“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” — Stephen King in On Writing
In 2016, I followed this advice. I wrote a lot1. I read a lot2. He’s right, my writing improved. I’m horribly aware that I’m still not a good writer. I’m becoming disciplined, though. I can sit down and write. It’s like getting to the battle in the first place. Good enough for Joaquin, good enough for me.
Here’s a recap of my writing in 2016, month to month.
January: I had a mailing list for design sprints and sent out a couple newsletters. I was inspired by Julie Zhuo’s Write in 2016. The first one captures why I wanted to write so much this year. I already wrote regularly—and privately. My goal was to publish in 2016.
The second had links to things organized under headings reflecting the design sprint process.
I stopped because my days are filled with design and I didn’t want to try filling every nook of free time with it either. It also took forever to edit, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to edit after sending to subscribers. Unsurprisingly, in re-reading these newsletter issues I’ve found they’re better than most of the stuff that I’ve written lately. Likely because they’re more focused and I spent more time editing.
February, March, April: I was writing things here and there. Mostly I tinkered with a web app that cycles through my book highlights on an interval timer and lets me free write thoughts about that highlight. A lot of time went into this so it might be worth revisiting. Or at least sharing screenshots. It was a good way to get into a flow state but probably not worth the sheer number of hours3 I was spending here when I could’ve got 80% of the effectiveness with separate tools.
May: I started my goal to write 100 posts in 100 days. Then I went to Japan for two weeks and didn’t post. It was like spotting The Resistance a couple touchdowns. Traveling to Japan gave me plenty to write abou—like getting to see the Ricochet vs. Will Ospreay match.
June: I tried out different writing systems and learning what worked for me. I tried timing things, using different text editors, different pens and notebooks, and whatever other tools were out there. Just about every week I decided I found the absolute best method possible and the search could end.
July: The dust settled on my system and I was mostly writing in Google Docs and converting them to Markdown for a Jekyll blog. (The end result can still be seen if you hit index.html directly.) I outlined some posts and actually actually went through editing and revision for some posts.
August: My deadline for 100 days was in August. Over the course of the previous two months, there were a bunch of unfinished drafts. I also had posts I wanted to close out with that seemed important in my mind. I mostly just finished the unfinished drafts. Then I never got around to the ‘important’ posts.
September: I took a few weeks off posting, then I tried daily posts for a few days. Some just had a few pictures. And it wasn’t like it was a profound image or anything. (This Mise En Place post was okay though.) Oh yeah, and I moved things from Jekyll to WordPress, here’s why.
October: Make, Show, Learn. I bought an iPad and started drawing. I started writing weekly posts to track my learning progress with the idea that I’d also do a weekly video. I got away from that. I’m not exactly sure why and I’ll re-evaluate soon. Making short videos still seems very much worth putting effort toward.
November: More weekly posts and I think I had some good things going here. Particularly the Michael Jordan to Gucci Mane sequence. These posts were taking multiple hours to put together. Though I think they were the most fun I was having with my writing this year. And fun is something I should prioritize heavily considering this is a side project that I want to be sustainable.
December: Continued with weekly posts but I also broke topics into standalone posts. This let me create single posts from book notes instead of having them as sections in the weekly post. For example, here’s one for Tools of Titans.
I like where I’ve landed in December and I’m going to continue with this in 2017. I haven’t shared my work beyond like a dozen close friends, so my entire readership is 3-4 of them.
2016 was a year of finishing and posting my writing. 2017 will be my year of sharing more effectively4. I’ll have to learn some promotion. But I’ll also keep doing what’s been working: reading a lot and writing a lot.
- Compared to previous versions of myself, not compared to Stephen King. He likely deleted more words this morning than I wrote this year. ↩︎
- Again, compared to previous versions of myself. Some people read a book a day. ↩︎
- I’m going to re-read Show Your Work in search of sharing ideas. ↩︎