Allnomading (57)product (58)productivity (51)tech (23)thoughts (74)writing (71)

    Lessons Learned from Writing Every Day for a Year

    Writing every day has had a huge impact on my life over the last year. I made my first Monthly-Recurring Revenue from making digital products. I wrote a book and sold some copies. I obtained my first freelance gig as a guest writer. All the people I met during this journey inspired me, one way or another, and made me a different man. A better man, I think.

    I. How I Started Writing

    I’d be really interested to hear the fuller story here - exactly the sort of writing you did, and when, and how it helped you to do those things you mentioned. Cheers. — @jas_hothi

    Coming from a software engineering background, I’ve never been much of a writer.

    I always loved writing though. As a child, I used to write fiction stories featuring my favorite video game characters. Around 12, I started spending time in play-by-post role-playing games, which eventually led me to learn programming to mess around with phpbb forums.

    At 14, I stopped this gamified deliberate writing practice to focus on my studies. Writing stories wasn’t particularly popular in middle school, I didn’t want to stand out.

    I went through high school with top grades and joined an engineering school in Lyon, France to study Telecom engineering. I didn’t write a thing on my own throughout this whole time.

    During my last year in college, I decided to launch a tech company with two friends. It was January 2018, we had been working for 6 months on our own legaltech service, and we wanted to make things official to join a startup incubator. Becoming an entrepreneur straight out of college is an uncommon thing in France. Among all the students going for high-paying jobs, I felt like a misfit. I was too much of an introvert to speak my feelings, so I decided to put them down on paper.

    I explained why I made this choice and what I hoped to accomplish. Letting go of all the doubts and the frustration, writing was liberating. Unconsciously, it made aware of the powers of scribbling down words. I wanted to write more.

    It took me 6 months to build a blog, which I gave up after two or three articles. I had no discipline. I was focusing too much on the tools and the brand I wanted to build, and not enough on delivering content.

    In November 2018, the startup collapsed. Co-founder breakup. I needed to write. All those months of hard work, vanishing in an instant. I had learned so many things, and I knew I had to put them on paper as to not forget anything.

    Learning from my past mistakes, I knew I had to stick to a strict writing schedule. I had to write daily, or else I would end up falling out of habit. My time was extremely limited though: I had to work with my cofounders to dissolve the company, and I still had to work on my own digital products as a solo founder to create new opportunities.

    I had to decrease the resistance to the lowest level I could, so I decided to limit myself to 200 words a day. Just enough to write something meaningful, even during the busiest days. I then added a safety net by not simply writing, but also by publishing what I wrote on Medium and Twitter. This way I could leverage the mechanisms of public accountability to force myself to write. The 200 Words a Day challenge was born.

    What was your goal ahead of doing the blogging year (e.g. views, revenue, etc.) and did you reach it? — @tagawa

    Publishing one post every day was about developing a writing habit, it wasn’t for views or money. It’s only later I discovered it was a powerful way to connect with other people, but I didn’t have any ulterior motive. I did it because I loved the process and I wanted to be more consistent.

    After a few days, I started acquiring momentum. It was getting easier. An unexpected consequence was that the challenge was inspiring people to write as well. I couldn’t find any nice looking platform to just receive feedback on my writings and improve, only forums and sub-reddits. 5 days later, the Product Hunt Makers Festival was announced. That’s when I decided to build a community product called 200 Words a Day, a website where people would write 200 words every day to develop a writing habit and improve together.

    Two weeks later, 200 Words a Day was announced as the winner of the Product Hunt Makers Festival. Writing became less about me, and more about becoming better writers together. Writing became one of the recurring topics I love talking about, and my writing process improved a lot.

    II. Writing Process

    Writing is a full-body workout. It’s a complex process with many steps. There is the ideation phase where you find topics and outlines for your posts. Then you have to do some research: find good sources, take notes, read, and summarize. When you feel ready you can start free-writing, putting down on paper the main ideas without limiting your stream of consciousness. Then comes editing, and you finish with the distribution.

    Each part of the process is different and comes with its own pain points. Everyone is different, so each person’s writing process will differ. Writing every day helped me identify the right workflow for me.

    How do you pick your topics? — @anthilemoon
    What did you write about? — @joshdance

    I don’t limit myself, I write about what intrigues me on a given day. The following chart shows that I write a lot of random things, which is usually just me documenting my thoughts or specific events. I do have core topics though: writing, tech, making products, productivity, and traveling.

    Topic distribution

    Topic Distribution by number of articles

    I usually let serendipity do its work. An idea pops out and I note it down. Sometimes I sit down at my desk or in a bar and I list down writing prompts. I only follow one criterion: the idea has to be interesting to me.

    Instead of asking myself what I want to write about, I ask myself what I want to learn. There is always something I want to learn more about. The act of writing allows me to analyze an idea under a different angle, so even if a post of mine isn’t directly teaching anything, it’s a way to internalize an aspect of my life. Learning something is about making it yours.

    How did you keep the motivation up? — @rayt

    Public accountability was key. After ten days of publishing my content on Twitter, I didn’t want to break the streak. Also, instead of writing for an audience, I write for myself. This way it’s much easier to stay interested. I didn’t really have to spend much time on writing, just documenting my journey as a solo indie entrepreneur was enough to develop the habit and indirectly find an audience.

    How did you make the time, specifically when real life got tough? — @haldenIng

    The trick was simple: write less. I have a word limit of 200 words. Sometimes it gives me momentum to write more, sometimes I just call it a day as soon as I hit this threshold. According to my stats, I write 326 words on average, which is 61% more than my original objective. The power of momentum is real.

    Word Count Distribution

    Word Count Distribution

    Did you ever write ahead to give yourself a backlog? — @haldenIng
    Do you schedule posts or make a point to publish with any specific timing? — @briangreunke
    Do you write one post per day, or do you write multiple posts some days and publish them on a daily basis? — @amng

    If you’re really dedicated, you can always find the time to write at least 200 words. Even if it’s just free-writing something in 10 minutes, it triggers hidden mechanisms that will build your writing muscles.

    I do try to write ahead sometimes. I have a notebook I carry with me all the time. Whenever an idea strikes, I write it down. I also like to sit down and just write whatever comes to mind. At this point, it’s more of a lifestyle than a strategy. I just write, and it eventually becomes material to publish.

    I think I scheduled a post once or twice. In the end, it’s not particularly helpful to me because I take a lot of notes: ideas for my writings, books or articles I read, etc. I naturally accumulate material I can use later on. I think there is a way to do it no matter what, with a bit of preparation.

    How many hours in total do you estimate you’ve been writing in the past year? — @anthilemoon

    Hard to estimate but I’ll give it a try.

    I can afford to spend an hour writing every day because I’m working full-time as an indie founder. The longest part is coming up with ideas and outlines, which can be batched once a week to leave more time for free-writing, editing, and researching.

    I also wrote tweets and external articles on the side, it all adds up.

    Writing is not a linear process, it’s more of a lifestyle where you constantly think about the craft, even unconsciously.

    All things considered, I’d say one hour of deep work every day at the very least, so 365 hours of “deep writing” in the past year.

    What blogging platform/tech did you use? Any SEO tips? — @juhaelee

    Medium and Twitter at first, then I built 200 Words a Day. I also cross-post my content on my personal website using GatsbyJS and Markdown.

    Except for the basics (unique metadata, server-rendered content), I didn’t give many thoughts into SEO. I write for myself first and foremost, I don’t want my creativity to be limited by SEO keywords. That’s also part of why I’m so consistent with the habit: I try to lower the barrier as much as possible.

    III. Benefits

    Milestones

    How did you know it was working? — @joshdance

    I write for myself, I just enjoy the process. I’m entirely focused on getting better at writing. Views, audience, and revenues were a by-product.

    I made my first monthly-recurring revenue thanks to 200 Words a Day. I really want it to become a sustainable community, so I started monetizing it early on. 200 Words a Day has a freemium model. It’s free to join and free to use, but you can pay a monthly or yearly subscription to access new features.

    I also wrote my first book by publishing 200 words every day. I wanted to see what it felt like to go through the process of self-publishing a book and how the 200 Words a Day philosophy could help with it. Writing 200 words a day for a year amounts to 73,000 words, which is enough to publish a novel.

    Two weeks ago I also received my first offer as a freelancer. A company contacted me on Twitter to write a guest post for money and I agreed. I am currently working on the second draft. It’s another experience I needed to better understand how I can add value to my writing community.

    More importantly, it proves that the power of the compound effect is real. I keep track of my writings. My stats reveal that I wrote 381 posts, which represent 135k words (!!!), or 541 pages if you divide by 250.

    Word count evolution

    Word count evolution

    You can see the full spreadsheet here.

    Connecting with others

    As a founder, one of the biggest benefits of writing is how it helps your mental health. It’s easier to stay in control and feel in charge when your mind is clear, and writing gives you this clarity. It’s amazing how just expressing your fears and doubts liberates you.

    More importantly, writing in public is going toward others, and there is no mental health without social bonds. The more you connect with others and the more your work resonates with like-minded people, the more purpose you create. A good life is a meaningful one.

    Even if the size of your audience is a vanity metric, it’s important to give it some attention from time to time. I don’t think one should write for an audience, but it doesn’t mean we should not confront our ideas to reality. In this regard, effective writing is inherently social.

    What was the effect on your website traffic (especially organic visits) between day 1 and day 365? — @gilgildner

    Hard to say, I mainly distributed my content on Twitter and I didn’t bother measuring how well my content played in the eyes of others to drive traffic. I can just say I recorded 46k users and 400k page views on 200 Words a Day’s website over the last year. Writing definitely helped inspire others to do the same.

    On Twitter, I had less than 20 followers before I started this challenge. Now I’m closer to 1k followers, with 1,5k profile visits per month in average and 1,370k impressions over the last year.

    Where did most of your new twitter followers come from? — @joshdance

    Product Hunt, Indie Hackers, and Makerlog. Everyone else by word of mouth or Twitter recommendation I guess.

    Creativity and Writing Skills

    Do you think this has made you a better writer? Has it made you better at communicating? Were there any unexpected benefits? — @ramy

    Absolutely. I’m a non-native English speaker, and writing every day helped me a lot to improve. When I look at my first articles, I can clearly see grammar mistakes I’m not doing anymore. For example, I didn’t know how to use punctuation in English. Punctuation is handled differently in French.

    Writing gives clarity, so it improved my communication skills as well. It gives structure to my thoughts. More importantly, good communication is proportional to quantity: the more you share, the easier it is for your ideas to spread. Quality is not enough because people easily forget or skim through what you write. Repetition is key.

    Another benefit: I graduated and worked as a software engineer, and now I’m starting to make money writing articles as a freelancer because my habit has become an asset. Another income source, it was totally unexpected.

    I also feel like my creativity and my observational skills improved a lot. It doesn’t take much effort anymore, it has become natural. Ideas come to me more easily.

    I understand where you stand with “writing”, specifically the everyday consistency. What is your perspective on “reading”? How do you align those two? — @alperkemalkoc

    Reading is fuel for writing, no doubt about it. I’m trying to read every day, mostly books. I want to grow this habit as well, which is why I co-launched Sipreads to make myself accountable.

    If you want to write interesting things, you have to live an interesting life. It forces you to change the way you consume: read more books, watch more movies, meet more people… writing makes us aware that we are the sum of our experiences. It pushes us to dare and outgrow our comfort zone.

    IV. Improvement points

    Distribution

    How to get your writing in front of people? — @anthilemoon
    How did you distribute your writing? — @joshdance

    If there is one thing I want to work on over the next year, it’s distribution.

    I didn’t put much effort into it. I cross-posted on Indie Hackers (made it to the newsletter once) or Hacker News (made it to the front page once) 5 or 6 times. I mostly sticked with Twitter and my personal website. What I plan to do next is to create a newsletter, spend more time distributing in relevant channels than writing, and splice and dice the posts into more long-form content to increase my SEO rankings.

    This year wasn’t about distribution. I could have written for an audience to get more views and increase my revenues, but I preferred considering it as a by-product rather than an end-goal. Getting into a consistent writing habit is hard enough. The next step is to learn how to distribute my writings more effectively.

    Writing Alter-Nomad

    I’m not satisfied with the current version of my book Alter-Nomad, so I stopped marketing it after the soft-launch in March 2018. One of my next objectives is to redesign it.

    The problem is that I totally underestimated the editing phase. I churned out too many words in too little time, so I felt a little bit burnout toward the end and rushed it. I’ll take my time to write additional content and integrate it in the second version. I want to restructure the book to make it more actionable and improve the flow.

    V. Concluding

    Why did you keep going? — @joshdance

    I attach more importance to the process, writing is the end-goal itself. I keep doing it because it feels good to create something I can come back to later on. I don’t have any external source of motivation and I intend on keeping it this way.

    Do you intend to break your streak? — @deadcoder0904

    Only two things could prevent me from keeping the streak going: 1) running out of things to learn or 2) encountering a serious mental breakdown because of personal or family health issues.

    Both are unlikely, and nothing else can stop me. I’ll probably reconsider it later, but right now I’m in a period of my life where I want to work hard and experience more. Writing helps with that.

    The benefits of daily writing completely outweigh the pain points. It’s like exercising: you know it’s good for your body, even when you don’t feel like it. Once you develop the habit, it’ll change your life for the better.

    Writing is the ultimate meta-skill: it’s good for you, your career, and your closed ones. It’s both universal and proteiform. There is so much more to it than you might think if you’re not used to writing on your own.

    Any advice for people who want to write but don’t know how to get started? — @anthilemoon

    Starting small with what you have is the way to go. Always try to simplify the process and grow from there. Progressive overload is how you get better. Consistency comes first, then quantity. It’s only when you consistently deliver quantity that you can deliver quality. Waiting for perfection or inspiration is a dead end, so don’t keep things to yourself and hit the publish button already.

    That’s all for now folks. Thank you for reading me. I’m especially grateful to the people who interacted with the stuff I made over the year. You are my inspiration and I grow thanks to you. I hope I’ve been useful to you too, and I won’t stop sharing till I am. See you in a couple of months!

    Effective Researching

    Robert Greene reads between 300 and 400 books to write one. You can feel the depth of his research process in the end result. The author of Mastery uses flashcards and a category system to manage all the accumulated ideas.

    One idea per flashcard with a short quote or description, and post-it labels to aggregate similar topics. He then stores all the cards in shoe boxes, and a few months later he starts drafting.

    I think it’s an interesting research methodology. I’d like to adapt it to my own process.

    When I come up with a book summary for Sipreads, I take notes by simply synthesizing the core idea behind each paragraph. Then I use the section titles to give structure. I read twice. The first time to get into the book. The second time to analyze it.

    I have a more effective method though, the one I came up with during my year at Stockholm University. It was all about memorizing big chunks of lectures, dividing each material into easy-to-digest bites was key.

    I merged three methods - SQ5R, mind-mapping, and flashcards - to get an in-depth perspective of any document. I already wrote about it in a previous post, but I want to focus on how the three fit together.

    The result of the SQ5R technique is a list of questions and answers. Writing is asking questions, and each meaningful part of a book answers one. Finding those questions is understanding what problem the book is solving.

    Each pair can easily be written in flashcards. The problem is you usually end up with tons of them and it’s not easy to go through the full stack. That’s where mind-maps become useful to give you an overview. Each leaf of such mind-map is a flashcard, and each internal node is a label. This way, we obtain a digitized version of Greene’s research methodology.

    I’m currently adopting this method in my future book notes, so don’t forget to subscribe to Sipreads to see the end-result on November 15.

    Publishing my First Youtube Vlog

    I published my first Youtube video yesterday. I wrote about going from blogging to vlogging a month ago, and I finally made it.

    My motives remain the same: I want to improve my speaking skills and experiment with new ways of expressing myself.

    The format appeared to me right before sleeping. I didn’t want it to be too time-consuming, it had to seamlessly integrate into my daily life. I also wanted it to support my business goal to grow 200 Words a Day.

    That’s when the idea of centering my vlog on my writing process hit me. I already have developed a daily writing habit. All I have to do is to document my thought process. The possibilities are endless since I’m not tied to any particular topic, and I’m already putting in the work anyway. I just need to record myself, explain what I’m doing at loud, and edit the result to make it easier to consume.

    I could vlog daily. I’ll eventually get there. For now, it’s too time-consuming and I plan to do it once or twice a week. I need to improve my workflow. I’ve started improving my setup to increase the video quality. Now I need to learn some tricks to increase my editing speed. Vlogging is an entirely different skill set than the one I’m used to.

    I definitely see vlogging as a tool to improve my work. Watching myself working gives me a different perspective. It’s highly introspective. Curious to see the impact in a few months.

    Maieutic Writing

    I’ve been wondering why my life positively changed so much over the last year. Is it because I am lucky? Or is it fate? My personal theory is that I’m where I’m now because I’ve never stopped sharing about what I do and it eventually attracted the right people to me.

    Coincidentally, throughout this whole time, I’ve always been writing. It started with tweets and daily task logs, and it went on with daily 200+ word posts. And today I’m convinced this is all thanks to writing.

    How can writing be this powerful? It’s just a few words on a blank screen.

    The secret lies in the process itself: deliberate writing is akin to the maieutic method. Wanting to write every day is asking yourself a simple question: what do I want to write? Simple, yet powerful.

    Ask yourself this question every day for a month and you’ll quickly see it becomes a series of existential questions: why am I writing? What do I stand for? Who am I? What do I want to do with my life? Do I know anything worth sharing? Does anything matter?

    That’s when the snap occurs. The writer becomes the entrepreneur of his life. From words, a proactive mindset is born.

    Writing daily is asking questions, preferably hard ones, with the aim to bring a person’s latent ideas into clear consciousness - a Socratic method performed on yourself.

    With this new realization, it appears clear to me that 200 Words a Day’s vision is not to create Tolstoïs at scale, but to help everyone access a higher quality of life by developing a strong writing habit. Writing as a tool for self-realization. Or more broadly speaking, a tool for success, whatever it might mean to you.

    Keep writing.

    Don't Write for an Audience

    Don’t write because it’ll play well in front of others, write because you want to or because you think it’s important.

    The problem with most content on the Internet nowadays is how bland it tastes. And writing to please a market segment is the best way to do that.

    When you write for an audience, you shut down your inner voice. It’s counter-productive. Not only restraining your personality from shining through will make your writings less relatable, but it’ll also prevent you from attracting the right people.

    Failing to do so is a crime. Writing is not meant to manipulate others for monetary or social gains, it’s a way to express yourself. An audience is not an end-goal, it’s a by-product of genuine work.

    Steven Pressfield expresses it beautifully: ”The hack is like the politician who consults the polls before he takes a position. […] It can pay off, being a hack. […] But even if you succeed, you lose, because you’ve sold out your Muse, and your Muse is you, the best part of yourself, where your finest and only true work comes from.

    You might be tempted to write content at the crossroads of what you want and what your audience wants, but it’s also a mistake. The creator has to constantly reinvent herself to grow. Whatever you do, you have to be confident you’ll attract a different audience. You won’t lose your audience, it’ll just change. And it’s okay.

    Writing for yourself doesn’t mean you should neglect the quality of your content. Focusing on getting better at your craft is self-rewarding.

    It doesn’t mean you should neglect what’s going on outside either, confronting yourself to reality is how you learn to judge your work.

    Let your writings be the vehicle of your soul and you’ll never have to censor yourself again. Be unapologetically yourself and you’ll eventually find the right individuals to help you.

    On the Iceberg Theory

    How can we become more effective writers by telling less to show more? Hemingway proposed the Iceberg Theory.

    The Sun Also Rises and The Old Man and the Sea are both great examples of his minimalist style. Each word is chosen to be easily understandable. Each sentence is short and to-the-point. Adjectives and adverbs are sparse. The tone is almost cold, but it doesn’t fail to trigger deep emotions. The reader’s imagination fills the narrative voids.

    Hemingway’s prose has never been more relevant. If you’re paid to write an article, you can’t waste words. If you’re trying to convince a prospect with your copywriting skills, you don’t want to yawn her to death. Clarity is of utmost importance.

    The Iceberg Theory is similar to the adage ”Show, Don’t Tell”. Omitting some details can prove to be more powerful than telling everything. The writer’s work has to be suggestive to let the reader think and develop his own perspective. The hidden depth is what makes Hemingway’s stories so engaging.

    Mystery is the spice of life. An artist should not be afraid to trim the fat if it reveals a bigger truth. Painting is a great analogy. A painting from Van Gogh isn’t photo-realistic, but that’s the beauty of his art: to uncover its truth, you have to imagine the hidden part of the iceberg.

    Think Less, Write Faster

    I feel like I spent more time writing than making products over the last month, but it’s not necessarily worthless because it gave me new ideas about how 200WaD can help writers. However, I’m annoyed that I am not spending enough time coding and distributing my content. My deliberate writing practice has become second nature, and it’s time to make it more efficient to give room to something else.

    How do I proceed? In general, I spend too much time overthinking what I’m writing, I have to kill the perfectionist inside me. Writing can take up to four hours on some days when I’m procrastinating or taking my time or contemplating the moment, which is obviously preventing me from working on something else.

    I need a new approach to increase my writing speed without sacrificing too much in quality, a sort of Parkinson’s law for proactive writing.

    I noticed I mostly write to solve problems. I’m trying to figure out or describe solutions to a particular pain point. Instead of thinking for countless hours on what I want to write about, I just have to ask myself what I have to learn on a given day and note down the results. This way, I don’t have to go through a cumbersome ideation process, I just publish what came up from my daily research at the end of the day.

    I’m also going to start pressuring myself into publishing faster by setting up a countdown on my phone every time I open 200WaD’s text editor. Time is of the essence.

    Optimizing my writing process is the next logical step to become a better writer.

    Interviewing

    Writing a good interview article is not easy.

    You need to ask the right questions. A good interviewer is more of a psychologist than a writer. It takes a lot of emotional intelligence to truly understand the interviewee: the motives, the personality behind the mask, the life choices… you can’t get a glimpse of the other person without warm compassion. Getting in the shoes of someone else requires a long research process that could be called virtual stalking. The better the details, the more real it feels.

    A badly written interview is a monologue where the interviewee answers pre-determined generic questions. A great interview results from a deep dialog between a writer and an individual, a form of maïeutic where the writer brings out the best, or the worst, in someone.

    Interviewing is not innate and it takes practice to get good at it, which is the personal reason why I initially joined the content team at Makerlog and why I’m shortly launching a blog at 200 Words a Day to interview fellow writers.

    As an introvert, it’s a huge challenge. I’m still experimenting with how I perform my interviews: with or without video calls, with or without pre-determined questions, writing tone and format… the interview process is hard to streamline, it requires a lot of time, patience, and willingness to experiment.

    Telling Stories

    You probably heard this quote before: small minds discuss people, average minds discuss events, great minds discuss ideas. Let’s think about it for a second.

    This statement proposes that engaging in idle talk about people and events is shallow to some degree. Gossiping doesn’t elevate the mind, and thus it is of little worth.

    I agree, but let’s consider what’s great literature: it’s always about people. We are social animals, and ultimately we all do things for someone else.

    The best writers use events and people to discuss universal ideas. Camus comes to mind: in his novel The Stranger, the fresco of characters and events is an allegory of the Absurd. Balzac’s Human Comedy is the living portrait of an age, but also a reflection on human nature. The examples are many.

    Discussing ideas is important, but a good story will always make them more memorable by leveraging deep primal emotions in the reader.

    More generally, storytelling is all about people. People are both the audience and the messenger.

    Even when you write non-fiction, there is no substitute for actual humans: illustrating ideas with the life of someone is more powerful than merely telling them.

    Writing and Personal Development

    Writing is an incredible tool for personal development.

    We often make the distinction between what we say and what we do, but writing is often the first step towards adopting a maker attitude: Ryan Hoover theorized what made the success of Product Hunt in a blog, Basecamp rose to fame by blogging, and countless writers before you shaped the world into what it is today.

    There are many reasons why. First, you are what you write. According to a scientific study, writing down your goals raises by 40% the probability of you achieving them. Having a resource you can refer to makes you accountable, and since we are wired to stay away from pain, we are less likely to go back on our word to avoid being shamed. We can use this trick in many situations, such as giving advices to make us more likely to follow them ourselves.

    Second, our persona is mainly the reflection of our work. Even unconsciously, we make assumptions about people by the way they look, and more generally, by the way they express themselves. If I want to know more about someone, I google them and I read what they wrote. Failing to understand the importance of your e-reputation is a missed opportunity to improve your quality of life: learn to present yourself and let your personality shine through your writings.

    Finally, writing is an unavoidable part of the learning process. Writing a blog post is a great way to be proactive in the way you learn, which will in turn have a deeper impact on your memory.

    For all these reasons, writing greatly benefits us in our quest for transcendence: tell me who you want to be and I’ll tell you what to write about.

    Re: Shifting My Writing Workflow

    When it comes to the ideation step during the writing process, @carlosbeas proposes to “divide the broader area of interest into different sub-topics”. It’s something important to understand and to put into practice.

    You have to think in terms of Atomic Writing: each section of your text should be modular and cover a single idea.

    In most cases, writing about something deeply enough involves covering a wide variety of ideas. When you don’t know what to write about, you can try to uncover those satellite ideas. Break down the problem you encounter into sub-problems, and process each one with care.

    The ability to unearth the underlying first principles of a given problematic is ultimately what gives clarity to a corpus. It’s also how you make your text memorable, by echoing the very laws of the world.

    This is why when you write one article, you give birth to ten other article ideas. A writer’s block is a cognitive inability to change our perspective: it’s all in our heads! If we fail to look outward for ideas, we can still look inward.

    Alternate between the macro and the micro, and you’ll never run out of ideas.

    Tis But a Scratch

    You might think that after 320 days of daily writing I’ve become pretty confident with my skills, but it ain’t the case. I’ve barely scratched the surface of what great writing is.

    I’m definitely a lot better than before, but I’m nowhere near being an excellent writer.

    The more you write, the more you learn about yourself. It makes you aware of your own limitations. I love it, because where there are opportunities, there is hope.

    How am I going to be better? By reading more from great writers whose life and style inspire me: Hemingway, Umberto Eco, Jack Kerouac, Jane Austen, Thoreau, Twain, Jack London, Bukowski, Virginia Woolf, Samuel Beckett, and Robert Greene, to start with. Mostly American literature because it’s foreign to me and I need to improve my English.

    I’m currently reading The Sun Also Rises by Hemingway and I’m finishing Robert Greene’s Mastery. Hemingway’s writing style is so fluid and elegant, it’s a delight to read. Greene’s first principle reasoning and research skills are awe-inspiring, each paragraph packs a punch.

    I’ll absorb it all, I’ll make it my own. Merely writing more won’t get me far, I have to consume more as well. There is no way around reading and confronting myself to great work. That’s how humans evolve, by building upon previous generations.

    From Blogging to Vlogging

    I’ve started experimenting with a new content format: a vlog to complement my daily blog.

    Now it’s gotten easy to write consistently every day, I’m free to focus on improving the quality and distribution of my posts.

    The good thing with writing is that it can become an opportunity for literally anything: a newsletter, a podcast, a course, a book… writing is the pillar of content creation.

    I want to expand my comfort zone by improving my speaking skills, so I hesitated between a podcast and a vlog. A podcast would be quicker to record and publish, but the time difference with vlogging is not that big if I keep it short and minimalist. Videos still generate more traffic than podcasts.

    If I were to start vlogging regularly, it would be to support my business goals. To sell more, I need to reach a wider audience while creating stronger relationships, and videos are better than podcasts regarging this aspect. Humans are visual animals, our appearance enables trust, that’s how we get to interact (or not) with other. That was the deciding point.

    I’m still unsure of the format of the vlog. I have to try out different things. It has to be useful for my audience, but not too time-consuming when it’s performed every day. Or maybe I could just slice and dice my articles to come up with more long-form content I could translate into videos.

    Live-streaming was another alternative but it’s too time-consuming for my viewers and I wouldn’t stay consistent.

    Vlogging also makes sense because it’s still uncharted territory in the maker niche. Maybe a good use of vlogging would be to review my work while offering tips and tricks to aspiring entrepreneurs.

    What do you think? What would you like to see?

    On Curiosity

    If you want to write, become curious first.

    Since we live in an economy where knowledge is the universal metric of growth, curiosity is probably the most important quality we must possess to succeed in today’s world.

    There is a saying in France. La curiosité est un vilain défaut. The equivalent in English is ”curiosity killed the cat”, but it doesn’t translate well the meaning of the French version: ”curiosity is a naughty flaw”. This paradoxical view on curiosity is deeply ingrained in the West: Prometheus was condemned by the gods after robbing them of fire, and Adam was expelled from Eden after eating the forbidden apple. Curiosity is perceived as a sin.

    There are different types of curiosity. Knowledge is different from mere information, because it never fades. If we feed our curiosity with knowledge, it can only open up our mind to new possibilities.

    Acquiring knowledge is not merely memorizing it, it’s becoming its embodiment. And the thing with non-tacit knowledge is that you never truly understand what you do not write.

    Don’t wait for inspiration. Instead, acknowledge what you don’t know and do some research or experiments. Then, write down what you learned. Be curious every day, and you become a better writer. More importantly, you’ll be a better human being.

    Offline Writing

    I’ve been experimenting with a habit of writing offline over the past months to increase my productivity. I’m now convinced we can greatly benefit from it.

    I’m currently filling my notebook from the balcony of my studio, in the suburbs of Bucharest. The sun is slowly declining, leaving a peculiar light on the trees and the concrete buildings surrounding me. It’s quiet enough to get some work done. Only me, my blank canvas, my pen, a cup of coffee, and a round glass table.

    I’m enjoying the pure moment of flow, alternating in-between states of possession where the writing daemon takes over, and states of reflection where my mind leaves my body to some foreign land.

    My meditation attracts ideas. There is no notification to chase them away, no Wi-Fi signal to disorient them, and no batteries to stop me from welcoming them with open arms.

    The sweet breeze and the sun on my skin repel my worries. I am whole. There is nowhere to go and no one to be, only the moment and the words to live.

    I cannot rival my typing speed on a keyboard, but my spirit is unchained and free to roam. I enter a deeper state of focus, and yet, I feel more open-minded, thus making my writing speed equal, if not greater, than the one I display faced with a virtual text editor.

    Studies found writing offline greatly increases the retention of the information you process. Writers should be long-term thinkers, every word we put down on paper is training for the next idea. Nothing of importance will happen if we can’t remember anything, because each truth builds upon another across hundreds of generations.

    Try freewriting on a piece of paper, I bet it will make you stronger. Leave aside the fear of missing out on important information a Google’s search away, and you’ll discover you have more valuable things within you.

    Redesigning my Writing Funnel - Part 2

    Here is a little thought experiment acting as a continuation of yesterday’s post about how I want to design a new writing funnel.

    If we consider everything is marketing, we can approach our writing funnel design from the ideation phase. I get my ideas from my daily process and interactions, but I can also use Q&A websites. Quora should thus be the first addition to my current funnel. I could for example answer one question per day and use the resulting ideas to inspire my daily post.

    200 Words a Day remains the place where I keep nurturing my writing habit. My daily writing practice is the pillar of my content creation effort.

    The published article is then cross-posted as a Twitter thread. That’s where most of my audience interacts and grows: I have to increase my presence.

    I’m envisioning the possibility to record a daily podcast that would just be me reading my 200WaD post and explaining the thought process that went into it. Changing the format of the resource allows me to distribute it without hurting my SEO by content duplication. More importantly, hearing someone’s voice just feels more personal. Increased intimacy enables trust.

    In parallel, Makerlog is the place where I develop my operational accountability, the public to-do list where I display tangible proofs of my work ethic.

    I’m also thinking of setting up a weekly newsletter where I would curate all the content and results I’ve been producing. This email list would act as a weekly review. It’s an exercise I used to do but ended up dropping out. Adding an element of public accountability might be useful to me and others as well.

    Finally, my personal website should remain the place where I’m building my personal brand, the bridge between every social account I own.

    The most important thing with content creation is consistency. If you interact over too many mediums at once, you just remain noise. Carefully selecting the relevant communities is key. We only have 24 hours in a day after all.

    With the right tools and habits, this seven-part writing funnel can help me make the most of my content. Time to get concrete by shipping by-products.

    Redesigning my Writing Funnel - Part 1

    I wrote a post a month ago about how I use different platforms to assist me in my writing efforts. I’m in the middle of rethinking the way I manage my content creation activities.

    The current situation is as follow: Twitter to develop my audience, 200 Words a Day to improve the quality of my posts by staying consistent and accountable, and an upcoming personal blog to build my personal brand.

    When I write something, I can increase my content’s reach and engagement by adapting it to be distributed somewhere else. I call it a writing funnel: content spread across the web sharing an interdependent relationship to effectively grow its impact with minimal additional effort.

    The traditional approach is to set up an account in every possible community you encounter and post a link to your work in the relevant channels. Facebook group, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn for example … but also niche communities in your industry.

    The problem with this Create Once, Publish Everywhere philosophy is how it doesn’t take into account each community’s rules and values. It’s not as simple as copy/pasting content.

    Cross-sharing is often sub-optimal, and cross-posting is usually counter-productive. It allows to save time, but the engagement’s potential is just not maximized.

    On the contrary, an efficient writing funnel is about slicing and dicing your content by taking into account the identified mediums, to serve your business goals.

    How you do it depends on your personal goals and tastes. I can give you an example of how I plan to do it, but you’ll have to wait for it tomorrow.

    Dealing with Writer's Block

    I’m still having writer’s block. Writing 200 words a day has become easy, but even after so many days I’m still struggling with writing more long-form content. I’m currently writing a 3k-word article for Makerlog, and I started re-evaluating my approach.

    I took the first step by acknowledging I have a procrastination problem, but what am I concretely going to do about it?

    The root of the problem is quite clear to me: my expectations are too high, I’m forgetting to have fun and enjoy the process itself. What excites me about writing? It’s about solving problems with words. If I can identify the problems, I can find an answer to them.

    Problems resonates with first principles: ideas, emotions, and behaviors we can all relate to. Writing is a quest for these truths. When you get a glimpse of them, you have to show them to the readers instead of merely telling them.

    Sit down and start scribbling down some words. It’s an iterative process: something you put on paper can give you another idea to research and integrate in your draft.

    Don’t forget what matters is immersing yourself in the moment to make it enjoyable. I found offline writing to be efficient at creating the right environment to focus on the craft. The time you earn typing faster is useless if your inspiration runs dry. Inspiration emerges from a blank state of mind, which is more easily attained when you are offline and away from distractions.

    Yesterday I read about Robert Greene’s note taking method and it gave me an idea for my writing process. Outlining is great, but was if I could think of an article in terms of mind-maps? Outlining presupposes you already know the best logical plan to paint a solution, but during editing your outline is constantly changing. You need the flexibility to seamlessly re-arrange ideas. It echoes to what I wrote in Atomic Writing: every sentence is an atomic idea, your corpus is a molecule of ideas. The writing process should take that into account. If my mind becomes too rigid following an outline, I feed my writer’s block. On the contrary, if I remain open to new ideas and structures, I gain access to an inexhaustible manna.

    I’m supposed to finish this article by Monday, but pressuring myself into respecting a deadline can be deadly too. I have to re-learn to take easy, 200 words at a time.

    Show, Don't Tell

    The best piece of advice I’ve received trying to improve the quality of my writings: show, don’t tell.

    When you look at a painting or a movie or a sculpture, you don’t want to just see something: it has to make you feel something. It’s the same with writing. Just merely describing what a character is doing is not enough, it’s just annoying to the point of rolling back your eyes back into your head.

    Our brains contain something called mirror neurons, a neuron that fires both when an animal acts and when the animal observes the same action performed by another, which is why showing is much more powerful than merely telling something through writing: it forces the reader to get in the shoes of the character to truly experience the situation.

    Instead of telling someone you’re angry, or sad, or joyful, or excited, show it by providing mental images. Remember how your body reacted, your thoughts, and how your environment reacted to you, then use your imagination to put it all together before releasing the tornado of emotions.

    Sometimes, you might feel torn apart between going straight to the point and illustrating it because you don’t want to appear too verbose. The truth is you don’t have to choose, good writers do both.

    Write Daily, Edit Weekly

    Daily writing in public is an iterative cycle. You start with an idea, you outline a post, do some research, elaborate, edit, and publish. The process can then generate new ideas and start itself all over again.

    I already wrote several times about the importance of practicing daily and keeping your writing streak alive, but let me tell you a secret: it doesn’t mean you have to go through the whole cycle every day.

    Writing something every day is important to keep your observational skills sharp and to improve at your craft, and your ability to deliver on a daily basis is as important as your capacity to write daily.

    On the other hand - ideating, outlining, editing, and planning your publications can be batched together once a week. On Sunday for example, when you have a block of uninterrupted time. It seriously increases your writing productivity to prepare posts in this fashion beforehand. More importantly, it prevents you from falling off the wagon when a day gets out of hand.

    I get it, you probably think you don’t have time to write every day. But this is no excuse not to prepare something to publish beforehand. Schedule in advance, write whenever you have time, and note down your ideas whenever they pop up.

    Write about the Past

    My father has always been obsessed with the history of his parents who fled Vietnam to settle down in a French immigration camp for many years, to the point where he has developed an expertise in the niche of the French/Vietnamese decolonization. Obsessed, because it always felt odd to me to see him stuck in the past like this - by writing and speaking about it.

    Now I started writing myself, I wonder: aren’t we all stuck in the past in some way? The present is an accumulation of past experiences. If we want to have an impact on our present - and thus, on our future - we must acknowledge the past to overcome it.

    Document the past to build the present. It’s not just a strategy to deliver content, or as Gary Vaynerchuk from VaynerMedia puts it: ”Document, don’t create”. It’s a way of life.

    If you write about the present, you’re not doing anything. You can only write about the past, the future, or an alternative dimension from your imagination.

    If you write about the future, you live a deferred life. It’s a form of escapism. Thinking too far ahead is dangerous because it builds up cognitive barriers preventing you from acting now. Don’t set goals, develop habits instead. Tell your plans wisely. You don’t want a to-do list or a past decision to dictate your life. Living in the future is locking your present.

    On the other hand, writing about the past is building upon it. Acknowledge it, accept it, outgrow it. Tell others what’s been done, how, and why. Journaling in public is incredibly productive because humans learn by experiencing new things, by interacting with each other. Writing things down makes you go through the whole process.

    The Writing Daemon

    After 280 days of daily writing, I’m finally starting to feel I develop an inner daemon for the craft.

    It’s hard during the first weeks. You run out of ideas and you feel like giving up the streak. Self-doubt takes over. The words are not bleeding, but they bleed you.

    It gets easier. You become more mindful of your acts and surroundings. Your writing muscles build up strength. You understand you are what you write and you write who you are. It will forever change you for the better.

    The words have become nutrients. The pain is gone. The more I write, the more I want to write. It sustains my growth. Writing is slowly becoming my superpower to connect with others.

    My mind is now fusing with ideas and I have to stop myself from writing too much to focus on making products.

    That’s a new problem: once you get used to generate ideas, you need to prioritize them. Yesterday I started a new series of blog posts where I explain how to implement a user story from a software design perspective. I have the updated version of my book Alter-Nomad to finish, rename, and publish. I have stuff to read and notes to make.

    The writing journey is only beginning.

    How to Write Product Requirements as an Indie Maker

    Requirement engineering is an entire subfield of software engineering, one that relies heavily on your communication skills: writing requirements is about defining your customers’ fundamental problems, goals, and needs, that will later be answered by a software system - a mobile app, a website, an application programming interface… a tech product.

    A requirement specifies the desired behavior of a product, which can either be functional (a task, what the product does) or non-functional (a quality/constraint, how the product does what it does).

    A requirement is always written from the point of view of a variety of stakeholders, which is why a certain quality is needed to make requirements easily understandable. This way, a stakeholder can agree on a set of requirements, as to avoid any unnecessary change down the road - which greatly increases the probability of a project’s success since changes are expensive.

    You elicitate requirements by talking with your users. It looks simple, but finding relevant users for your target segment is hard. It’s a maieutic process that takes skills.

    All requirements are documented in a central repository. In 200WaD’s case, it’s a public Trello board, but in big companies, it’s not unusual to use dedicated tools. Having a persistent common reference is incredibly important to ensure the project’s transparency and knowledge transfer.

    Requirements are put down on paper following a SMAR methodology: Simple - complete, unambiguous, understandable, atomic ; Measurable - traceable and verifiable ; Achievable ; Realistic - necessary and consistent. Different formats are possible: formal languages (programming language) and semi-formal languages (UML diagram…), but as indie makers we should always opt for natural languages (English).

    Natural languages are easily comprehensible for everyone, which comes at the cost of under-specification, fewer details can be described efficiently. This is why when you read Makerlog tasks, it’s really hard to understand what those mean and how they fit in the overall product.

    To solve this issue, we can find inspiration in a requirement engineering methodology known as GORE - Goal-Oriented Requirement Engineering. In this framework, requirements are directly linked to the overall goals of a software system - why it exists. Goals are decomposed into sub-goals, which are then tied to user stories.

    A user story is a well-known term in Agile project management describing a product’s atomic use case in a measurable fashion. User stories are high-level requirements in terms of abstraction. In my opinion, those are the molecular statements you want to log in your public accountability system: a card in Trello, or a task in Makerlog.

    User stories can then be decomposed in more technical tasks or constraints - checklists in Trello or individual commits in Git.

    Your public requirements must be written in a way your readers can easily understand, otherwise, they are useless to them:

    1. High-level requirements in the form of user stories
    2. Mention the project and the corresponding sub-goal: “Landing page redesign”, “Editor feature”, etc.
    3. Always write with clarity
    4. Diversify your tone: make it interesting and inspiring to read, not always formal.
    5. Use illustrations: emojis, pictures, anything helps really.
    6. Follow-up: don’t forget to explain and celebrate your product milestones next to your requirements. Makerlog has a dedicated feature exactly for that!
    7. Do not go too deep: low-level requirements belong to git commit messages or roadmap sub-lists - ie. “wrote function X in class Y”
    8. Do not be too broad: you need to be specific to be understood and to invite interactions.

    Programming software is a lot like writing when you start thinking about your end-users. Start improving today!

    Default to Writing

    I read a singular sentence in Jason Fried’s Rework: “Everything is Marketing”. Every element of a business is an opportunity to stand up and share. Similarly, if your eyes are piercing enough, everything is an opportunity to write.

    After almost nine months of continuous daily writing, I’m having the impression each of the tasks I perform in my work can default to a writing activity.

    Reading is an opportunity to write a summary or Cornell notes, or to draw a mind-map. Watching a movie or listening to a song can become a review. A business idea can be shared as a tweet. A piece of code is a text with a limited vocabulary, a set of comments, and a commit message.

    Even if it’s just merely documenting, it’s an incredible thing to internalize: you are full of stories worth sharing, the subject matter expert of your own life.

    It’s your duty to share this special inner voice with your fellow humans. That’s how we evolve as a species, by building upon each other’s experience. All you need is a bit of creativity to bridge the mundane to the fundamental truths of life. After all, we write because we are looking for some sort of truth, an attempt at transcribing reality.

    Active Writing

    If you never tried to publish a few words every day, chances are you don’t know how hard it is. It is a typical case of Dunning–Kruger effect: it looks easy until you actually have to sit down and type on your keyboard.

    We all write every day - a tweet, an instant message, an email at work - but it’s not a deliberate focused practice. Most of the time, it’s not even for an audience we care about.

    When you start writing to help others or to develop yourself, it’s another matter.

    The first problem is coming up with interesting stuff to talk about. It takes serious focused observational skills. Inspiration is not innate, it is trained. To become interesting, you need an interesting life: read books, alter your perception of reality, have a meaningful work, develop meaningful relationships… writing daily implies a deep lifestyle shift.

    Even when you manage to get ideas, you still need to be organized enough to remember them and put them on paper. It quickly gets out of hand if you’re not disciplined. We all have jobs wearing us out all day long. We all have people to take care of. It’s never easy to make time for writing, but it’s simple when you get your priorities straight. You need a reason, a reason so primal it will drive you every day, no matter how hard it gets.

    When you develop consistency, you still need to increase your posts’ quality. Consistency implies quantity, and quantity leads to quality, but you still have to make a conscious effort to improve your researching and editing skills. At some point, you will write for an audience. An audience is a bunch of people expecting a certain form of wealth from interacting with what you create. If this quality isn’t there, you can’t expect people to care about your gift.

    The act of writing hides a lot of complexity. It’s a career, after all. You can only acquire this tacit knowledge by actively pursuing it.

    How to Get People to Write

    I already explained in previous posts why people should write. Now, let me tell you how I think 200WaD can get people into a sustainable writing habit.

    When a user signs in the website for the first time, a great onboarding process would consist in guiding him/her in finding the inner voice we all possess but we usually shut down. It takes time. Personally, I felt some sort of breakthrough around Day 170: ideas and words started flowing way more easily, not only in my writing practice, but also in other areas of life.

    Growth is the consequence of two main stimuli: the visual and the social. A streak takes care of the former, while a community ensures the latter.

    When a user starts his first post, I want to design the editor to suggest a simple outline to write an introduction:

    1) Who are you and where are you from?
    2) What do you do for a living?
    3) Why did you decide to write?

    Depending on the answers, it’s possible for another member of the community to easily suggest similar members and corresponding writing prompts. The idea is not only to avoid writer’s block by suggesting a one-week or 30 days writing program (one prompt = one day), but also to make the newcomer understand how writing is not purely abstract work and how it has a huge impact on your daily life if you write about things that matter to you: writing as a way to find yourself.

    After writing for several days, your attention to all areas of your life is expanded. It’s a liberating force. The idea muscle starts taking shape.

    The 200 words format is important. Just enough to write something meaningful, not too much to allow you to be consistent, no matter how busy life can get.

    The first month is the hardest. It eventually gets easier if you focus on your streak. Writing is a full-body exercise: ideation, researching, editing, publishing, introspecting, retrospecting, time management… it’s hard to keep up when your muscles are atrophied.

    Then, if you keep showing up no matter the hardships, you develop confidence. The little voice inside you gets louder. You develop an audience: 200WaD members with the same interests, or wherever you decide to distribute your content.

    After Day 200, your mind is an azure sky. Chances are, writing helped you take matters into your own hands: you built a side-project, took on a new hobbie, met new people or reconnected with others. You feel more in charge. When you understand writing is an essential part of the transformation process, you become addicted.

    You were a writer all along.

    From there, you can only go upward.

    Meta-content

    Creation is an act of cannibalization. It’s a trick to never run out of things to say: it’s fairly easy to build up content around an existing piece of content.

    I call it meta-content: you can write, you can write about writing, and you can write about writing about writing. Then you can interview people who write about writing about writing. The final touch: review an interview of someone who writes about writing about writing. Meta-content is content feeding on each other to bring out potential additional value.

    Follow the 5W1H methodology: What, When, Why, Where, When, and How. Write about when and how you got the idea to write, then how you actually sit down and put in the work… the declensions are many. You have to imagine your content is an onion to dissect.

    Above four layers of abstraction, it gets hard to follow. Additionally, you can change your format. An article can easily become a podcast, a video, a tweet, or a newsletter. The other way around is true as well. The hard part is delivering the initial content.

    A concrete example of such meta-content is reaction videos: a video of someone reacting to another video. It’s a common format on Youtube. There are also reaction mashups - superposed reaction videos where you get to see many people reacting at once to the same thing.

    When you write one piece of content, you actually give birth to tens of additional pieces.

    Writing Funnel

    I don’t write in one place. That’s not how the Internet works. My writings are distributed across several platforms. They are not copy-pasted though, each website has its own use case.

    I use Twitter to report and to bounce off some thoughts and ideas. It keeps me public. That’s where I developed my biggest audience as of today.

    I write my first drafts at 200 Words a Day. The community product keeps me consistent and accountable. I structure my content in short-form posts to make my writings more modular. To me, 200 Words a Day is about atomic collaborative writing, it’s where I focus on my craft.

    I’m working on a personal blog where I intend to centralize all my long-form illustrated content, for a personal branding purpose. Long-form content is where all the SEO juice is. I don’t expect people to go through my hundreds of 200 words posts: I need to curate my content to make it easily searchable.

    It’s my writing funnel. From a few characters to several pages, an article is born. Sometimes it’s the contrary and a tweet is born.

    A creative should not be bound to a single format. The energy should be channeled across different vessels.

    New Blog Engine

    I’m completely re-designing my personal website to develop my audience and my activities. I want to centralize all my online content and products in one place that feels personal.

    The hard thing about owning a website is not launching it, it’s keeping it updated.

    When someone types your name on Google, your personal website shows up first. It has to be the very reflection of who you are, what you stand for, and where you are headed. No one has time to hope around different social networks and tech products to see what you are up to: you are your best curator.

    Owing to those two last points, you want a custom website that can easily be refreshed.

    Instead of going for a heavy and cumbersome solution such as Wordpress, I went for a static website generator called Gatsby.js. The website is coded with Javascript (React framework), HTML, and CSS. The articles are written in Markdown. The whole app is then hosted on Github and deployed to Netlify for $0. All I need to pay is a domain name: $10 a year for BasileSamel.com.

    The main reason why I chose this tech stack is Continuous Integration. I just make a modification to my local Git repository and push it to the World Wide Web in a single command line. It’s never been easier (and cheaper) to update a home-made website.

    I don’t need to buy an additional web server because I can always redirect my users to another relevant service if I need them to interact with me. For example, I redirect them to Telegram to communicate, to Mailchimp to subscribe to my newsletter, or to Buy Me A Coffee to tip me.

    The simplest solution is usually the one you are going to keep around.

    Atomic Writing

    Writing is about conveying ideas using words. In business writing, you want people to learn something with the hope to convince them to get more from you. Unlike fiction, it’s not about provoking your reader’s imagination, it’s about being understood.

    To be understood, clarity matters most. Your writings must be easy to digest without losing any nutrient: a great read is a gastronomic experience.

    All great meals share common characteristics: they look good, they sustain your health, and they go straight to the point.

    It looks good. Structure matters. You want your paragraphs and sections to be cleverly organized as to ease comprehension. People who write software follows something known as a Single Responsibility Principle: every component should have responsibility for a single part of the feature provided by the software. It’s the same with your texts: each paragraph should cover a single idea. No more, no less.

    Reading is food for thought: your text must pack a punch! Find new perspectives, new analogies. Bridge two completely opposite ideas to create a new one. In two words, try to be innovative in the way you deliver value. Ever felt like articles are all the same? You don’t want to give this impression, so tell your story, not someone else’s.

    Each ingredient matters. A thoughtful meal has no superfluous element to it. Each part can stand on its own, but you can put them together in a seamless fashion. You only write what you need the reader to understand.

    We could call this atomic writing: a modular yet efficient way to tell stories.

    Upping my Writing Game

    It’s time to shift the gears. I thought a long time about how I can reach new heights as a writer and subsequently decided I need to read more, first and foremost. Not just reading for the sake of it, but active reading: taking structured notes by paraphrasing, digestible at wish.

    On the other hand - if I want to introduce the concept of progressive overload to my daily writing workout - I need to increase the weight I’m lifting. I already came to the conclusion the best way to go about it is not to focus on writing more words or to spend more time researching and editing, but on publishing more posts. It’s about taking on and processing more topics to grow further as an individual.

    I’m going to combine active reading and progressive overload to come up with at least one new post per day in the form of reading notes.

    I’ll keep on free-writing every day here, but instead of writing once I’ll publish twice a day.

    If I want to become a better writer, I need to read more. Both go hand in hand: I’m developing a daily reading habit where the words I write quantify my efforts, not the number of pages I read.

    Collaborative Writing

    I have only one vision for 200WaD: the opportunity for everyone to get into a writing habit and improve.

    In my opinion, the best way to develop a habit is to create an open community, individuals from all backgrounds sharing the same goal to push each other upward.

    Writing circles are not a new concept, but we are the only group of people who put openness and community at the center of our writing experience. No fee to pay, accessible from anywhere, for everyone. Community is truly the core of 200WaD, which is why the current roadmap is designed to prioritize collaborative features.

    I want 200WaD to become a place where people can truly write together. Not just a space to receive likes and comments, but also to create together. Think Github for writing.

    The question now is, how do we get there? From what I understand by listening to the members here, I need to focus on the social aspect of the website first. Today or tomorrow I’m releasing the official chat of 200WaD - a basic instant communication tool so that everyone can talk in a more casual way in one channel. Then I will add advanced event support to notify the community of what’s happening: new milestones, new members, new releases… The goal is to increase the number of interactions between new and confirmed members while keeping the writers motivated to reach and stay in #TeamStreak. Finally, it will be high-time to release the Writing Circles feature to help writers collaborate based on their common interests.

    This will be 200WaD 2.0, which will be officially launched before the end of summer.

    200WaD 3.0 will focus on collaborative writing - features to create together, including a complete versioning engine where members can suggest improvements to posts in a more streamlined fashion, and an innovative system of writing prompts (individual crowdsourced writing prompts + “writing programs”, more on that later).

    Of course, I’ll keep on fixing bugs during all this time (haha). I have about a year of runway left, and this is basically where I’m heading over the next 6 months.

    Are you excited? Do you want to request new changes? Don’t hesitate to do so in the Comments section or via email (hello@200wordsaday.com)!

    Why writing is so important for entrepreneurs

    Entrepreneurship is slowly being integrated into engineering programs. I remember taking lectures in Marketing, Finance, and Project Management while having to write a business plan and deliver a working prototype.

    In retrospect, it was not only boring but also unrealistic.

    You are told what to do by people who never built anything on their own. You are told you need to write a business plan to raise funds. You are told you need extensive planning to get somewhere.

    They don’t tell you how to talk to customers though. They don’t show you how communication is the most important aspect of making things. Worse, most engineering students have extremely poor writing skills and can’t convey an idea properly.

    However, writing is as important as understanding the technicalities of a solution.

    It’s not just about writing a pitch once and hopefully raise millions on an idea. It’s about constantly delivering value to a growing audience over the span of several years, with content and conversations to create trust. You don’t just want to deliver a solution, you want a trusted solution people can recommend and buy. This trust is ensured by communicating/writing extensively.

    What you experience as a founder is probably the most important by-product of your company, so put it on paper or on a blank screen.

    What you should write about is pretty simple: Why, How, and What. Why you do it (vision, mission, problem…), how you do it (problem-solving methodology, your company culture, your values), and what it is you do (operational tasks, roadmap, concrete solutions to problems, pitch, documentation).

    Figure it out, battle-test your ideas and solutions, and talk with people. Don’t lose touch of reality. All of this can be achieved with writing, so start today.

    What's so hard about Blogging?

    It’s well known 90% of new startups shut down within a year, but what about blogs? According to this article, there are approximately 500 million blogs on the Internet, 33% being monetized, 10% making over $10k per year, and less than 1% making over $1M annually.

    In other terms, 90% of blogs aren’t sustainable businesses. It’s not shocking considering most people blog for fun or for the love of writing, but since Content is King, I wonder - why aren’t there more people making a living from writing?

    There is no get-rich-quick scheme, building a business takes time. It’s all about being patient and consistent with your efforts. Consistency is probably the hardest thing about blogging: people don’t write regularly enough. It’s hard to dedicate time to blogging in an age where we are busy making a living, getting together with friends, family, and lovers, or enjoying the products and services thrown at us.

    Blogs, books, newsletters… all can be perceived as products, but blogging shouldn’t be purely approached as a business - it’s not something to overthink about, but rather a wordy yet simple answer to a lingering problem, a habit to take on and nurture.

    If you are thinking of starting out a blog, you have to be ready to publish something every week for a sustained period of time - 2 to 4 years at the very least.

    And what’s a better way to publish every week than to publish every day, I wonder. All that matters is to sit down, write a bit every day, and confront your writings to an audience. It looks simple, but it’s not easy. It doesn’t matter how much you write or how big your audience is, you have to walk the way.

    Stop Hiding

    After reading @brandonwilson ‘s post I jumped on the podcast, browsed to 1:01:42 and started listening to what Seth Godin has to say about writing daily.

    Seth Godin publishes one piece of content every day on his personal blog. It’s about developing two things: attention, and trust.

    When you pay attention to your life, you never run out of ideas to write about.

    More importantly, writing in public makes you accountable: you can point people toward what you wrote. Blog posts are concrete thoughts you vouch for. They enable trust.

    One piece of advice echoeing what we are all doing here on 200WaD is to stop hiding.

    Writing in private has its use cases. You might be journaling to get personal things out of your system, or you might be creating paid content.

    If you don’t fall in those two categories, there is no point in hiding. Quite the contrary, you are missing out all the benefits of confronting yourself to the real world.

    There is nothing mundane about exposing your thought process to the world. No matter how boring it might sound to you, there are people out there who will find it inspiring. We live in a world where having an audience is an incredible leverage to create an impactful change: you can’t change the world by yourself, but you can explain what you do and what you think.

    Your voice matters more than you think, so don’t be this kid hiding in a corner all alone. Get real.

    Re: Back to the bottleneck (maybe?)

    People wanting to write every day while failing to do so always have two excuses: not enough time, and not enough ideas. It remains excuses: you can decide you want to do something bad enough and they will vanish. The only obstacle is you.

    Time can be made. All you need to write 200 words is half an hour. If you’re feeling particularly inspired ten minutes will be enough. It might take more time at first - when you just started developing the habit - but it eventually gets easier. Just force your way through. Replace TV time with writing time. Outline ideas while you eat. Sit down and be done with it, opportunities are everywhere.

    What about your writer’s block? Another excuse. Here is a list of writing prompts to never run out of ideas:

    Document your day

    Boring? Maybe it will, but you shouldn’t care. Journaling is highly therapeutic, it will improve your mental health. It might even give you new ideas to make a better use of tomorrow. Daily routine might be boring to you, but it might fascinate people from a different part of the world.

    Write fiction stories

    Imagination is an unlimited manna. Throw in personal experiences and you obtain something both entertaining and didactic.

    Explain things you learned

    Non-fiction is always hard, because it demands clarity in both thoughts and words. However, there is one thing you must have skills for which is valuable to everyone. Share it!

    Take notes

    If you don’t feel like producing, consume! Write down notes from books you read, movies you watched, or courses you attended. Then build upon them to explain the concepts to your readers in a new way.

    Write your Purpose

    Explain what you stand for, how and why it impacts your work. Sharing your purpose is the only way to attract support. It’s inspiring, and more importantly, it humanizes you.

    Tell a personal story

    We all have interesting stories to tell which actually happened. What about your childhood, lovers, friends, mistakes, successes? Putting yourself out there takes grit, but it’s freeing.

    Now, write!

    Re: Writing is a sport

    I don’t use the Reply button as much as I should. Building upon each other’s ideas is a great way to keep the streak burning, and to think together, so thank you @jasonleow for starting this conversation!

    To go higher as a writer, I should integrate my routines to my everyday life, and my everyday life to my routines. That’s how I get most of my ideas for personal growth, hence the athletic metaphor.

    Progressive overload

    As Jason described, there are three ways to activate muscle growth when you lift weights: increasing the number of repetitions, increasing the load, or increasing your movement’s amplitude. What are the parameters we can change to create writing growth?

    I don’t think the number of words per post is a relevant metric for quality: most ideas can be succinctly described in a paragraph, the rest of the text being merely entertaining or didactic.

    Increasing the quality of the post is an interesting idea too, but we have to agree on what makes quality. It’s less actionable. Spending more time editing and researching can become an excuse to delay your publications. Considering the fact editing and researching are already part of the daily writing routine - writing being a three steps process: ideating, researching, editing - I’d argue

    The number of posts appears to me as the most relevant indicator of growth. Posting more on 200WaD naturally increases your total word count AND the time spent on ideating/researching/editing. It also forces you to write modular posts. Lastly, it’s easily actionable because it’s measurable.

    Rest

    In this aspect I agree with Cal Newport’s proposition in Deep Work quoting Bennet’s How to Live on 24 Hours a Day:

    “What? You say that full energy given to those sixteen hours will lessen the value of the business eight? Not so. On the contrary, it will assuredly increase the value of the business eight. One of the chief things which my typical man has to learn is that the mental faculties are capable of a continuous hard activity; they do not tire like an arm or a leg. All they want is change—not rest, except in sleep.”

    Change and sleep are what matter. I personally use the scheduling feature when I know I will be offline the entire day or when I need to focus on programming.

    Periodisation

    Again, super interesting proposition by Jason. Personally I’d go with a training to failure approach: just steadily and gradually increase the load till it’s not sustainable, then go back to the basic training and repeat the progressive load cycle. I like this simple approach because it removes all the possible over-thinking another method might create.

    Transfer

    Spot on analysis. I’d add you don’t have to focus solely on one goal but switch between two or three to increase diversity. In my case: sharing my opinions (essays), documenting my progress (notes, journaling), stay sane (therapeutic writing).

    Mental training

    A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. I think that’s the role of the community here to act as a coach.

    Great feature ideas for the future of 200WaD right here. Thanks for the inspiration Jason.

    Compound Writing 2

    When I want to complain about writing 200 words a day I just look up the routine of the most prolific writers.

    Stephen King, 2000 words. Jack London, 1500 words. Mark Twain, 1400 words. Michael Crichton, 10000 words. Balzac used to write for 16 hours a day and went on to publish 85 novels in 20 years.

    Then I laugh at how ridiculous I sound when I complain about my daily streak that won’t even take an hour to complete if I just get it done. I sit down and put in the work. I don’t plan on making a profession out of writing, but I must nurture this skill. Consistency and growth are thus the only two things that matter.

    I have consistency, what about growth? I might lack talent, but I can make up for it with prolificness. The question becomes: how can I write more at a higher speed without sacrificing quality? The answer might be ”Progressive Overload”, a famous concept in weight lifting.

    If to some extent the brain works like a muscle, then it’s probably possible to increase its performance over time.

    If I set out to add 10 words to my daily word count every day, the compound result should result in a huge increase in my total word count. Starting from 200 words, it would take two weeks to reach a daily target of 350 words. 500 words after a month. 1000 after two months.

    The idea would be to add “weight” until muscular failure, meaning, the incapacity to output more words in the same time window. Then I would be back to 200 words per day and repeat the cycle till I grow more comfortable.

    I’m gonna think more about it and try to come up with some sort of methodology.

    Writings and Memento Mori

    Ever noticed how in video games the act of saving your progress is mostly represented by your character keeping a journal? Writing is a medium to repel death, to overcome our own mortality.

    If I were to die tomorrow, would people remember me? How would they see me?

    Cinema, painting, sculpture… all illusions, perhaps all lies. But what if an author decides to pour his/her soul onto paper? Writing has this power to make you immortal, unequaled by any other form of expression. It’s the very proof of your existence, of what you stand for.

    Video has yet to reproduce the authenticity a few words can bring. Have you ever felt how words appear more lively than old records? I wonder what sort of sorcery this is.

    In a few years, technology will probably be capable of virtualizing people. We already have software that can reproduce your writing style to some degree and a virtual Tupac.

    Writing is not just about conquering death, it’s also about remembering it - memento mori. It’s the act of materializing your will to share it with others. We fear death because we don’t want to miss out, we don’t want to regret. Making sure your legacy is transmitted is a way to prepare death - an art of dying (ars moriendi).

    Just like Achilles, we all want to be remembered for who we were. And yet, only a handful of people ever write articles, or a book, or their own biography, or their own testament. I find it absolutely fascinating. Words remain a precious legacy.

    How to Create the Next Tolstoï at Scale

    I just wanted to write 200 words a day. I built this website for fun during a hackathon, and it grew beyond my modest expectations. I would have never imagined a thousand people would visit this website on a daily basis, to write or to read.

    The more time I spend growing it, the more ambition I develop for this community. It has become something bigger than me. I can’t just do it for myself anymore, I have expectations to fulfill, and I am (still) willing to spend the next 10 years of my life cultivating this website.

    How to get more people to write and blossom? There is plenty of blog engines, platforms, writing groups, online courses, and communication channels to get started, but few people act. It’s a huge mistake. Writing is probably the most underrated metaskill in the whole history of humankind: it’s still the most common form of business communication, and yet, you don’t see many people writing blogs. Worse, most blogs fail because of a lack of commitment.

    200 Words a Day’s mission is to help foster self-sustained original writers at scale.

    At scale because even though there is no shortage of good writers, tools and infrastructures to help them are insufficient or unreachable for most. Writing groups are either closed or expensive, which is why 200WaD is the only free open online writing group accessible to everyone.

    In a sustainable fashion because writers need to be empowered on the long-term. It’s unfortunate to see how writers are not fairly rewarded for their work. 200WaD’s objective is to help writers grow their own audience and make a living out of their craft.

    You don’t have to be a published author to be a writer. Writing and story telling have been around since the dawn of the time, and no matter how much technology or the world change, we all have a story to tell. In order for this new generation of writers to emerge, 200WaD believes in an healthy balance between individuality and community.

    Writers are artisans - wordsmiths. Mastery is the result of long sustained practice. All successful writers behave the same: they sit down and write, as frequently as possible. Mastery is a habit, and this is a tech product to help developing a writing habit by celebrating our craft. We recognize each other individually and our own efforts. You are not a 200WaD writer, you are you.

    We are also a community. We improve together. We are real people, representative of the market you will eventually have to face as a writer. We can be your audience, and you will always find support to help you with your daily practice if you ask for it and put in the work.

    For all these reasons, I believe this community has a bright future.

    What do I do with all this content?

    My profile displays 225 posts, 370 pages, and 92,713 words. Add 30 pages from Medium, remove 80 pages of private posts, and I obtain 420 pages of original content.

    I’m at a point where I produced a decent amount of content. Enough to keep readers busy for a couple of hours. So what do I do with all this content? How to make the most of my hard written articles?

    In my case, I want to develop my personal brand: who I am, what it is I do, what I stand for - writing as a fuel for growth, to access a bigger pool of opportunities, to expand my world.

    Developing your personal brand is an important component of your career, by definition.

    When it comes to written content, personal blogs are still the best way to go about it: it gives you the independence you need to express yourself, to make things personal. It is not in your best interest to rely on external platforms, such as Medium, or even 200 Words a Day: you must develop full content ownership to access a higher degree of creative freedom.

    Google is still the best way to be seen on the Internet. Build a blog, release long-form content regularly, and start producing SEO juice. Content is gold. You can monetize it. You can trade it for online trust and respect. You can use it to climb the corporate ladder.

    The best part is that it is ethical and can benefit many.

    Anyway, I’m writing this because I’m currently thinking of how to improve 200WaD’s core features to empower more writers to distribute their content in an efficient way. When I’m tired of working on the chat feature I work on a new “My Words” page containing new design/features to manage your posts more effectively. I’ve also started developing new functions to play with text categories and collections. For example, it would be interesting to browse members’ content more easily by filtering by categories or to export texts to plain text or markdown.

    Let’s see how fast I can do this.

    Writing long-form content, consistently

    Long-form content is hard to define, but we can consider the ideal article length of 1600 words to establish a limit.

    Long-form is what powers your content efforts in terms of SEO. It’s what will establish your brand. Thus, writing 200 words a day is not the end-goal: I encourage every member to create his/her own blog for all business-oriented topics and to crosspost 200WaD content using the canonical link feature.

    200WaD is not optimized to power your brand, it’s meant to empower you as an individual by helping you get into a consistent writing habit to improve.

    However, you can use this website to create long-form content consistently thanks to the “Keep on Writing” feature.

    Each time you publish a post, a button appears at the bottom of your article: the “Keep on Writing” call to action. Once you hit it, it allows you to expand your initial article by at least 200 words and to publish the longer content as a separate entity. Repeat the process for a few days, and you obtain a long-form content!

    This feature is simple in appearance, but it hides a powerful method: modular incremental writing. It encourages you to think of long-form content as a set of modular pieces put together over several iterations. It’s no coincidence a paragraph has an ideal length of 100-200 words.

    I don’t see many members using it. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

    Compound Writing

    200 words. Not many to fill a blank screen. Too insignificant to have an impact. Or is it?

    A year has 365 days. If you write 200 words every day consistently for a year, you generate 73,000 words.

    It is assumed a non-fiction book is about 250 words per page, so in one year you can actually write about 292 pages of content.

    According to Medium, 1600 words is the optimal length of a blog post in terms of trade-off between quality and engagement. Do you write 45 quality blog posts a year yet?

    Of course, writing and publishing are two distinct things. But it’s not so much about looking good at first, it’s about pushing your boundaries. To learn to be comfortable with putting yourself out there.

    Writing consistently has a compounding effect. It has no immediate impact, but it eventually builds up to create major change.

    Compound writing increases your momentum as well. The average word count per post on 200 Words a Day is actually at 316 words: 115,000 words a year, or 460 pages, or 71 blog posts.

    Few people are capable of this feat, which is why it quickly becomes an unfair advantage. If you write well, you have the power to rally people. If you don’t, writing regularly won’t prevent you from writing crap, but at least it will feel good, which is what matters most honestly - to have fun while making yourself a favor.

    Meta-skill

    We live in a skill economy where what you know and what you do define where you stand within society. Nurturing your skills is by definition how you climb the social ladder.

    Writing is probably the most underrated business skill. The one skill to rule all skills, and more importantly, your life.

    There is nothing you can’t put in words, that’s how powerful they are.

    Writing is learning, education is asking the right questions.

    Writing is organizing your thoughts, to give them structure, store them, and present them efficiently.

    Writing is healing, it has a cathartic effect on your mind. Humans are bipolar animals, words help you cope with the conflicting emotions tiring you apart.

    Writing is meditating, it clears your head to process information at a higher level of focus.

    Writing is persuading. It allows you to justify your acts, to demonstrate who you are and your ideas. It builds trust.

    Writing is sharing: exposing your ideas to the world and documenting your existence is proof of care and love.

    Writing is growing. To look at the past to build the future.

    Writing is leaving a legacy. People come and go, words remain. It’s been around since 3500 BC, and it’s not gonna stop.

    Write today.

    6 Months of 200WaD

    I’ve been doing this 200 words a day thing for 6 months. Half a birthday, significant enough to write about it.

    Scribbling down 200 words for 189 days doesn’t seem like a big achievement. Most people probably write much more at work or on Twitter.

    The big difference to understand is how deliberate practice is much harder. You have to plan to sit down for at least half an hour every day, find something to write about, and actually hit publish. Most people give up after a few days, only the prepared remain.

    My own results speak for themselves: I wrote 174 public posts and 32 private posts in 189 days, which amounts to 59k words (235 pages) written in public, at an average word count of 338 words per post, and 20k (80 pages) words published in private. And a hundred bucks in pre-orders.

    Compound growth is such an important concept to grasp and apply. In my case, it resulted in 79k words, or 315 pages in an ebook format (250 words = 1 page).

    I never wrote consistently before, and I did it while building a tech startup and traveling the world at the same time. It’s all about the little step. All macroscopic bodies can be broken down to a microscopic level.

    The single advice I want to give you is to keep writing, you never know where it might lead.

    What to Read?

    There isn’t enough time in one life to read every book, even more so to read everything on the Internet. The amount of information is infinite when you compare it to our time on Earth: Google needs 2TB to store every book ever published, but we produce this amount of data more than a million times every single day.

    It’s a fact we can’t read everything and time is precious, we have to choose our readings with care.

    We can’t solely rely on others to tell us what to read: reading must remain liberating, not dogmatic. It’s important to develop your own judgment.

    Instead, we should do our own research, meaning, we should pursue our own questions, our own needs. We are all looking for something in our lives: some people read to be entertained, others want to improve their lives, to receive a vision of beauty, or just out of boredom. We do everything for a reason, consciously or not. Learning about our needs is the first step toward a great learning experience.

    We can’t be purely problem-driven, it’s important to leave room for curiosity, for the unexpected reading materials we always end up stumbling upon here and there. Rabbit holes can be enlightening experiences.

    Sometimes, picking a book reveals itself to be a mistake, the interest quickly fades away. Just close the damn book and jump on the next one, you were not ready.

    Write to Learn

    Someone wanting to learn how to write well should write to learn something else.

    Learning how to be a good writer is not an end-goal. Learning how to write is a matter of tacit knowledge, it’s about experiencing. Not just practicing but also confronting yourself with new situations.

    If you want to learn how to write well, you must write first. There is a necessity to write more, and a great method to never run out of things to talk about is to write with the intent to learn something unrelated to writing.

    The reason is quite simple: teaching a topic implies to formulate well-posed questions and answers. It’s not just structuring a presentation so that it can be well understood, it’s unveiling the essence of the subject to sublime it.

    In other words, writing to teach is interiorizing, because great pedagogy is about radiating emotions, which is exactly what art, and thus writing, is all about.

    What about formal education then? It’s a writing experience like any other. Professors are organized mentors telling you what to read and what is beauty from their own experience. Formal education is not inherently good or bad, it’s what you take out of it that matters.

    Becoming a Better Reader

    A good writer is a good reader, everyone knows that. So read books, read others. You can even read yourself, your own existence is probably the best book there is.

    A good reader reads. A great reader reads twice. Once to understand, and once to analyze.

    Understanding implies leaving your body to get in the shoes of the author. You must shut down your inner voice and listen with the intent to feel completely, regardless of your own opinions. The first read is a glance of compassion where you must abandon yourself to the moment and the writer.

    You cannot make yours what you do not understand. Only when you understand can you truly digest what’s being fed to you.

    The second read gives you lasting nutrients. It’s about tying the micro to the macro, tying what’s being said to reality. It starts with identifying the structure of the book: parts, chapters, sections, paragraphs… together they form a delicate meal. Each unit has its flavor, its key takeaways. Writing those down in relation to the overall structure is finding the hidden recipe, the underlying message.

    All that’s left is for you to come up with your own cooking. Congrats, you’re a Chef reader.

    Writing Routine

    My current writing routine consists of meditating for 10 minutes before sitting down at a clean desk with a pen and a pile of paper sheets to draft my daily post. Once I’m done with free writing I boot up my computer to start the editing process and hit publish. All in all, it takes between half an hour and two hours depending on how long I need to figure out a prompt and do some research.

    Publishing on a daily basis is not just great for your personal growth, it’s changing how others perceive you as well. Pewdiepie wouldn’t be the most successful Youtuber without his daily posting schedule for example.

    I want to keep on publishing daily while optimizing my writing process. I can decrease the time I spend on writing while increasing my output by batching tasks.

    Starting next Sunday, my new routine implies editing and scheduling my publications once a week, but I keep on free writing and researching every day. This way I can free more time for coding and learning without dropping my writing habit.

    I would not advise this approach to all writers on 200WaD, because in the beginning going through the whole process every day helps you shape your own environment, your own routine. Only when this self-knowledge becomes apparent can you start streamlining your own creative methodology.

    Bye Bye, Resistance!

    I spent the whole day outside visiting family and I have 4 hours left to write my post. I ate a lot, I feel tired, I feel rushed, and yet I don’t find it hard to reach the 200 words count. I only had one worry in mind: what could I possibly write about?

    Even after writing continuously for 169 days, my current streak starting before I actually released 200WaD, the question still comes to haunt me.

    Writing 200 words is now part of the daily habits I feel no resistance in achieving. All you have to do is to focus on documenting your thoughts rather than trying to come up with original post ideas.

    I absolutely adore the movie ”The Mystery of Picasso”, which was introduced to me by my mother when I was a child. This documentary directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot starts with the following statement:

    One would die to know what was on Rimbaud’s mind when he wrote “The Drunken Boat”… or on Mozart’s when he composed his symphony “Jupiter”. We’d love to know that secret process guiding the creator through his perilous adventures. Thankfully, what is impossible to know for poetry and music is not in the case of painting. To know what’s going through a painter’s mind one just needs to look at his hand. Here’s what the painter’s experiencing. He’s walking, sliding on a tight rope. He’s following a curve on the right, a spot on the left. If he misses and loses his balance, everything is lost. The painter stumbles like a blind man in the darkness of the white canvas. The light that slowly appears is paradoxically created by the painter who draws one black curve after another. […]

    Understand this: a writer paints words. Documenting a simple event is the first brush stroke which will lead you to a more emotional idea or past experience, perhaps even entertaining. All paintings start with a sketch. Appetite comes with eating.

    That’s exactly what I just did with this post, and I can do it any day ad infinitum now. Bye Bye, Resistance!

    Writing Meditation

    My ever-lasting quest for mastery led me this morning to think of new ways to improve my writing practice. Writing happens in three main iterative phases: free writing, researching, and editing. Becoming a better writer is about getting better at all three phases.

    Free writing is about shutting down your inner filter to let the flow of consciousness express itself. The more you let it go, the more you increase your writing speed.

    I spend around one hour a day writing, I want to break through this limit: write more words faster, spontaneously at a higher quality level.

    The first step I took a few weeks ago was to write offline to remove distractions - spellcheckers, Grammarly, and open tabs. It is efficient, but it appeared to me this morning that free writing would benefit from a meditative practice.

    It is proven writing has therapeutic effects. More generally, writing is a practice of mindfulness. Is there such thing as meditative writing?

    I was thinking of some sort of exercise to perform during my daily sessions, so I googled just that, and ended up in a rabbit hole: writing meditation is a thing! And I never heard of it until now.

    There is apparently no unique standard exercise, each practitioner has his/her own methodology. I noticed one common pattern: a writing session starts with a short meditation. Many authors are known to integrate walking to their writing routine: Carl Jung, Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf, Thoreau… walking meditation is easily accessible.

    Breathing meditation is even easier to integrate. Here is the writing routine I want to experiment with over the next few days:

    1. Wake up
    2. 10-minute breathing meditation
    3. Write down anything coming to my attention
    4. If stuck, close your eyes
    5. Wait for thoughts to pop up and go back to step 3
    6. Repeat till I complete at least one 200WaD post

    Let’s see how it goes tomorrow.

    International Writings

    All of my family members - for the exception of my younger brother - are having a hard time reading me because I choose to write in English. French is my mother tongue. I fully understand Spanish (Castellano) but I’m having a hard time speaking and writing - my vocabulary is extremely limited. I started learning English at 14 in middle-school. I tried learning Mandarin for a year and Italian for another year. I studied Latin for three years. I also try to learn a few words to get by wherever I travel - Macedonian, Romanian, German, Polish, Thaï, Portuguese - but I can only write acceptably in English and French.

    Languages have their own soul, they carry the spirit of the people. I love writing in English because it’s an efficient language. Global and inclusive. There is no such thing as grammatical gender in English, which is not the case in Latin-based languages for example.

    However, French being my mother tongue I feel limitless practicing it. It’s not that English is less expressive - not all words have an equivalent across different languages but there is always a way to find an equivalent expression - the style is simply different. I find English to be a bit rigid at times, whereas French, despite its many grammatical rules, can get quite fanciful at times - I have Rabelais and Rimbaud in mind for example.

    It’s a pity to find multilingual authors are a rare breed. Samuel Beckett wrote both in French and English for example:

    “More and more my own language appears to me like a veil that must be torn apart in order to get at the things (or the Nothingness) behind it. Grammar and Style. To me they seem to have become as irrelevant as a Victorian bathing suit or the imperturbability of a true Gentleman. A mask.”

    - Why did Samuel Beckett write in French?

    This observation is a delight to think about. Internationalization should be a default on the Internet. More and more people speak at least two languages, why can’t we write an online post in two languages at the same time? When I started blogging last year I tried to create an editor where I could switch between English and French. Maybe I could adapt it to suit the needs of the writers on 200WaD.

    Life of a Book

    You might wonder about the chain of events leading someone to write a book. Here is mine.

    March 2016

    I start researching the topic of nomadism after reading Tim Ferris’ The 4-Hour Workweek.

    June 24, 2016

    I publish in French the 20-page essay titled “Nomadism as a Vector for Change” as an engineering school project at INSA Lyon.

    September 2016

    I’m joining Stockholm University as an exchange student and start studying remotely. It’s my first experience as a digital nomad, and I don’t even know it.

    September 2017

    Learning about digital nomadism for the first time after stumbling upon Nomad List.

    November 04, 2018

    I begin writing 200 words a day to get into a writing habit and improve.

    November 07, 2018

    I tweet about how easy it would be to write a book in one year if I keep at it.

    December 12, 2018

    I publicly announce on Twitter / Hacker News I plan on writing a book by March 15 2019.

    January 04, 2019

    I decide the book will be an autobiography called Making a Maker focusing on my life as a nomad entrepreneur.

    February 13, 2019

    I decide to change the topic of the book to focus on nomadism. The new title is Alter-Nomad.

    March 02, 2019

    I laid down the main sections of the book. The outline will evolve throughout the following month.

    March 7, 2019


    Started editing.

    March 15, 2019

    I underestimate the huge amount of work editing demands and decide to postpone the release by two weeks.

    March 31, 2019

    Official release

    As you can read, it wasn’t a straightforward journey. The idea took three years to grow. An interesting observation is that it took me 5 months to go from someone who doesn’t write at all to a self-published author, all thanks to my 200WaD habit.

    Back to writing in public

    I finally finished my first book yesterday. Inspired by how makers create tech products in public, I documented this journey in public. Once I had enough public writing materials, I edited the resulting bag of words into a book and added some original content in private posts. I learned many things in the process, but I’ll keep it for future posts.

    I’m now back to my regular writing schedule: 200 words per day every day. I was forced to write considerably more over the last few days - up to 4000 words in one day - so it feels incredibly easier. I have been writing continuously for more than 150 days. New ideas are still popping up. It’s a bit like how power-lifting works: growth is achieved by increasing the weight you lift. New heights are achieved by stretching the limits you are capable of, up to your point of failure.

    Finishing the book also means I’m back working full-time on 200WaD. The community sent me many ideas, it’s time to implement them. I missed coding, it’s high time to get back to it! This Wednesday I’m changing the web server to make the product much faster, so expect a bit of downtime. I devised a strategy to nullify the migration time, but I’m pretty sure something will go unexpected. Once I’m done with the new server I will be able to work on improving the notification system by adding email support. The main issue with 200WaD is retention, so I need to release new social features and organize community events to grow more interactions.

    200WaD tips: How to Keep your Streak Alive

    I wrote yesterday about why it’s important for you to keep your day streak alive. Today I’m proposing you some tips to get through each day as painlessly as possible.

    It is assumed in task management that the most important task should be tackled first. This is why publishing your 200 words should be the first thing you do in the morning. As Mark Twain says, “eat the frog”. Decision fatigue is the lowest during the 2/3 hours after you wake up.

    It doesn’t mean you have to write in the morning. For some people, tiredness favors creativity, so writing right before going to bed could be the optimal time for you. Just find the right time-window for you to sit down and get writing.

    Finding topics is the hard part of writing your daily 200 words. Whenever you have an idea, write it down in your phone or in a block note. Scribbling down topics is usually not enough, it’s more efficient to add a one-liner next to an idea, or even better, a small outline describing the main points you are trying to make.

    You can find many writing prompts online, but coming up with your own develops your creativity. Sometimes random ideas strike me and I just note them down. Another way to do it is to sit down and force-generate them. The more you do it, the more you flex your idea muscle, and that will prove beneficial to you in all areas of life.

    There are days where life gets in the way and you just don’t have time to write something. It happened to me a few times as well. In this case, it’s important to get pieces ready beforehand, so that you just have to hit publish when the day comes. You can also subscribe to the Patron plan to schedule your posts for a given day.

    200 words are relatively small. You can be tempted to write a lot. It can make sense, but it’s better to write less to favor consistency. One thing I noticed is that long posts usually cover several ideas, so you can usually split them.

    See you tomorrow!

    200WaD tips: Why Keeping your Streak Alive

    All you need to be supremely good at something is to just do it. It’s that simple.

    The problem lies in the misconception that becoming great is about doing great things, that the quality of your output has to be outstanding. School taught us to be afraid of not being great: poor quality results in bad grades, and bad grades result in suffering. Real life is different. There is no curriculum. Life is entropic. What works on a given day for a given person in a given situation might not tomorrow. This is why education is a process of experimentation at heart. You need many iterations to come up with some form of truth. Quantity, over quality.

    But quantity is not enough either. Our bodies are aligned with the 24-hour window we call a day. In order to tap into your full biological potential, you need consistency. Consistency has a much deeper effect than the quantity or quality of your work, which is why you need to develop habits. A daily habit is easier to develop than a weekly habit because there is no willpower involved. No calendar to check, not much output quantity to cram into a few given days: daily habits are more achievable. This is why 200 words are the limit on this website: just enough to write something meaningful.

    If you want to improve your writings, keeping your day streak alive is the best thing you can do today.

    200WaD tips: Finding Topics

    Writing 200 words every day is simple, but it’s not easy. For most people, the hard part is finding a topic. After writing for 120 days consecutively without breaking my streak, I feel qualified to give bits of advice regarding this matter.

    Just like everyone else, there were days when I lacked inspiration. Truth is, I was just not creative enough: everything is a potential topic, but few feel exciting. The good news is that 200 words are quickly scribbled once you stop whining. The voice in your head giving you excuses can be shut down. Two cases: you either have things you must write about or not. In the former case, just sit down and do the work. Otherwise, any topic will do.

    Great cooks can amplify the savors of common ingredients to create a unique experience. The same goes for writers. Pick an object, a human being, an event, an idea. Find analogies. Trace it back to a first principle. You have to distort reality. To sublime the banal to make others think and experience.

    Writer’s block? You are probably not experiencing enough. Get rid of your creative limits. Look with fresh eyes. Touch with pure hands. Smell. Taste. Hear. Go back to your inner child. Let your mind wander. Polish your observation skills. Awaken, consume life to the marrow, and you will never run out of topics to write about.

    Book Design

    I just came back to my parents’ house. The French countryside is cold and quiet, yet peaceful. It is the perfect environment to gather my thoughts and finish my book.

    I’m sitting in my childhood room. My very own Fortress of Meditation. Coated in a poncho, I haven’t shaved in weeks. I look like a lunatic. My writings are sitting there with me. They are still raw and need some structure.

    I went with a three-part structure at first, but I’m not satisfied with it.

    Now I decided to divide my work into 50+ atomic sections, each covering a thought I have about travel, mobility, or nomadism. Each section should be able to stand on its own while deepening the meaning of the overall structure, like a beautiful forest of majestic trees. Practical, yet challenging. Book design is not easy. Each part should be well balanced. I feel inspired by Montaigne’s Essays when it comes to style. He writes in a didactic manner, but he never misses to entertain the reader. An enlighted consciousness, in a paper format. That’s what a book should be.

    I should be done with the initial structure by tomorrow. There are 15 days left before the release date.

    Alter-Nomad: 19 days left

    My first book is almost there! I went from someone who doesn’t write regularly to an author in less than 4 months. It still amazes me how smooth this journey was. All it took was to commit to a simple daily writing habit. This post is a little update on how my book is going so far.

    This week I released a website to pre-order the book. It took me a few days to build. The hardest part was the implementation of the payment gateway as I was not familiar with how one-time invoices work through Stripe. Now it works. And 7 people already pre-ordered the book.

    In the meantime, I gathered all the data I have about my writings in a spreadsheet: links to each relevant post, covered topic, word count, title etc. I consider those writings as raw material for the final book. Some are merged. Some are divided into several sections. Each one is being edited to create a natural flow and ease the understanding of the reader.

    I have 22k words so far. After editing and adding new material I should end up around 30k words, 5000 words more than I expected.

    Once I judge the structure of a given section satisfying, I copy/paste everything in Grammarly to make some final adjustments. I then move everything in a markdown file with the corresponding bibliography and push the result in a Git versioning system.

    If all goes well I should be ready by March 7. The final week will be dedicated to marketing and proof-reading.

    Can’t wait for the release!!!

    Alter-Nomad: book presentation

    The world demands change, now more than ever.

    Underemployment is growing. Global inequality is increasing. We are nowhere near solving our ecological issues.

    Challenges are many, but each problem brings an opportunity. Modern Nomadism is one of them.

    My name is Basile Samel, and I spent more than 3 years living in foreign countries. I was born in France, studied in Sweden and worked as a software engineer in Switzerland to finally build my own tech products remotely while traveling across Europe and Asia. To me, digital nomadism is not just a trendy topic, it’s an original way of life.

    Of course, every lifestyle comes with its own problematics. It’s getting increasingly easier to become a digital nomad. You can find many books and online courses that can help you with that. I doubt they prove to be of any use to you, and I’m convinced they tackle the wrong issues. The challenge is not to become a digital nomad, it is to develop a sustainable lifestyle with traveling as an enabler, an alter-nomadism.

    Alter-Nomad is a collection of practical essays gathering personal tips, experiences and thoughts I accumulated throughout my researches on the topic of nomadism.

    7 readers pre-ordered the book already. Join them today for a discount :)

    Book Pivot

    I find it fascinating how writing a book is similar to making a startup.

    I have been writing for a hundred days on mainly two topics: entrepreneurship, and travel. My original book idea was to talk about how I got started as an entrepreneur and talk about my experience. I titled it “Making a Maker”. I still have 100 pages of raw content. Three days ago I was ready to start editing and marketing actively.

    Yesterday I was thinking of the structure I should give to the book. I wasn’t satisfied with it. I wanted to go with a chronological approach, from childhood to entrepreneurship, to explain how things came to be. The problem is that Making a Maker is not one book, but two books really: one about entrepreneurship, the other about nomadism. I hoped I could find a way to tie the two topics together. There are definitely bridges between all the traveling I do and my life as an entrepreneur, but I just have too many things to say about both. There is more than one book in me. I decided to do a pivot.

    Pivoting in a startup context means that you are moving away from a business model to integrate a new one. You keep your assets, but you change the formula.

    I’m doing a book pivot: I still have my writings, but I’m going to focus on nomadism.

    This book will be called Alter-Nomad, an essay on defining a sustainable nomadism for change makers.

    I have spent more than 3 years living in foreign countries. I have done a lot of research, perspectives from authors such as Gilles Deleuze (Nomadology: The War Machine), Rolf Potts (Vagabonding), Jacques Attali (The Nomad), Timothy Ferris (The 4-Hour Work Week), Frank Michel (Roads. Ode to Autonomadism.), Michel Maffesoli (Nomadism), and many more… Nomadism is not just a trendy topic, it’s an original way of life.

    I’m aiming for a length of 100 pages (25k words). I have 10k words ready so far, which means I’m gonna have to increase my daily word count if I want to release the book by March 15, although I doubt I will ever face a dry well.

    Since I’ve started writing 200 words every day I’ve been rarely experiencing any writer’s block. It’s far easier to write when you have a direction. I choose to focus on nomadism rather than entrepreneurship because I have a clear idea of the book’s structure. It’s always easier to be a captain when you know where you are going.

    Alter-Nomad will be comprised of 3 main parts and a preface.

    The preface tells how the book came about (it was originally an essay I wrote during my years in engineering school), its purpose for the reader, my journey writing the book in public (how it affected me, the issues I encountered, my research process) and some acknowledgments.

    The first part of the book is titled Evolution of Nomadism and Travel. It’s an overview of the history of nomadism explaining the reasons why it’s in human nature to travel, from the first men to the three waves of globalization.

    Then, I talk about The Challenges of Global Mobility, new trends emerging from the global economy creating both opportunities and challenges we must face: remote work, mass tourism, flow inequalities, precarity originating from mobility etc.

    In the last part Towards an Alter-Nomadism, I discuss solutions I identified during my travels such as minimalism or slow travel. I am also addressing under-discussed topics such as how to deal with relationships or how to stay productive on the road. More generally, it’s a part about how to use travel as an enabler, a sustainable lifestyle, rather than shallow escapism.

    Let’s see how it goes. I’m excited to release the Teaser website this week 🤩

    100 Days of Writing

    I left college in March last year but my graduation ceremony only takes place a year later. I will receive my official degree on March the 15th. A chapter of my life is ending, and there is no more appropriate time to release a book documenting my journey so far.

    I have been writing continuously for 100 days, and I have a bit more than a month to get ready. Time to plan.

    Yesterday I performed an inventory of my writings and found out I have more than 100 pages of raw posts relevant to the topics the book will be about. I will end up exceeding my initial goal of 100 pages after editing, reviewing, and integrating new complementary pieces. I won’t have to worry about running out of valuable content. More importantly, I am on schedule.

    Today I started gathering everything in one Markdown file. I thought about using a traditional WYSIWYG text editor or a LaTeX file, but Markdown has multiple advantages when you are writing a book:

    • Plain text format: you can focus on the content rather than having to worry about how it will look.
    • Easy versioning: Markdown is extremely light-weight. I just created a private Github repository and I plan on storing all the versions of my draft on it.
    • Pandoc + BibTex: You can use Pandoc to convert Markdown files to any kind of ebook format you might need. Epub, PDF, and Kindle in a few command lines! BibTex is used to manage the references you use in your text automatically (no headache).

    When I announced I wanted to write a book, I declared I would create dedicated tools on 200WaD to allow anyone to self-publish. I’m going to postpone that.

    Instead, I decided to publish it by myself outside 200WaD. There is already a lot of things going on in there and I don’t want to add more on my plate right now. On the other hand, going through all the pain points authors are experiencing will be a valuable lesson for the future of this platform.

    In parallel, I’m going to market the ebook the same way I’m marketing my software products. I’ve already been sharing openly how I am writing the book and the content used as raw material. I’m going to set up a teaser website with a form to pre-order and a link to all the related posts on 200WaD. Once the book is ready I will upload it to Gumroad, Amazon KDP, and my dedicated website. I will launch on Product Hunt, Indie Hackers, and other communities of entrepreneurs. Since it’s my first try my expectations are quite low. Let’s see how the wind blows.

    I Found a Book Title

    Whenever I’m creating something, I tend to find a title for it first.

    If I don’t have a title, I don’t have a vision, and I tend to get chaotic.

    It’s fascinating to see how names and titles are self-limiting. This is what makes them powerful: they ground you.

    It’s been almost a month now since I announced my plan to write my first book in public on 200WaD. I have been writing non-stop since then. I outlined the topics I wanted to cover, but I have been struggling to find a book title that encompasses them. Until a few days ago.

    I want this book to describe how it is to live as a nomad entrepreneur, a tech founder not tied to any location. I want to make it relatable, so I believe it’s important to make it an autobiography, a story of how I came to be who I am. My thought process. What I stand for. What problems I am facing and trying to solve in my daily life. For short, what I’m made of.

    I describe myself as a nomad maker. I’m passionate about making stuff that passionates me while traveling. Whether it’s developing a tech product or writing a post here, I’m all about active forms of creation, as in, creating for the benefit of myself, and hopefully others (but you can never totally predict this).

    So this book would be about documenting my process to become a maker, from childhood to two-time startup founder, while providing some actionable insights and teachings I received throughout the years.

    I decided to go with ”Making a Maker” to relate to this birth process.

    It’s a cyclic title because making is a cyclic process. A maker makes, and you are not born a maker, you become one. I like The Waterer Watered. It is one of the first movie ever made, and it describes the cyclic aspect of life perfectly.

    Making a Maker. How I became a nomad entrepreneur.

    I found my title. I feel more at peace already.

    I Suck at Writing, and That's Okay

    I check all the boxes when it comes to possible excuses not to write.

    1) I am French.

    2) I started learning English when I was 16.

    3) I make grammar and syntax mistakes in every text.

    4) I have a highly demanding job. My life is basically about thinking about my business 12 hours a day for most days, sleep, and eat.

    5) I never managed to get into a habit that lasted for more than a week.

    Still, here I am, on a two-month writing streak (46 days on this website + 18 days from before).

    What changed?

    I found out why I need to write after hours spent on thinking about it.

    First of all, I always loved writing, whether it is in French or in English. Words are magical. They last forever, a legacy anyone can leave. They help me connect with my loved ones. I don’t need to write for a global audience when I can write to my friends or to my family.

    Heck, I don’t even need to write for anyone. Writing shapes my thoughts, and vice versa. I need to write to solve my own problems. I need to write to realize the road covered so far. I need to write because I’m a human being and writing is tied to the history of the human race. We’ve been writing for five thousand years now. Writing is my essence.

    What more, we are social animals. I started sharing my thoughts online a lot more when I created my first company with two friends one year ago. When you are growing a company it is important to communicate well, and even more important to communicate a lot, because you have to brand yourself, meaning, to explain what is valuable in what you offer. It is true for building a company as it is for any job. Unemployment is increasing because workers are becoming a commodity. A worker who knows how to explain what makes her unique has a higher chance to be favored, by law of scarcity. Writing is thus vital to any venture as it is the most common form of business communication.

    Once you find a Why you believe in whole-heartedly with, nothing can stop you.

    This is the reason why, even if my writing is bad, I believe I can only improve. All I need is to put in the work and improve a bit every day without excuse. Those little efforts will eventually compound. I suck at writing, and that’s okay. The only way is upward.

    Programming is Writing

    Programming is not merely an engineering discipline. It is about writing for machines. It is about writing for humans too.

    A software engineer should put the human first, then the machine.

    Human first, meaning, with the stakeholders in mind. It doesn’t matter how well engineered a program is if it is unreadable, or worse, worthless.

    A good program is like a good blog: modular, atomic, and simple. Like in any good writing the key is simplicity. If you need fancy words to sound impressive, your writings are probably lacking. Similarly, using cryptic lines of code won’t impress anyone. Readability is way more important. Great code is self-explanatory.

    When I read great software documentation, I feel more eager to learn and use the given technology. Software without documentation is bound to be maintained by one or by none.

    Programs are like pieces of art as well: they are fundamentally useless. It doesn’t mean they have to be worthless. There are few worthless apps. A programmer has a duty to solve a problem, to make the users feel emotions. Positive ones preferably.

    To get good at writing you need constant practice and iterate over what you produce. Programming is comparable.

    Finally, what is a programming language? It is a static bag of words, a vocabulary of its own. We can view programming as a writing genre.

    I Wrote 50 Posts: What's Next

    Yesterday I wrote my 50th post for my 200 Words a Day challenge. My 32nd on this website.

    This is a total of 18953 words. 76 ebook pages.

    I feel great. Not only because it feels great to fight and win over my inner creative resistance every single day, but also because I can witness I’m getting closer to my personal goal: reach mastery.

    Mastery in my craft of making tech products is about creating a masterpiece: a product I believe in, from which I can make a living, and that solves a real problem.

    Writing allowed me to do just that: identify an important problem, think of a solution, connect with people, and allow them to contribute to the sustainability of a new-found business. It is a virtuous cycle: the more I can solve an important problem and reach a wider audience - and thus the more I can help people -, the more I can live off this activity.

    Mastery is also about subject-matter expertise, and blogging enables people to assert their knowledge on paper.

    My graduation ceremony takes place in Lyon next year, on March the 15th.

    By then I want to release my first book, written in public on this website. I am still thinking about the outline. What I know however is that I will take all my writings and use the main ideas as material for the actual book. It won’t simply be a collection of blog posts.

    I will also keep on improving 200 Words a Day together with the community. Grow it. Add new features. Maybe find people to work with me. I don’t know yet. 2019 is going to be exciting.

    What I want to write about

    I have been working as an entrepreneur for close to a year now. I experimented with many things along the way: creating a startup, launching a solo business, traveling the world while working remotely… Even if I am just 24, I can at least share my personal experiences. Maybe some people will find valuable insights in there. You never know until you put yourself out there.

    Yesterday I proposed the idea of writing a book in public, and I received many great comments. Some positive, some negative. Truth is, I am not doing it to seek the validation of others. If I can inspire people to break out of their shell along the way, that’s good, but this is not my goal. I just have passions I want to write about.

    Back in engineering school three years ago, I wrote a 20 pages essay on alter-nomadism, an “ethical and sustainable neonomadism”. I was trying to figure out how travel impacted human history and how it could shape the future as well. I moved from France to Sweden soon after to broaden my knowledge of software. I applied some principles I learnt from my essay, and became a digital nomad: I avoided lectures like the plague and worked remotely instead. Thankfully Sweden has one of the best education system in the world and it was easy to negotiate. I moved around Europe, got an internship in Geneva, launched a startup remotely, traveled some more, and now I’m writing from South-East Asia.

    I graduated as a software engineer in March this year. Yet I decided to become a full time tech entrepreneur to make my own products and hopefully help to solve interesting problems with technology. Again, I didn’t do it to change the world or to help people, it just burst out of me.

    Now, I don’t want to write a self-help book on how to become a digital nomad or launch your own startup: I am nobody. Instead, I want to narrate what happened so far and the lessons I received. My best work of introspection, a monologue on what it means to be a nomad entrepreneur.

    Here is a list of topics I want to cover: Deleuze’s nomadology, the maker movement, sustainable living, bootstrapped startups, open startups, the hacker culture, the craftsmanship spirit, aesthetics and software, nomadism, what is an entrepreneur etc.

    Many topics to cover, although I am still convinced I can do it. 5 persons are already joining me in this journey of writing their own book in public, and we are a growing community of writers on demand. I am just going to focus on getting 0.01% better every day and it will compound eventually.

    I am writing a book in public

    What is a 100 pages book? 25,000 words.

    If you write 200 words every day, it will take you 125 days to have enough content.

    Of course I am not taking into account editing, reviewing, and actually publishing the piece. Instead, I want you to picture this simple idea: it is realistic to publish an actual book in 3 months.

    39 days ago I started my 200 Words a Day challenge. I wrote 13,673 words so far, with 359 words written per day in average. This is enough material to write a 50 pages ebook.

    Many things happened over the last 39 days. I launched 200wordsaday.com to gather writers from all around the world to develop a writing habit and improve together. I am focused on growing this baby, interacting with the community, and overall, on managing this website. This is a full-time job, but it did not prevent me from writing at least 200 words daily for over a month now. What more, pushing myself to write everyday in public made me realize that it is actually possible to write a whole book in public, even if you just do it 200 words at a time. The readers have your back. My english is not great, I can however rely on genuine people from all around the Internet to help me.

    Today, I decided to self-publish a book in 3 months’ time.

    I am going to keep on writing all of my drafts every day in public. In the meantime I will develop new tools to allow anyone on this platform to recycle and edit their posts into actual ebooks, and self-publish them for a living. No code needed, the whole publishing process will be eased by the website.

    I want 200 Words a Day to prove that it is not only possible for anyone to be a writer, but also to become an author.

    You can follow my journey here or on Twitter.

    See you tomorrow,
    baz

    Writing is the root of branding

    If we take a really cold outlook at our economy today, we observe that everything is productized. Especially people. People are offered to a market to fulfill a need or a want — to solve a problem in exchange for a wage, your perceived value. It is indeed a dehumanizing view, but this is the essence of liberalism.

    Similarly, everything you need to strive for in order to succeed in society could be linked to a sales process: you want a job? You have to sell yourself. You want a partner? Seducing is selling yourself. Jean-Luc Godard famously said that “making movies and doing the hustler are the same thing”. It is neither good or bad, it is reality, and reality is amoral.

    If selling yourself is an unrelenting part of life, how do we do it effectively? Value comes from scarcity: you have to offer what no one else can. This process of identifying features that make a product distinct from another is called branding.

    You have to brand your business. You have to brand yourself.

    Writing serves two purposes to your personal branding efforts:

    - Giving a glimpse of your soul to others in an articulate fashion: what makes you original? what kind of thought leader are you?

    - Self-development by introspection (looking inward) and retrospection (looking backward)

    Needless to say, those two points will constitute the core of your personal brand.

    One could argue that you don’t have to write, you can just use another form of self-expression. And it is true, but to a limited degree: writing is the most common form of business communication. Whether you are a painter or a sculptor or a movie maker, you will end up writing at some point. Picasso is famous for his quotes as well. Michelangelo was not only a sculptor, but a poet as well. Silent movies have scripts too.

    Get writing, it will benefit your life.

    Hackers and writers

    My favorite essay on programming is Paul Graham’s ‘Hackers and painters’. I am not referring to his book, but the essay you can find on his website. PG discusses how both hackers - the subculture, not necessarily related to computer security - and painters work in similar ways, and the concept of beauty one can find in programming.

    What is it that hackers do? They write words for machines and humans alike. A programming language is a set of words that a machine can understand in order to perform an operation and output its result. Hackers also write documentation and comments to share their writings with other hackers.

    Hackers are writers with their own genre. With their own rules. With their own standards for beauty.

    One could argue that being a better writer is being a better hacker.

    If you are building a startup, it is certain that you will have to rely on your writing skills one way or another. To explain what your product is about in a clear fashion. To inspire your employees. To inspire your users.

    Writers improve their art by writing more. Similarly, hackers gotta hack. Makers gotta make.

    Hackers and writers are both makers, and I believe that eventually, hacking will become an art.

    How to write your public tasks as an accountable maker

    I love public accountability platforms for makers. WiP, Product Hunt Makers, Makerlog … you name it. Lots of open todos tools exist, and these days many are popping up.

    The problem is that most contributors do not know how to write tasks in a way that can really benefit them and the people reading.

    I like to watch @Booligoosh tasks on Makerlog once in a while, because they are actually written in a compelling way. Here are a few key points to write great task entries:

    1) The task mentions the bigger picture
    If you do not mention where the task fits in your project or in your overall goal, it becomes harder to identify with it. Start with a hashtag or a short title to quickly allow others to grasp the context.

    2) The task is clear
    If you do not manage to write down your task in a simple sentence understandable by any 10-year-old, you should rewrite it. Acronyms should be avoided in the description as well.
    A good way to do it is to format your tasks in the form of custom user stories.

    3) The tone is diversified
    Diversify your tasks. Make some of them technical, some others more inspirational. Tasks don’t have to be boring, they can be both powerful and inspirational. Celebrate your wins and failures within your task descriptions.

    4) The task is illustrated
    Use emojis. Use pictures as well if you can. Both will make your entries stand out from the crowd.

    5) Always. Be. Accountable.
    If you write down a cool task, complete it, and I feel inspired by it, I had like to see the result. Use links and/or comments for that.

    6) The contributor chose the right atomicity
    Do not over-write. Do not under-write either. Find the right scope for your goal or project. The last thing I want to read is a list of 100+ items telling me how you drank water after pressing the O key. Similarly, under-writing will make me less likely to follow your journey as it lacks transparency - which is not what you want from a public accountability platform.

    Finally, I want to say that task definition is hard. It takes time and effort.

    It will never be perfect - I suck at it too most of the time - but you have to strive to become a better writer. The benefits are gigantic. Inspired people enjoy inspiring ones. Only by collaborating successfully with others can you succeed.