Every week on Sunday, I sit down to write a blog post. I published the first one in April 2017 and kept going until September. I stop posting for a few months to focus on the first draft of my novel. I returned in December 2017 and have not missed a week since which makes this one the 63rd post in the row. (Here are all posts I published in 2018.)
Some weeks it’s easy. I have a clear idea of what I want to say. I power through the first draft, read it, fix it, proofread it and hit publish an hour later. Some weeks, it takes a little longer. And some weeks, it’s half past ten at night, and I’m staring at a blank page with a question mark in place of the title. It can be frustrating, but I try hard not to skip a week. The discipline of posting something every week is important to me.
Late in October last year, I decided to start a new habit — to read a short story every day. I wasn’t sure if I liked it, so I challenged myself for a month. It took some getting used to. I had to keep it always on my mind, so I didn’t accidentally skip a day. By the end of November, something changed. I was looking forward to it, excited to discover another cool writer which I haven’t read anything from in the past.
These days, I do it with little effort. I might read one first thing in the morning or just before bed. Often, I will read one over lunch or on the train. Every day, I add another entry to a long list of stories I’ve read. The trees were yellow, leaves falling when I started this small daily practice. Now the winter is almost gone. They’re in full bloom, covered with thousands of little blossoms, and I have 150 stories on my list. I’ve had 150 opportunities to enjoy a great piece of fiction and learn something about writing and storytelling.
The 82 posts that I’ve published so far add up to little over 50,000 words. The 150 stories I’ve read add up to thousands of pages. If I decided to read as many stories and write as many words today, it would take me months of work and considerable effort.
It fascinates me how much you can do through these seemingly inconsequential daily disciplines. You can either choose to watch another vlog on YouTube or read a short story and today it doesn’t really matter. But in over a month, year and decade it’s the difference between a person who knows a lot about what Casey Neistat does in his spare time and a well-read writer. Like a magnifying glass, time will enlarge whatever you point it at.
I’m grateful for these habits, and I would like to maintain them for as long as I can. But I would also like to add one more which I have been struggling with the most: to write fiction every day.
I’ve had several attempts at it over the years. It’s easy when I’m first-drafting a project, but I find it hard to keep up when editing. In the past, I’ve tried writing short stories and flash fiction on the side. It worked for a few weeks before I got overwhelmed and the resistance took the best of me.
I don’t have it all figured out, but now I want to try to write something so small that I can complete it every day without fail. It can be the random sketch, a description of a fruit bowl, a snippet of dialogue — something that I can do under 15 minutes. Create something for the sake of creating.
I like landscape photography, and one of my favourite people on YouTube is Peter McKinnon. Normally, he posts tutorials and photography tips, but not too long ago, he posted a video that really struck a chord with me. He talks about consistency and how rigid schedule helps him to keep producing video even if he’s not always happy with the quality of the outcome. I found myself overwhelmingly agreeing with him.
Doing something even when you don’t feel like it, even when you’re in the end proud of the result is still worth doing. Because you can be proud of the process. You can be proud of doing it anyway.
When practising your art, some days are better than others, but all of them are equally important. Small disciplines not only add up. They compound. As you work, you become better which means that the baseline quality of your work moves up. What was your best three months ago becomes the average today.
As creators, we need to have the humility not to judge our own work. We do our best and then let others decide whether it’s any good. And while they decide, we move on to something else. To keep creating. That’s the only thing that truly matters.
What I Am Reading
I’m making rather slow progress through a number of books that I’m reading the same time. At the moment the list includes:
- Rogues by George R. R. Martin and Garner Dozois
- Hyperfocus by Chris Bailey
- The Peripheral by William Gibson
- A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
Recently, I bought Metamorphosis and Other Stories by Franz Kafka, and I will be reading it one story at a time over the next few weeks.
I read these short stories this week:
- Colour and Light by Sally Rooney
- The Jammie Dodgers and the Adventure of the Leicester Square Screening by Cory Doctorow
- All Will Be Well by Yiyun Li
- The Starlet Apartments by Jonathan Lethem
- The Confession by Leïla Slimani
- The Curious Affair of the Dead Wives by Lisa Tuttle
- How the Marquis Got His Coat Back by Neil Gaiman
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