When asked how to be a better writer, many successful writers give the same advice: start writing and keep writing. It doesn’t matter the topic or the length. It doesn’t matter if there is only an audience of one (yourself). Write. As much and as often as you can, write. There’s no guarantee that writing more will necessarily lead anywhere, but it is certain that not writing will not lead to success.
On a parallel front, I had been worried about my chosen path of independent study. Without an established curriculum or schedule, it was all too easy to lose track of what I’ve tried, what I’ve learned, and how I’ve improved as a result. To prevent this, and to keep myself motivated and accountable, I decided to start recording my progress in the format of blog posts.
Hence was born this blog site, NewScrewdriver.com. Named after an offhand reference made by Dr. Who about “inventing a new type of screwdriver” this was a record of my adventures and also a long term and continuing writing exercise. The very first post was about WordPress itself, because that’s obviously what I had to learn to set up this blog. The adventures went on from there. I described projects big and small. I documented significant advances and useless distractions. I wrote about new discoveries and popular knowledge that were nevertheless new to me. Some posts were packed with useful information, some were just mindless rants of a flailing man. But they had one thing in common: it’s what I had been doing with my time.
I eventually settled on a target length of 300 words – any shorter and it’d be difficult to have a whole story with a clear beginning, middle, and end. Any longer, and we see diminishing returns on the time it took to write and read. 300 words takes about an average of a half hour to write, and less than five minutes to read. It seemed like a practical size for the project.
A distressing number of internet blogs start with a few strong posts, then trail off into inactivity. (Sometimes they have only a single post!) I was determined not to let this happen to my own blog, but it took a conscious effort to keep things going. After some pauses and restarts, eventually I could keep up the pace of a post every three days, then a post every other day, then a post every single day. I was content with that pace. Some days I have successes that took multiple ~300 word posts to write up, and they will fill in the days when I was either struggling and had little to talk about, or fully occupied and unable to write.
Today I celebrate a milestone marked by a screenshot from WordPress blog dashboard: there has been a blog post every single day for the past twelve months. I expect that at some point in the future I wouldn’t be able to keep up the daily pace, but today I’m writing down a reminder for myself: I was able to stay with the program for a whole year. Hooray!