If a goal is a MUST then you will achieve it. We all have daily MUST goals whether we realize it or not: catching the 8:52 bus to work, brushing your teeth in the morning, watching the latest Game Of Thrones episode. MUSTs are goals which you often set even without realizing it. It’s something so important you couldn’t imagine not doing it. More than fifty consecutive daily blog posts later, writing once a day is now a MUST for me. Seven days of healthy eating and it’s beginning to form into a MUST.
What’s your MUST?
The title of this post was supposed to contrast my writing process with someone’s who was great at writing (Mark Twain). I assumed what I was doing was different from someone who is good at writing. Then I googled “Mark Twain writing process” and found this quote:
The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction. By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is that you really want to say. Mark Twain
That’s exactly what I’ve been doing lately: write a bunch of paragraphs, push them to the end of the page with new, better ones. Then I’ll write even more and delete everything I wrote before. Often the amount of text you see here is one third of how much I’ve actually written in total. It seems wasteful but it really does work.
I often use postscript in my emails. From a modern technological standpoint, using postscript doesn’t make much sense. I can easily edit previously written paragraphs. It was invented when writing letters involved parchment, ink an quivers, when re-writing a long letter would have been impractical.
Postscript provides a wonderful escape, or excuse to end my letter with something that’s not exactly a part of the original message but doesn’t really warrant an entirely new email either: “P.S. Could you send me the new login details?”. Or it might be something totally unrelated: “P.S. Is anyone from your team coming to the orientation on Saturday?”. Also, it’s a great attention getter for one liners that would get lost in the text body: “P.S. IMPORTANT! Make sure you do ABC before enabling XYZ!
P.S. I always forget a cold gets worse before it gets better. My to-do list goes on hold indefinitely and will be replaced by Netflix, chocolate chip cookies and green tea.
Create a habit of writing semantic, well structured file names with timestamps. Example: instead of “api testing.xlsx” write “Service XYZ API EndPoint Testing (2017-05-03).xlsx”.
Muster out a bit of thought for your email titles as well. Spend a few seconds thinking about how to best describe the problem in a short sentence. Instead of “Server maintenance” try “Server out of disk space, scheduled maintenance on Sunday afternoon”.
Spending a bit of time and effort in naming things accurately makes life easier for everyone involved. And as a bonus, it looks just lovely.
I’ve now taken up the habit of writing one blog post per day. I think everyone should write something on a regular basis and publish it. Not only does it make you a better writer, but it also helps you to clarify complex issues. Maybe writing a blog post once a day seems a bit daunting and taxing, but I think everyone should at least take a minute out of their day and jot down what they learned that day. Just one lesson. Open a spreadsheet* or a diary and log what you learned that day. Just one sentence. It doesn’t always have to be serious, but try to make an effort.
The great thing about keeping track of things you learned is that when you read them later, you might have a “heureka!” moment and understand something in a completely new way, that you didn’t think of when you wrote the lesson down. Also, after a month, you’ll have 30 topics each of which you could turn into a potential blog post or a video.
*I use free Google Sheets. I have one column for the date, one for a hashtag and one for the actual lesson.
Start with the most important thing first and work your way down to the details. This works great for job applications, press releases, reports and so on. You can always add details later in the text, but always start with the pressing issue. It sounds obvious but it’s easy to forget when you have to write in a rush.