politician always motivated me enough to publish something. That was a good stick approach. But I want to add a carrot, a reason to look forward to publishing these posts. I’m also looking for more accountability and feedback partners.
So, I’ll publish a monthly review soon reviewing September and commit to doing that until at least January. Then, I’ll begin writing more regular well written pieces.
I encourage you to follow me on my writing journey and contemplate writing more as well.