Card set prototype

Testing what a set of cards could look like in a post. I also tried a few in this week’s Sunday Journal.

This is a card with text content.

This is me writing some stuff. In the other slides, I drew some things. I whipped out the Wacom and
proceeded with what I usually do with the Wacom. I created trash drawings. Actually I think the composition
notebook is okay.

Something very profound.

I can write stray book highlights like this.

Trying to publish daily: Writing isn't intro

This is the intro for a series of posts about things I’ve learned while trying to publish daily. I’m experimenting with a board of post-its to organize my writing, inspired by Save the Cat. I intended for this to be the third part of a series of three posts, but I just kept adding post its and now it’s looking like 9 posts.

I’ve been trying to publish1 daily. My goal is to publish 100 posts in 20 weeks. Or was it 100 posts in 100 days. I flip flop between the two depending on how motivated I am meaning how much sleep I had the night before.

These posts about what what writing isn’t should be posts 28, 29, and 30. I wrote about writing when I was ten days in and twenty days in. Now I’m approaching 30 days in. One thing I learned: trying to write a lot leads to thinking about writing a lot which leads to writing about writing a lot. Not ideal, but it’s fine.

Even though I knew it might happen, I still mix up writing daily with publishing daily. Writing daily is straightforward. Open a notebook or doc and put words down. Publishing means the words will be public, so they should be revised to keep people from wasting time, and then there are logistics to it too.

Malcolm Gladwell sums this up:

Writing is not the time consuming part. It’s knowing what to write. It’s the thinking and the arranging and the interviewing and the researching and the organizing. That’s what takes time. Writing is blissful, I wish I could do it more.

I’m starting to understand. Writing and getting into some kind of flow is fun, but there’s a bunch of other stuff that’s part of the process and some that has to do with publishing. I’ll try writing about them here. Lately I’ve been thinking about finishing posts each day, instead of building up a backlog of sort of finished posts.

Here’s an outline of the this section, showing the next three posts I’ll write2 (and a preview of two more sections that I’m hoping will also be three posts each).

  • Section 1: Writing isn’t

    • Part of writing

      • Outlining

      • Playing with post-its (The Board)

      • Editing

    • Part of publishing

      • Adding excerpts

      • Adding links

      • Adding images

    • Not part of anything, but important

      • Thinking about what to write

      • Reading about writing

      • Tinkering

  • Section 2: Focus, Systems, and Routine

  • Section 3: Time, Location, Tools

  1. And daily I wonder if there’s a better word than “publish”, because I think of scientists who get published. It’s means something more than typing ‘jekyll build’ and uploading it somewhere.

  2. Maybe this can be a part of… is there a word for a novella-length non-fiction book? Non-fictionella. Or I guess some are called handbooks.

Design Sprints and The Board

One section in Save The Cat is called “Chairman of the Board” and talks about a screenwriting tool called “The Board”.

Have a great piece of dialogue? Write it on a card and stick it on The Board where you think it might go. Have an idea for a chase sequence? Deal up them cards and take a looksee. And talk about creating a pressure-free zone! No more blank pages. It’s all just little bitty index card-sized pages. And who can’t fill up an index card?

Thinking about a collection of cards sounds pretty close to the cliche UX portfolio image except with index cards instead of post-its. There’s plenty of creativity in UX, but designers follow some kind of process to their work. Design sprints break the design process down into steps that a team can follow to select an idea and prototype the solution to a problem. Each step acts like a function, something goes in and something else comes out based on the input.

  • Understand: Existing knowledge goes in and is appended to everyone’s knowledge

  • Diverge: Knowledge goes in and many ideas come out

  • Decide: Many ideas come in and the best one comes out

  • Prototype: A storyboard goes in and a clickable flow comes out

  • Test: A clickable flow goes in with users and valuable feedback comes out

I’ve participated in design sprints and used it as a process to follow on solo projects. I’ll be thinking about structure and process as I go along. It’d be good to have ideas broken up by how much time I’ll have for the day.

Each post can have one thought. That might be how I need to break things down. I’m going to try creating a board for some posts I’m writing to see how it goes. First, I need to finish reading this chapter.

All the books I've read this year

One of my 2016 resolutions is to read one book per week. I haven’t been pushing toward the goal explicitly but I read pretty much every day. We’re approaching the end of June so it’s a good time to go ahead and count my progress. I’ll be able to see if I should be more aggressive about this.

I reviewed my Kindle history and I think I got all the books so far here. On an episode of the Tim Ferriss podcast, Derek Sivers talks about his reading and his book notes. He talks about how books are filled with stories but if you trust someone enough and they’ve read the book you can probably get by with what they learned. So he has directives.

So here’s my list of books1 with a “Just tell me what to do” summary.

  • Happy Money: Spend money on experiences.

  • Miracle Morning for Writers: Write in the morning before you’re distracted.

  • Persistence in Writing: Don’t ignore physical and mental health.

  • Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh_t: Tell a story, no matter what genre you’re writing in.

  • Smarter Better Faster: Set stretch goals and use S.M.A.R.T. goals to reach them2.

  • Sleep Smarter: Work out in the morning and disconnect two hours before you want to sleep.

  • Simple and Sinister: Every day, do 10 sets of 10 swings, 10 total Turkish get-ups.

  • Anything You Want: Focus on helping people.

  • The Coaching Mindset: Ask good questions instead of giving ‘good’ advice.

  • The Serious Guide to Joke Writing: Consider other perspectives.

  • Effortless Reading: Cycle different types of books and you don’t need to finish them all.

Okay I’m going to do a separate post with the rest of the directives because it’s taking much longer than I expected. I keep going into my highlights to think of a good directive. Here’s the rest of the list, without directives.

  • Lifelong Writing Habit

  • Disrupt Yourself

  • Work the System

  • Nicely Said

  • Deep Work

  • On Writing Well

  • The Miracle of Morning Pages

  • The Coaching Habit

  • The Wild Diet

  • Apprenticeship Patterns

  • User Story Mapping

  • Triggers

  • The Choose Yourself Guide to Wealth

  • Non Obvious

  • 59 Seconds

  • Console Wars

  • Fiction

    • A Knight of Seven Kingdoms: All I learned is that I should tell everyone you know that watches Game of Thrones to read this book.

    • Star Wars — Heir to the Empire: Read more Star Wars books

  • Re-read3

    • The One Thing (re-read):

    • Smartcuts (re-read):

    • Masters of Doom (re-read):

    • War of Art (re-read):

  • Unfinished

    • Wireframing Essentials

    • About Face

    • Do More Great Work

  • Audiobook

    • The Magic of Thinking Big

    • Content Inc

    • Soft Skills

I read about 28 books. I’m on pace to finish 52 by the end of the year. I recently switched to fiction for nighttime reading so the list so that should be reflected in the list I write4 at the end of the year.

  1. I’d love to keep this list updated and add links to book notes that I write for any of them. I think I can write notes for 15 or so at least. Nearly all of them are heavily highlighted already.

  2. His examples in the appendix of how he used stretch and S.M.A.R.T. goals to write the book itself were so meta and so metal. So the appendix was my favorite part of the book.

  3. You can forget entire books given enough time (and that amount of time isn’t that long). There are books I remember enjoying but can’t recall specific passages. I’m going to try to re-read more books. For the rest of the year, I’ll try to re-read 4 books. To be determined. I’ll write a post once I decide the books I’m going to re-read. Obstacle is the Way is on that list.

  4. If this 100 day project doesn’t drive me to some point where I’m fed up with writing and shun it forever or for months.

Twenty days in

Okay so I’m twenty days into this project. Twenty posts looks like a lot more than then. Like it’s starting to look like a project instead of something I sort of am thinking about doing. Here are some unorganized thoughts.

  • I planned to have themes for every two weeks (ten posts). It ends up feeling like a stretch for certain topics1, so I’ll continue with trying to have themes but will shoot for five posts.

  • I want to start doing more deliberate practice through some writing exercises. Maybe I’ll type out articles I enjoy, like *Hunter S. Thompson typing out *The Great Gatsby. Except it’ll be me re-typing Grantland (RIP) articles.

  • People use the Seinfeld example so often to talk about persistence and habits. Just a pet peeve to see because he never said it. I like the sentiment around it, but I end up questioning accuracy of other stories in a book when that is passed off as fact.

  • I’m trying to post daily, not just write daily. I’m getting better at estimating how long it will take. Grabbing excerpts and organizing things takes longer than I expect.

  • I’m trying different systems and they all work, some better than others. It might be worth tracking what system I used for each post, but I’m worried about going down a quantified rabbit hole.

  • I haven’t told many people about this project at all. I’m posting by finalizing things in a local Jekyll instance. I haven’t been syncing it daily. I imagine I’ll just post them all when I get to #50 or maybe even just the very end.

  • Jekyll gives me the urge to re-check previous posts to make sure they built properly. There’s an argument for using WordPress. I’ll write a few posts about the logistics of all this.

  • Then again, I’m figuring out a pretty good system for Docs and Jekyll. I can just type the Markdown in Google Docs, making sure to use > to mark excerpts and using the <http://> Markdown shortcut to quickly mark TK’s. (They’ll show up as broken links in Jekyll so I spot them quickly.)

  • If there’s a system I need, I think it’d be to somehow have an ongoing list of things to look up when I have free time. Like here’s a list of things. Find matching sources. Find an excerpt. Find the corresponding image. Then they’d update live in the Google Doc.

  • I’m planning to continue to 100 posts. Only 1/5th of the way there and I’ve felt like stopping more than I would’ve thought. But I want to see this through. Something good will come of it. I know it. I mean, I’ll learn something. Even if I end up learning that writing for 100 days straight isn’t very useful. I’ll at least have some ideas for a better way to approach learning to write.

  • Some resources I’ve enjoyed: The Tim Ferriss podcast (an episode inspired me to kick off this project, so it’s always top of mind), I’d Rather be Writing (I graduated from a human-centered design program that was previously a technical communication program. A technical writing blog is really interesting and seeing an acronym like DITA gives me PTSD except instead of intense flashbacks I get flashbacks of intense boredom. His blog about technical writing is more interesting than reading documentation, I promise.), Reddit /r/writing but then I end up looking at a bunch of Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire stuff.

  • Writing seems like it’s mostly learning to not be distracted.

  1. This doesn’t bode well for any book-writing aspirations. But, hey.