Tomorrow I'll start year 7.
EDIT: Coincidentally, after writing this post, Glenn Leibowitz's podcast, Write With Impact, posted its interview, "Joshua Spodek's Strategy for Developing a Daily Writing Habit," which covered similar ground as this article. I recommend listening to it.
- 2,191 days
- 2,461 posts (I wrote more than one post per day sometimes)
I estimate about 2 hours writing time and 1,000 words per post, or
- 4,922 hours, or 205 days, spent writing
- 2,461,000 words
If you care about the 10,000 hour rule, I'm about halfway there.
What's the point?
Why write daily? My top reasons, in increasing order of importance, are
- Improving my writing and thinking
- Developing discipline and diligence
- Knowing my values and acting on them
- Learning skills
Improving my writing and thinking
My most immediate benefit is improving my writing, which means improving my thinking and expression.
My book, Leadership Step by Step, comes out next month. Its blurbs--from luminaries like Dan Pink, Marshall Goldsmith, Seth Godin, Frances Hesselbein, professors from Harvard, Columbia, NYU, a 4-star General, and more--suggest my writing isn't bad.
My friends who read my first attempts at writing my book, years ago, struggled to tell me how unreadable it was, so I wasn't born with engaging writing.
When I applied to write at Inc.com and they asked for writing samples and to show consistency, giving them the link to the archive answered most of their questions.
Discipline and diligence
Everyone gets this point wrong. Everyone.
They say, "Josh, you must have a lot of discipline to write so much so consistently," as if I had some trait that they don't that enables me to do something they can't.
That's like saying people lift weights because they are strong. I used to think that way, which kept me from exercising for years.
They get cause and effect backward. People get strong because they lift weights.
Likewise, I developed discipline and diligence by doing things consistently. I didn't start that way.
Discipline and diligence add to every other part of life. Writing daily without fail has taught me to do what I say through practice. I look at myself in the past, who would say yes to things without knowing I couldn't deliver and then give up, as flaky and unreliable.
On my two trips to North Korea or my 10-day self-development retreats with no internet access, I had to write two weeks of extra posts before going to ensure I wouldn't miss a day. Not big deals, but I chose to do them and I did.
I look at people who say they will do something but don't as seriously undermining their ability to get what they want out of life. I see it happen all the time and consider it tragic.
The problem isn't that people can't do everything. Nobody can.
It's that they don't know their abilities, which means low self-awareness. I've never heard anyone say low self-awareness improves anyone's life.
I've learned to live by the principle my friend who originally set up my blog for me said:
I can't tell you the value of applying that principle throughout life. You have to experience it.
Knowing my values and acting on them
Writing daily means not doing other things in that time, which means saying no to things.
As I've learned to practice:
Writing daily forces me to evaluate what I do or not.
You have to do that anyway in life, but when what limits your activity is external, like the hours in a day, you tend to blame the universe or other people.
When you choose your limits yourself, you take responsibility for your choices, which forces you to understand your values and act on them deliberately.
I'll choose taking responsibility for my choices over blaming others any day as a way to live my life. In fact, I have.
Writing isn't that important. Why plant my stake here? Because it's modestly important but not overwhelming. I practice with easy things to develop skills so when I face the hard things, I act with experience.
When I started writing, I thought I had a five or ten great ideas worth recording. I wondered what I would do past then.
It turns out there's a skill to coming up with ideas. It didn't take long for my idea file on my computer to grow faster than one per day. So learning to come up with ideas is a skill, and I've developed it.
Some other skills I've learned:
- Setting up a working space and time
- Handling the physical pain of writing (my back and traps, especially)
- Hustling to get an agent, a book contract, blurb writers, and so on
- Verbalizing my ideas
- and more
Decades ago people worked 9-to-5 jobs that imposed structure on their lives. I find life without structure like running in sand. Structure is like running on solid ground.
Daily habits are like a platform to build your life on. Since my entrepreneurial life style doesn't impose structure on me, I have to impose it on myself, which daily habits do.
I've refined the concept of daily habits into what I call sidchas, for Self-Imposed Daily Challenging Healthy Activities, which I've explored in my blog at length. Writing was my first sidcha. My next were burpees, which I've written about at Inc.com too, since I just started my sixth year of them.
If a regular daily habit gives you a platform to build your life on, a sidcha is like bedrock. You can build a stage on a platform. To build the Empire State Building, you need bedrock. Sidchas give you that bedrock.
Most of all, I've learned to enjoy writing. I enjoy reading more.
Since I didn't used to enjoy writing, my habit has created joy where there wasn't any. It has improved my life. I feel joy while writing, while editing, while reading after posting, and so on throughout the practice.
I've learned to feel joy even when people don't like or ignore my writing. It helps me develop my voice and independence.
In other words, my writing is about a lot more than just writing.