On Writing for Casual Kitchen, Part 2: Keeping Track

This is an off-topic post discussing my approach to writing for Casual Kitchen. If you haven't already, please take a look at Part 1.
The 30 Minute Method:
1) Set a goal of spending a minimum of 30 minutes each day writing content.
2) Keep track of the days you meet and miss this goal.

Last week we went over Part 1 of The 30 Minute Method. Today, we move on to Part 2: Keeping Track.

I'll admit up front that suggesting that you keep track of the days you write and don't write might seem a bit condescending, perhaps even insulting. Please don't take it that way. This part of the process is really about keeping track of your performance and conditioning yourself to observe that performance without negative judgment.

This is what really holds The 30 Minute Method together. Let me explain.

What Gets Measured Gets Done
There's a great expression from the business world that applies perfectly here: what gets measured gets done. The corollary to this expression is: if you aren't measuring, then you can't know if you are improving.

Are you writing more consistently this month compared to last month? How about this year compared to last year? Do the habits and patterns in your daily life lend themselves to you building a consistent writing habit, or do you need to make some changes in order to reach this goal?

Understand that you can't possibly know the answer to any of these questions unless you keep track of the days you write.

Eprintable.com Calendars
How should you keep track? Fortunately, this is the easy part. Print out a one-page, full-year calendar (you can get a free one at eprintable.com) and keep it next to your computer. I put an X in that day's box on the days where I meet or exceed the 30 minute minimum. If I miss a day, I'll leave that day blank on the calendar.

Once again, let me reiterate: Do this as best you can without negative self-judgment. Your goal is not to berate yourself for missing a few days here and there. Your goal is simply to track the data series so you can observe the consistency of your writing.

Now, let's talk about the benefits of this process.

Scooby Snacks and Streaks
I'd love to go on and on about how satisfied you should be with the simple ritual of marking an X in a box at the end of your daily writing session. If putting a lousy X in a box--the psychological equivalent of a Scooby snack--is all it takes to motivate you, you are truly lucky.

But what is highly motivating is getting a long streak of X's going--not only is it satisfying to look back on all the steady effort, but after six or seven days of X's, you simply aren't going to want to break that streak. For example, I finished the entire month of May with only three blank days, and recently I had a streak of going 30 days without a blank day. You had better believe I'm not going to miss the 31st day.

Let me summarize: This process is all about consistent effort and dispassionate measurement of that effort. Those two factors are crucial inputs that drive your writing output. The 30 Minute Method is simply a basic measurement and documentation tool to help you build that habit of consistency--without negative self-judgment.

Give The 30 Minute Method a try for a few weeks and you might surprise yourself with significant increases in your writing output.

Final Thoughts
Let me leave you with a few final words of encouragement. It's not easy getting up the energy, the inspiration and the motivation to write. And this can be especially true if you're just starting out in your blogging efforts--it's easy to feel like nobody reads you, and nothing you write matters.

If you start thinking about this too much, it becomes easy for procrastination, emotional baggage, or plain old discouragement to drag you down. So, I'll say it again: don't think so much. Instead, concentrate on discipline and do your best to develop habits like The 30 Minute Method that will help you write consistently. You'll get there.

And those of you out there who have considered starting a blog, or have an urge to try your hand at writing, do it! What have you got to lose? I cannot say enough about how much I've learned, and how satisfying it has been, to create this little corner of the blogosphere with my own hands. You can do the same.

Related Links:
There are lots of blogs out there geared toward helping you write. Here are a few sources of advice and information that I've found particularly helpful:
1) Copyblogger: Particularly useful for making your writing more attention-grabbing. See for example the series on writing headlines.
2) Write to Done
: A blog by the founder of Zen Habits. Great advice on many areas of writing and blogging.
3) The Simple Dollar has a great series on how to build a better blog.
4) A Whack on the Side of the Head by Roger von Oech is one of the more highly-regarded books on how to maximize your creativity.

Related Posts:
On Writing for Casual Kitchen


Anonymous said...

If you'd rather keep track online than on paper, I'd also suggest http://dontbreakthechain.com/ which can be added as a widget on your google homepage. That's how I keep track of my writing days.

Daniel said...

Excellent idea, thank you Rete!


Jessica said...

Excellent suggestions! I'm new to this and was having a difficult time stringing days together ... definitely will use this suggestion but probably by adding check marks into my weekly calendar. Definitely enjoy the tips on your blog!

Daniel said...

Hi Jessica,
I'm glad the tips have been helpful to you--that's what I want to hear. Best of luck to you and thanks for the feedback!