I’m Lou Franco, and this is Episode 10 of Write While True, which is a writing program for programmers.
If you follow it literally, you’ll be in an infinite loop of writing. But I mean program as in a training program.
So, in each episode, I’ll challenge you with an exercise that will help you build a writing habit. This is Season one, which is about foundational exercises.
Listen to Write While True at your desk, and when it’s over, start writing.
I didn’t know why I should write
In episode one I talked about my blog, and how I started it about 17 years ago with the intent of writing fairly regularly, but only had about 9 posts a year on average.
My best year was 2008 when I had about 38 posts and for the next 6 years, I averaged 17 posts a year, which was my best stretch. But, I also wrote a book during that time and I wrote elsewhere and at work.
But, after that, from 2014 to 2020, I averaged less than 4 per year.
It’s not that I didn’t want to write more. I really did.
It’s not that I didn’t have time. I had a lot of time.
It’s not that I didn’t have ideas. I would write down ideas all of the time.
I’d read books about writing. I’d make writing goals and then just not do them.
I’d make feeble attempts at writing something.
There was just something in my brain that didn’t let me just post something.
A couple of weeks ago I spoke about lowering the bar. I already believed in that back then — I would tell people that all of the time, but I didn’t apply it to myself.
The reason to do it
The thing I couldn’t figure out was why to write.
What was I trying to accomplish? I didn’t need to for my career. The amount I did helped a lot, and that seemed to be enough.
It would have been nice to make extra money doing it, but that’s hard and I never expected to make much.
If I wanted to make extra money, writing code was an easy way to do it. I already know how to code and it pays better.
When I look back at my most prolific period to see why I did it then. I see that I wrote about what it was like to learn how to do iPhone programming. There wasn’t that much of that at the time and I wanted to be helpful. I wrote the posts I was looking for and couldn’t find.
Right now, there are so many people writing about almost every kind of development, that it’s hard to think of a way to add to that conversation. I don’t often find areas of development I know or want to know about that don’t have several great articles and stack overflow answers.
It just didn’t seem like there was a reason to write anything other than the feeling that I just wanted to. But, it wasn’t enough.
Then, over the 2020 December holiday break I took off a few days and read The Practice by Seth Godin.
I am a Seth Godin fan and the book is in his style, which is 219 short, blog-like chapters. It’s not literally a bound version of his blog — there’s a flow and organization, and I think a lot of new content. But, it would feel very familiar to daily readers of his blog.
The chapters are different ways of expressing the argument that you can choose to ship every day. And after hearing it repeated that many times and in so many ways I believed it.
It is 130 days since I finished reading The Practice, and I have shipped 130 blog posts on loufranco.com, 20 articles on app-o-mat.com, and 10 podcast episodes. I’ve also shipped several app updates and code to a few open source repos.
Will I keep this up? I have evidence and confidence that I will, mostly because I buy his argument that I can just do it, and doing it will improve my writing. It’s a practice only if I practice it. It’s an infinite game. Not a game you play to win — a game you play because it’s fun — like catch.
Doing it is the reason to do it. There is inherent enjoyment in doing it. Writing is the only way to get better at writing.
The quote that might have done it for me is “If you want to complain that you don’t have any good ideas, please show me all your bad ideas first.”
And that’s when I realized that I don’t have enough bad work to have good work yet. I need to build up a large body of bad work.
That is why I write and publish every day.
In my intro, I asked you to listen at your desk, ready to write when I am done speaking.
But first, I want to thank you for listening so far. As a new podcast, I am depending on you to spread the word if you found it valuable. I also want to encourage you to send your feedback email to email@example.com or find me on twitter @loufranco or look for me on LinkedIn.
I would love a review or rating in the Apple Podcasts app, stars in Overcast, or whatever else your podcast player allows. And subscribe if you want more episodes.
If you write publicly, please send me a link.
Find your why
The exercise this week is to think about your “why”? I don’t think it’s wrong to write for money or fame, but if you’re an amateur like me, I’d find something easier to attain.
And don’t discount the effect it will have on your self-esteem to have done it. You don’t need the approval of others. Your own self-respect will increase because of you are doing the work. No need for likes.
The Practice helped me understand “the why” to shipping daily, and that’s enough for me. Doing it with this mindset has made me realize that it’s actually not that hard.
I’m going to recommend listening to Seth on the #amwriting Podcast. I put a link in the show notes.
The hosts are authors and Seth talks about the book in depth. If you want more, then read his book.
Thanks for listening. This has been Write While True and since true is true, start writing.