I’ve been struggling with sustaining a writing habit. Not that I haven’t written anything yet, but I’m finding it hard to do it consistently.
Consistency is something that I know is important. I want to write more, something, anything. Whenever I do, I like it. But I’m not consistent with it.
One of the main reasons is that I don’t get instant gratification from it. I know that it’s a long game and that I have to go at it consistently for a long time to be great at it. But still, my mind is like, no, give me instant results. So I end up doing something else. And it’s really hard to compete with Netflix. Like anything you do, that is competing with an episode of Netflix.
After some reflection, here’s my breakdown of what’s stopping me:
I feel a burden of having takeaways from what I put out.
This is a self-imposed thing. Or maybe a side-effect of social media consumption. I’ll be mindful of this now and write what I truly care about. Everything is a remix, anyway!
The open-endedness of it all. It’s overwhelming.
I can write about anything. And that leads me to analysis-paralysis. I’ll add some constraints and see how it goes.
I’m not having fun.
It feels like work as of now. I’ll try adding some playful elements to my writing.
The best thing that has worked for me is doing it with a group and having a deadline. Like in college, I used to attend a lot of hackathons. A deadline forces you to do deep work. Say I want to learn guitar or sketching. I know I can do it. It’s not rocket science. If I sit down, I’ll make something in a few hours. I’m also aware of the process, i.e. whatever output I have today, will not be my best. Theory-wise, I’m sorted. But now comes the hard part.
I have been doing a podcast where we have released 20+ episodes in the last 7-8 months. And this is one of the most consistent things that I have done. I would attribute it solely to it being a group thing. If someone is not feeling good, the other person can jump in and then push for it to keep the ball rolling. If I was doing it alone, I’m sure I wouldn’t come this far. Another thing that is working out is we do it with no commitment. I didn’t commit to doing it every week or a minimum number of episodes. As of today also, there’s no obligation to record the next episode. We can stop doing it whenever we want. Zero expectations. No pressure. Being clear with myself that I don’t need to be a master in this is freeing.
If I go back and listen to episode number one or two, I can see the difference. I’m more comfortable talking now. It takes time to acquire skills. You cannot just wake up and learn everything in one day. Polishing comes with repetition which is why I want to develop a writing habit.
In guitar or in sketching or anything, it takes a considerable amount of effort to enjoy it. You have to put in a lot of effort, like two, three years of effort after that, you will be able to truly enjoy it. I can relate this to programming. When you start out, you can’t build anything. But once you have 3-4 years of experience, it becomes art. If you want to build something, then it’s like a puzzle. You just start, you are like solving a puzzle.
I don’t want to commit to writing fiction right now. First I want to get back into the writing schedule, consistently producing something every week or so. If I directly go back into writing fiction, then I know as of today, I’ll not be able to sustain it. And it adds against me because I’ll feel like I started something, but I was not able to do it. So yeah, in the long run, it adds a negative thing to my psyche. So I’ll first try to get into a writing habit and then I’ll resume some of my writings or maybe I’ll start something new.
Leaving things in between might make you feel that you have failed. But you can look through a new lens: Hey, you’re not committing to becoming a master. You’re just saying you will be consistent at it for one week. You’ll just put one thing out or maybe you don’t want to put it out. You’ll just finish one thing. It could be for your eyes only, that’s also fine, but I think the core structural aspects of having social accountability as well as a fixed deadline works wonders.
So here’s how I plan to do it for the long run:
I’ll just take it one week at a time. It’s a very small goal - write one piece (like Luffy, I don’t wanna conquer anything). So I’ll not commit to more than one week. Not one day. Not one month. Goldilocks has become a design pattern for me. I use it everywhere.
I’ll do it with some of my friends. I know this accountability will help me get to the point where I’m writing weekly. Like a gym, you’re more likely to do it if you know someone is waiting for you. You want to uphold your promise.
I’ll write what I love and am curious about.
I’ve solved this for myself in the reading domain. Now I’ll give a shot to at writing. And it could very well be the case that it doesn’t work. It doesn’t need to. Life’s too short to spend time on things I know I’m not enjoying.