How to Publish 31 Essays in 31 Days
My no joke (okay some jokes) process for cranking out some content.
31 days of writing is not 31 days of progress. It’s 5 days of flow state, 11 days of whatever but generally cooking, 9 days of ugh let’s just get this done, and 6 days of absolutely misery (numbers subject to change).
I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the amount of people who’ve told me that my content output has been outpacing their ability to read it. I mean, in a sense, this is pretty inefficient because I guess it could be argued that I should slow my rate of production to match the demand (or I should be writing stuff that’s more interesting so people want to read it faster??). The game theoretical approach here feels counterintuitive, but doesn’t it always?
Anyway, it feels good because I’m an insane person I guess.
If you’re lost here, I’ve been churning through essays since I committed to churning through essays on the first of January. 31 up, 31 down, baby. Read ‘em and weep. or I guess don’t weep. Read ‘em and go hmmmm! Or learn. Or whatever it is we do when we read which to by honest right now I can’t remember? Something like this maybe?
Ok. So I’ve written a lot over the past month and I wanted to share how I actually got it done. Not motivational writing. Not with a “you can do it” attitude. Just a sterile telling of how I no shit nugged it out.
Because that’s most of how it’s done. Just nugging it out.
But here’s the nug recipe
Have the freedom and privilege in your life to shut everything else out so you can focus on just writing.
Cool. Not super helpful, but not including this would be disingenuous of me. I recently sold my startup and have the freedom right now to do stuff like write (and shut everything else out if I want to). I don’t think this is strictly necessary to write, but it really really helps. So I just want to be clear about that.
In case you’re still interested, here’s the rest of the the nug recipe.
Trap yourself first thing in the morning and open a note taking app.
I trapped myself on an exercise bike.
I use Workflowy. Infinitely Recursive To Do List. It’s great.
Start typing bullet points about what you think is neat or something that makes you mad or something else. Emotional ideas give you more gas here just FYSA.
Keep going even when you stop (because you’ll stop).
This is why being trapped is important.
If you stop, start again.
If you can’t start again, just start typing “I’ve decided to stop because I’m too weak willed to even type simple sentences man I must be an embarrassment to my ancestors” repeatedly until you can type something different again. It’s silly, but it works.
Keep adding bullets and sub-bullets until the timer is done.
Then make breakfast or whatever you do next in your morning routine and think ONLY about the idea you’re writing.
Keeping focused on one idea is actually really hard. Modern minds wander very easily. Even just 10 minutes on one idea can feel like an eternity. Thinking deeply is hard.
If you catch yourself getting distracted, go back to the core idea.
Keep working on it (but just mentally) as you finish getting ready/eating/etc.
Shift to a larger screen when you finish the morning routine.
Sometimes I used a laptop, sometimes I used my desktop.
Open a Substack post and copy/paste in your terrible outline.
Mine are invariably terrible. Trust the process.
Delete the irrelevant bullets or (big brain style) put them back in a separate To Do List stack if you can make a separate post out of them.
Make sure they’re out of sight and in a fully separate list. You can’t afford the distraction of seeing and thinking about that post as you’re writing this post.
Now distill the one sentence thing you want people to understand about the topic.
This is hard.
Put it at the top of the page.
When you're stuck later, go back and read it again.
Find a picture that you think fits or makes you laugh. Put it in.
Introduce the idea
If you’re stuck, google the topic and click on a few related articles. Read their intro’s. Most likely, they’re going to be bad. Just copy/paste those intro’s into your essay and then change it so it fits your idea and keep changing until it’s unrecognizable because dear god you don’t want to be associated with such a terrible intro.
If you’re still stuck, type the helpful sentence above until you’re unstuck. Even in the worst case you get to build up your typing endurance!
Transition the intro to the main point.
The main point probably involves a story. If it doesn’t, it should probably involve some research.
If you have neither, then it should definitely sound very confident or else why would someone want to read it?
Sometimes you hit sub-point 1 and sub-point 2 before the main point. Again, stories and research.
Now figure out a way to wrap it up.
Sometimes it’s abrupt and sometimes it’s smooth.
If you don’t know how to do this then read more articles and pay attention to how they wrap things up.
Just copy what you like (the feeling but also sometimes the words) ← classic internet amirite
Once it’s wrapped, walk away from your computer for 10 minutes.
Come back and read it start to finish. Adjust as needed
Now skim it again.
Then hit publish.
And even with this process in place, it was hard to get it all done.
Let’s revisit the one sentence thing for this essay → I had 5 (ish) days of flow state where I just crushed it. I was done by 0900 and attacking the day. I had 11 days of steady progress yet it still took maybe the whole morning to get something decent out there. There 9 or so days of riding the struggle bus where it generally took all day to publish something and dear reader there were 6 days of absolutely suck. Like publishing at 2358, agonizing over every word choice, and wanting to start a brand freaking new essay after hours of thinking and work because I thought it was a bad idea, poorly written, or just generally worthless.
Your mileage may vary, but without a lot of luck it’s just going to be hard.
Because doing cool things is usually hard. That’s why they’re cool.
With all that said though, I mean, let’s be honest.
This was pretty low stakes and I’m being kind of dramatic about it, but I had made a public commitment to do it and wanted to get it done.
At the end of the day, I really believe that following through with our commitments is all we can do. So doing this right really mattered to me.
And when I got distracted or lazy or didn’t want to do it that day or forgot I didn’t finish because the day got busy or any of the other thousand reasons I could’ve let move me away from that goal, I caught myself.
But only because I literally did just one thing.
And it’s really lame, but it’s also not.
I watched this video of the Rock talking to the Lakers about what drives him.
I was never a wrestling fan, not a huge watcher of his movies (shoutout Moana tho), never really heard him speak before, but if you have 12 minutes to spare I recommend watching it. It’s great public speaking to start, but his mental grounding in his lifting and his focus on hard work is extremely centering (at least to me).
So I watched this on the really shitty days and put in the work.
Hope you’re enjoying it so far.
My content production is going to slow down (probably) to about once or twice a week so I can like…live the rest of my life and build a startup lol. If you want more content, demand it on Twitter so I can shift some things around to do more writing.
I hope this added value to your day.
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