Today marks the 1000th consecutive day of my daily writing practice (some people would call it 'journaling'). I haven't missed a single day (sometimes it was close, though).
I'm really excited that I've been able to reach this milestone. In this blog post, I'd like to share with you why this writing practice means so much to me, how I managed to actually stick with it daily, and how you can do the same (if you choose to do so).
In late 2014, Leo Babauta - the author of Zen Habits - announced Kickstarter for his new book, aptly captioned "A book about mastering the art of change". Since I've wanted to do some changes in my life for a long time, it was a no-brainer to chip in. I started reading the book around New Years, and I felt like it's truly opening my eyes. He laid out a clear system how to make a habit, any habit, stick.
Fast forward to February 9, 2015. With all the learnings from the book and with my determination, I decided to give the daily writing practice (which is something I'd wanted to do for a long time) a go. I thought I'll do it for a week to see how it goes and if it's worth continuing with. I remember turning on the 5-minutes timer for the very first time and writing down a few (somewhat awkward) sentences. It was odd, but very exciting. The start of something new.
While it felt a bit weird for the first few days, it quickly grew on me. After a few weeks, I started realizing the huge positive effects of it and I got into my head that I want to keep doing this long-term. At 100 days, I thought it was a good opportunity to write a blog post about it. Didn't happen. I thought I'll do it at 500, that felt like a good milestone. Didn't happen either. But as the 1000 was approaching, I knew that's the time to write it. That's as good of a milestone as it gets.
What does it mean to 'write daily'?
My writing practice is very simple. It evolved over time, but at the essence, it's a 'stream of consciousness'. I literally write about what comes to my mind. The trick here is that by writing the thoughts down, putting them into words and sentences, it forces you to give them structure. By continually writing without long pauses, it also forces you to come up with thoughts that can be written down. And since you can write much slower than you can think, the resulting writing is more streamlined than thoughts in your mind, which can easily jump from one to another.
How the hell did I manage to stick with it for 1000 days?
I attribute it to two things: First, the tremendous book from Leo Babauta that I mentioned earlier. I'm absolutely positive that this wouldn't have happened without it. Seriously, if you want to do a change in your life and you're really serious about it, read his book.
Second, it's the strict following of a few simple but absolutely non-negotionable and crucial rules:
- each writing takes at least 10 minutes
- I write every day, with zero exceptions
That's it. Simple, right? I originally started with 5 minutes to make it easy on me, but I found that 10 minutes is the perfect minimal duration. As for the 'every day' rule - in theory, missing a day doesn't sound like that big of a deal. The problem is what happens then. From missing one day, it's very easy to miss two. Then three. And before you know it, you've stopped entirely. It certainly happened to me with many other things that I attempted to do daily.
These two rules combined with the determination were enough to make it work. Well, almost. Equally important is what you get when you inverse these rules - it's actually very loose and easy:
- you can write about anything that comes to your mind
- forget about quality of the writing, literally anything goes
- just sitting down and writing for 10 minutes doesn't take that much effort
- since it doesn't take that much effort, you don't need to be overcoming strong resistance to do it
For me, following these rules in practice means that most of these writings aren't that great. Often times, I talk about basic stuff which lacks any deeper meaning. And you know what? That's completely fine. Because then there are days when I get great ideas and it feels great to write them down.
Capturing ideas is just a small portion of it though, which brings me to the next section:
The benefits of writing every day
The goal isn't to write something deep, the goal is to write out what's on your mind and help you make sense of it. The goal is to connect more with yourself, with your thoughts and feelings.
For me personally, the benefits are that even when I'm feeling down, writing about it and sorting through it helps me find new perspective and feel better.
When I feel overwhelmed, writing helps me figure out what's actually important, what should I prioritize and what can be done later.
When I feel stressed, writing helps me really go through what's causing that, and coming up with rational reasons why it'll be ok helps me alleviate that stress.
When I feel inspired, I can investigate and go deep on those thoughts and ideas, and since it's in writing I can then return to the 'train of thought' later.
When I feel like not really writing that day and like I don't have anything to say, I force myself to do it and almost every time it turns out better than I expected.
More importantly, writing every day like this helps me feel better and keep my head above the water. Be more in sync with myself, because I'm not burying those thoughts, feelings and emotions. I am putting them out on paper. I'm investigating them and pondering about them. It's very therapeutical.
Ok, it's 11pm, I need to wrap this up. If I'm to be completely honest, I wasn't feeling that great today and I almost ended up not writing this article. It took a lot of forcing myself into it. Now, I'm glad I did it. As usual, the quality will be poor, but I'm still glad this article gets to exists.
To wrap it up, I'd like to say that I'm eternally grateful for this practice and for the profound positive impact that it had and keeps having on my life. I'd strongly recommend this to anyone who at least remotely enjoys writing. Cheers!