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It’s the beginning of March and so far this year I’ve written more than I’ve written in most years combined. OK that might be a little bit of an exaggeration but it’s probably not far from the truth, and I’ve certainly been on a much more productive kick. If you’ve been paying attention you know I’ve been crediting 750words.com for a lot of that. It’s a simple premise – assume 250 words fills a page, and write 3 pages every day. It doesn’t matter what, just write, every day.

I started doing this at the end of January and immediately fell in love. I liked that it was private so I didn’t feel like I was writing for anyone else, just writing to write. As someone who has always had dreams of being a writer the writing “just to write” part has always been the hardest. I’ve tormented myself with thoughts of what people would like to read or what they would care about and talking myself out of putting pen to paper, or more realistically finger to keyboard on so many occasions – 750words allowed me to jump right over that hurdle and totally kill it.

I had the longest stretch of productive writing days in my life thanks to it. Even when I’ve had bigger projects I would be all over the place – 3,000 words on day, 15 the next. Then nothing for a week. Then 1,000 a week later. Etc. With 750words I was doing that 750 baseline every day and many days I exceeded it well past 1,000. Just getting in that habit was amazing for me. And the stats! Oh man, the stats are heavenly. Being able to see that I’d written over 20,000 words and that I’d written every single day for over 30 days.. this just made me so psyched every day to see it.

And then on my birthday I blew it.

Let me change gears for a moment: They introduced the Monthly Challenge, which asks people to sign up to write every single day for that month. This combined with the points it gives you for completing consecutive writing days made for a whole bunch of obsession for already leaderboard obsessed people like me. Instantly the gammer in me started trying to figure out how to optimize. One thing I found was that the time you write is very important. Lets say there are 10 people who have all written then same number of days and in effect all have the same number of points. Those people would be the same on one level, but there is still a ranking and the person who finished the days early in the day more often would be ranked higher than the person who finished their words later in the day. I wish I didn’t figure that out because that kind of played into me messing up on my streak. I’m not blaming the contest at all, I still think it’s great, but the little loophole I found got me thinking about gamming it and changed my intentions.

So where as previously I would try to write early in the day – I got better results and had a more productive day after the fact – I found that if I wrote just after midnight instead I’d rank higher the following day. If the order of everyone who had the same points was randomized then I wouldn’t have cared, but I found that hitting the 750 mark just after midnight ensured I would move up the charts faster. But since I don’t wake up at midnight, writing then usually meant just staying up late and writing at the end of the day. This is my own fault, but I traded something that was personally rewarding for me for something that I wanted to impress other people with. Anyway, one day I didn’t stay up to write and the next day I thought I’d just wait until the last moment and then write my 750 words for that day and then write the 750 for the next day immediately after but I was busy and just missed the midnight deadline which kicked me out of the monthly challenge and broke my streak.

I was crushed. Not because it happened, but because I let it happen. Because I was thinking about the game of it rather than why I was doing it to begin with. I kept wanting to pick back up and write again but every time I logged in I was faced with the glaring reminder that I’d missed a day and that bummed me out. So I decided to quit for the month, catch my breath, reassess my priorities and begin again in March when I had a clean slate. Which is what I’m doing now and I’m looking forward to it. I’m not going to even look at the leaderboard because I don’t care really, I just want the excuse to write and this works for me so it’s what I’m going to run with.

Now I just need to figure out how to write about something consistent all month long and have a 1st draft of a longer piece. Right now I bounce between stream of consciousness brain dumps, mini rants (like this) and even a little short fiction. I don’t know where it’s heading but I think I work better that way, just pushing forward and seeing what comes of it. I just hope it starts taking shape sooner rather than later