I’m writing this longhand at Dunkin Donuts. I’m still a little jetlagged. Actually I’m probably a lot jet lagged. But I’m also resigned to the fact that I’m flying back to Pacific Time (Seattle) in a few days and it might be better to just stay adjusted to this current pattern.
I was just going to get a drink but on the way out I grabbed my notebook. I thought it might be good to try writing at Dunkin Donuts. Bill Simmons has mentioned that he wrote a lot of his old posts longhand at Dunkin Donuts. And he’s known for very high word counts so he was spending good time at Dunkin Donuts. Why not try it out?
Then I was immediately reminded of a podcast Seth Godin appeared on1. Someone asks what his routine is for writing daily. He says something along the lines of: you can ask the best writer in the world what pen they use but that’s beside the point. The best thing for someone else won’t be the best thing for you. (He does say he writes right in Typepad.)
That said, I’m trying to figure out what exactly works best for me. Which means trying out a few different things. So longhand at Dunkin Donuts it is. For this morning at least.
There are some good things. Being at a coffee place keeps me mindful that I came to write. Where at home I’m mindful of all the other things I could be eating, watching, or cleaning. There are a few other coffee shops in the immediate radius of my apartment. Good wifi isn’t necessary (if I’m continuing with the longhand experiment), so that adds more flexibility2.
I think I can try writing longhand for an hour and then type and edit for an hour. Though I know two hour blocks are a little unrealistic to plan for. Maybe 45 minutes and 45 minutes3? Also, I had plans to write about Japan this morning but now I’ve mostly written about writing. I’ll continue the Japan posts tomorrow. At this rate, I’ll pretty much only write about the writing itself. Which might not be entirely a bad thing. Just mostly bad.
While lying in bed this morning I was thinking about how I could go back to sleep. I did the exact worst thing and checked my phone. I had some tabs still open from last night to, again, some Seth Godin posts and James Clear posts. (Both current inspirations for building up a habit of publishing consistently.)
One of them had a Lorne Michaels quote from a Harvard Business Review interview:
What’s the secret to being creative on a deadline?
Knowing the deadline is real. That focuses people’s thinking. We don’t go on because we’re ready. We go on because it’s 11:30. There’s no getting out of it.
I don’t post because it’s ready. I post because it’s _______. I need to create a deadline for myself so that I can fill in that blank. Something important from that quote is knowing the deadline is real.
Creativity can flourish with constraints. But it’s better if those constraints are real. I can give myself all sorts of fake deadlines. And I have. But nobody is keeping me accountable. I don’t think I can get an NBC show to write for so I’ll have to do some thinking about how to create more real deadlines. I might try emailing drafts of posts to a friend every day.
Until I have anything resembling a readership, having one single person expecting this might be real enough.
I realized in earlier posts that looking up excerpts and links adds a _lot_ of friction when initially writing. Maybe I can just have a list of links and excerpts to look up later and have a weekly round up? That’s a little lazy but if it’s the difference between posting daily and not, then I’ll go with it. ↩
“coffee wifi” is one of my favorite suggested Yelp searches. Lots of places in New York don’t have wifi or have no-laptop seats and things like that. ↩
Update after typing this up: I set a timer for 25 minutes and was able to type the page up with a few edits. Maybe I can get it to something like 40 minutes longhand and 20 minutes typing. Also, this post length represents two longhand pages. Good to know. ↩