Writing isn't: Sort of writing

This is the first part of a series of posts about trying to publish daily. Check out the intro. For the first section of the series, I’m writing about things that aren’t exactly sitting down and adding words to something.

We moved a lot when I was a kid1. Even after moving to a different base, we would still move a few times within that stay. When first arriving, we stayed for a few weeks at a Navy Lodge until we found a house off base. We would stay at that house off base for a few months until we got to the top of the waiting list for a house on base.

These things aren’t quite sitting there churning out words. I consider these sort of like writing because things are moving out of your head to a paper or a screen.


I love outlining. It’s important to have something to follow to avoid thinking about what to write. Just fill in the blanks. Words are going down and you can feel like celebrating something incomplete. When trying to publish daily, though, it’s easy to outline without thinking about how long it will take to fill those blanks in. The time block ends and the outline does history’s mildest Mr. Hyde impression, transforming from an encouraging tree of ideas to an unfinished todo list2.

Playing with post-its (The Board)

This series of posts on writing is my first experiment with “The Board”3, a tool Blake Snyder explains in Save the Cat:

The Board is a way for you to “see” your movie before you start writing. It is a way to easily test different scenes, story arcs, ideas, bits of dialogue and story rhythms, and decide whether they work — or if they just plain suck.

He’s right, it is fun. It’s offline. I love moving post-its around4. It’s good to have structure to follow and, again, fill in the blanks. It really is another form of outlining, except it has a little more spatial awareness. And there’s less temptation to start writing anything of length5, because you can’t fit much on a post-it note.

Blake Snyder describes the board as a waste of time, knowing it can be a distraction. He’s half joking and explains that the board is a good distraction: you need time away from your writing for thoughts to brew.


To write anything good, editing becomes more important than getting the first draft down. But you can skip revising and still have something to publish. I set time aside each day to write but I still don’t set aside enough time to revise and finish posts. Revising and editing will help me get from writing bad posts to writing posts that aren’t bad6. Then comes trial and error to figure out what animal to sacrifice7 to get to good.

Someday I’ll have darlings to kill. In the meantime I’ll take be taking these garbage bags out back. My first form is a trash compactor. A programmer considers deleting a bunch of code a good day. It signals they’ve found a better way to do something8. Finding a precise word to replace four probably gives writers the same pleasure.

And on and on

I moved a lot as an adult. After moving to New York, I stayed for a couple nights at a friend’s place. Then a few days at an Airbnb, and another Airbnb. Then I moved to a one-month sublet. Then to another one-month sublet. Then to a nine-month sublet. And then to my current apartment, where I’m likely to renew for a 4th year. Things feel pretty good here.

Words and thoughts move more easily at the start9.

  1. I can’t assume anyone reading any one post will know anything about me, so I’m probably going to repeat this often.

  2. I guess most todo lists are unfinished.

  3. My girlfriend asked if people think others would think the board is weird. I’m at The Bean right now where I’ve seen people jamming on Korg controllers. High bar for weirdness here.

  4. UX designers do this to get good shots for their portfolios. Now I’m half joking.

  5. Outlining in Google Docs usually ends up being half outlining and half writing. No half measures

  6. Or going from two crappy pages to half of a decent page.

  7. Watch out for my book notes on The Lean Sacrifice in 2019.

  8. There’s gotta be some kind of articles talking about writing and programming and the similarities.

  9. I like the metaphor and can’t wait for the day that I can write about it elegantly. I’ll try again in a few months and hopefully again in a few years.