30 Days to Better Writing
is was a course by Sean McCabe of seanwes.
Update 2022: Sean McCabe has taken the course down and disappeared. I could not complete it in time to get a full set of notes. RIP.
The course objective is to build a writing habit in 30 days of consecutive daily writing.
Each day, Sean includes tips and advice, and optional writing prompts.
I’ve gone through this multiple times and enjoyed it every time.
I am taking and sharing my notes this time to help me internalize them.
Day 1 Stats
- Word Count: 1270
- Comments: Was a good brain dump. Got out lots of ideas I can build upon and act on. Mostly for the day job.
Any ideas we don’t write down will die when we die.
Writing something down increases the likelihood of it happening.
Writing is the starting point of all other mediums
- Podcasts, etc
It all starts with writing.
Writing is a skill that can be developed, and one of the most important skills available to humans.
If the best athletes train daily to improve their abilities, so should writers.
If you’re not good at writing now, that’s okay. You can learn.
Anything you care about and want to improve at must be practiced daily.
You don’t have to publish daily. You don’t have to share everything you write. But you must write.
- clears your mind
- improves your speaking
- improves how people see you
- can grow your audience
- can put your name on the map
Commit to writing daily. It must be scheduled.
Chain writing to another habit.
Example: After waking up, make coffee. Once coffee is ready, sit down and write.
Sean suggests starting for 20 minutes per day.
Set goals as time instead of word count.
It doesn’t need to be perfect. Don’t worry about spelling or grammar or anything else.
Set a timer for 20 minutes and write until it goes off.
Sean offers the following writing prompts:
- What made you enroll in this course?
- What are 3 ways you think writing will benefit you?
- What are you afraid of when it comes to writing?
- What sacrifices will you have to make in order to carve out half an hour a day for writing?
Day 2 Stats
- Word Count: 1226
- Comments: Another good stream of consciousness…did some planning and got some clarity. Used the writing prompts.
Getting started is the hardest part…but once you get started it’s easy to keep going.
One problem is that you don’t schedule the writing, which gives you the “freedom” to put it off.
Also schedule the end…the limited time helps.
Too many options, too much time, and too much freedom will paralyze you.
Don’t worry about the first words being the right words. They won’t be.
Write all of the words, right and wrong. Delete the wrong words later.
You can’t edit what you haven’t written.
Start with stream of consciousness writing: write down every thought.
This bridges the connection between your mind, fingers, keyboard, and document.
Don’t worry about whether or not it makes sense. It doesn’t matter if it’s relevant.
Sean’s writing prompts for the day:
- What is one of your favorite things to do outside of work when you have free time?
- What do you enjoy most about this activity?
- Why have you not dedicated more time to this activity?
- Do you think that’s a good excuse?
- What do you propose to do differently or sacrifice so that you can spend more time doing the things you enjoy?
Day 3 Stats
- Word Count: ~250
- Comments: Wrote significantly less today BUT that’s because instead of stream of consciousness writing and/or following prompts, I decided I needed to get some rough outlines of my processes down. This is a very important task I’ve been putting off for some time.
Start your day with writing.
Plan your topic for tomorrow, the night before.
You won’t have to waste time trying to figure out what to write about.
Your brain will get started processing the topic.
Getting your writing done first thing means you’re coming off the charge of sleep.
Kind of like what Mark Twain (I think?) said about eating the biggest frog first.
This also reminds me of something Sean said a while back…what you do first in the day shows your priorities.
If you save writing as the last thing, you’re setting it as a low priority.
But this is 30 Days To Better Writing, so obviously we’re making writing the priority.
Sean recommends waking up early.
I don’t agree that is the key…as Tim Ferriss says in his book Tools of the Titans (BJ Novak chapter), “For lifelong night owls like me, it’s nice to know that when you get started each day seems to matter less than learning how to get started consistently, however your crazy ass can manage it.”
I have found that I do my best writing first thing in the day, and in an interruption-free setting.
It doesn’t matter if that’s at 6 AM or 9 AM, as long as it’s first and distraction free.
YMMV; it’s up to you to figure out what works best for you.
Sean was able to write millions of words in a year “with a daily commitment and a decision to maximize my output by writing at the most productive time.”
Don’t shortchange yourself by writing at a time where you write less!
Here’s my steps to figure out when you write better, adapted from Sean’s advice:
- Write whenever you want for 7 days straight.
- Log your output — time spent and words written.
- Commit to waking early for just one week.
- Write as the first thing you do in the morning.
- Log your output.
- Do the same for writing at various other times of the day.
- Compare your results.
Included writing prompts:
- Write about how much you hate waking up early.
- Write about your plan to start waking up early.
- Write about the benefits you’ve seen from waking up early.
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