Writing isn't: Those other things

This is the third 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.

These things aren’t putting words to paper at all — but they’re probably more important.

Thinking about what to write

In the intro to this series of posts, I mentioned Gladwell saying that writing is the blissful part. And it isn’t the bulk of it.

For every hour I spend writing, I spend three hours thinking about what I’m writing.

It’s safe to say Malcolm Gladwell is more thoughtful about his writing than I am. But we already knew that. Still, I spend time thinking about what to write. Right now, that means thinking about writing about writing. He discusses his time at the Washington Post and Tim Ferriss mentions that journalists are different beasts. Gladwell says he doesn’t really have writer’s block (“working at a newspaper cures you quickly”).

All the thinking means that he can sit down to organized blanks left to fill in:

I know what I’m doing before I start.

I don’t know what I’m doing even after I end.

Reading about writing

It feels so productive. I get motivated hearing other writers say that they don’t wait to feel motivated.

I’ve been reading about writing. I’m not the first person (or millionth) trying to increase the amount of writing I produce. I’ve read books pretty specifically about increasing daily word counts. I’m not trying to reach a specific word count. Doing things like dictating gives me a nearly impossible block of words to edit. I think it might be worth practicing.

I’ve been reading about establishing writing habits. They partly overlap with general productivity books. I’ve read a lot of those. They’re useful for this current project, because I am establishing a habit of publishing daily. There’s usually a really good tip or two.

I’ve read books about improving writing quality. I’ll continue finding and reading them. More importantly, I need to deliberately practice1 writing.

Listening to things about writing

Podcasts make it possible to listen to multiple interviews with people I admire. A lot of them are writers. Many writers are happy to share their knowledge. Hearing about their morning routines is helpful. Both for inspiration and for thinking about how to apply their experience to my own process.

They rarely talk about the words themselves. Yes, it’s something that’s not writing which helps me improve in things that are also not writing. But that will help me as a writer. Please don’t take this paragraph as evidence.


I know how to make websites. I’ve programmed for a living. I design web apps for a living. I have a handle on what’s under the hood of this blog. So I’m tempted to tinker. If something doesn’t look right, I want to fix it immediately. That means opening a black hole of code and losing somewhere between 5 minutes and 5 hours2.

Maybe it’s like trying to be a writer in 1930 who’s also a typewriter technician and who happens to know how to adjust the printing press. The distraction isn’t quite as romantic as these old world tools, but the solution is the same: sit down and write. And stay away from those tools.

  1. After typing these words, I looked up a bunch of links about deliberate practice and writing. Hey, that sounds like a post idea.

  2. I usually set a timer when writing, but It’d be good to set a timer if I’m about to tinker. Time can fly when changing HTML/CSS or writing shell scripts trying to automate things. It can be rewarding, but sometimes it isn’t worth the lost time.