Day 20 of 30

Nov, 02 2020
4 Minutes

I've made it to day 20 of my 30 day writing challenge and I'm noticing quite a few shifts.

At this pace, there is only one strategy that works: write with reckless abandon. Shed perfection. Shed the need for insight and viral-worthy content. The breakneck speed means you have to drop your armor. Publish with no remorse.

When you do this, your voice has no choice but to emerge.

"One-buttock playing"

I'm reminded of Benjamin Zander's TED talk about classical music:

And in particular, the story of the hypothetical child's progression from dull, perfunctory note hitting to soulful, melodic expression:

Now, what happened was not maybe what you thought, which is, he suddenly became passionate, engaged, involved, got a new teacher, he hit puberty, or whatever it is. What actually happened was the impulses were reduced. You see, the first time, he was playing with an impulse on every note.
And the second, with an impulse every other note.
The nine-year-old put an impulse on every four notes.
The 10-year-old, on every eight notes.
And the 11-year-old, one impulse on the whole phrase.

And of course, this spectacular sound bite:

I don't know how we got into this position. I didn't say, "I'm going to move my shoulder over, move my body." No, the music pushed me over, which is why I call it one-buttock playing.
One-buttock playing

I don't know what the equivalent for "impulses" are for writing online, but I do know that forcing yourself to publish at a pace that is beyond comfortable brings something out of you.

It might even push you to write with one buttock. Will not confirm nor deny if I've had such an experience over the last 20 days.


For the last few years, I've been playing a typing game called Typeracer. Here's a graph of my first 1000 races:

First 1000 races

As you can see, this graph is extremely noisy, and looks a bit like a seismograph.

But if you look closely, towards the right of the graph, you can see some "space" where the 75 WPM (words per minute) mark is visible. It's as if the seismograph has shifted.

Now, let's take a look at all my races (3800):

3800 races

Still a ton of variance, but if you squint, there's a trend!

To see what that looks like, I plotted the trailing 100 race average on a chart:

smoothed race data

Ah, so now we can see the trends clearly, unobstructed by the noise.

When you only do a single Typeracer competition, you're going to feel like your skill level is determined by your performance on that one race. But when you do thousands, your skill level is determined by the trend line.

When you're the only X in a room full of Y, there's this sense that you must speak for all of X. But if you're one of many, then you can relax and not worry about representing an entire group.

When you only have one essay on your website, that one essay must speak for you. But when you write something every day, your internet presence is defined by your body of work. One low quality post won't define you.

That's the beauty of abundance.


Right now, I feel like I'm writing to the crowd that "was there from the start", except it's still the start and no one else is here, and it's not clear that they'll be joining.

Regardless, this work feels necessary. At the very least, it's forced me to clarify my thinking, and put some ideas to text. I've written some articles I will very likely build upon in the near future:

Many of the posts are just examples of me taking notes in public, and then there are some articles that I wrote just to meet my quota and don't intend to see again.

But regardless, the foundation is forming.


This practice is unlikely to be sustainable over the long run, but it's having a strong effect. I'm finding my internet voice, and getting comfortable in more contexts. I'm shedding the need for perfection, because each piece doesn't just exist in isolation, but as part of larger and longer story arc.

I've used this practice to induce other habits too, such as time tracking (wrote about it here) and meditation, which I will write about soon.

Anyways, I'll see you again in 10 days, at the culmination of the challenge!