In his web-site-turned-book Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far, Stefan Sagmeister says keeping a diary supports personal development. I couldn’t agree more. Writing is a form of thinking, and journaling is a great way to help yourself think personal issues through.
I’ve fallen off the journaling wagon lately though, but inspired by former Lifehacker editor D. Keith Robinson’s tweet tonight, I’m getting back on using Buster Benson’s 750 Words webapp. The concept of 750 Words is simple: every day, you type 750 words–the equivalent of three pages–of stream of conscious, whatever you want, free writing. You earn points and badges for every day you type any number of words. Your entries, which are private by default (despite the somewhat alarming Facebook Connect login), can be exported at any point. Buster’s one of the kings of personal data visualization (just look at the guy’s homepage), so it makes sense that when you’re done writing you get all these interesting analytics and charts about your piece, like how long it took you, what words you used the most, and what you talked about. Explore the public stats page to get a taste. Here’s a screenshot of the data I got after writing my first entry tonight, a literal braindump of the most random thoughts I had about today.
Despite just completing a 39,000 word book manuscript and spending four years blogging daily, writing those 750 free-think words tonight wasn’t easy. Still, I signed up for the 750 Words March challenge, promising myself a mint chocolate chip shake if I file 750 a day in March. We’ll see how it goes.
In the meantime, thanks to Buster for creating such a quirky-cool webapp. Looking forward to spending time in it this month.
Gina! This is a really nice post. I will definitely try it out. Thanks for letting everyone know about this great webapp!
Now if they would just add some social connections so I can pull my shared entries into my Buzz stream…
I love the idea but I do not use facebook at all – he needs to come up with another way to sign in.
In graduate school, we read The Artist’s Way (which this app is based on) and were required to write morning pages. If you haven’t read the book, it’s a good read for those interested in boosting their creativity.
I will repeat three tips, which were given to our class by our professor (thank you Laurie!) which greatly increased their effectiveness (at least for most of us). It’s a sort of modified morning pages if you will.
1. Stream of thought…even if there aren’t words. When I started out, some mornings I simply would put pen to paper and not write a thing. I was perplexed but others had the same issue. The key, after having a class discussion, was that you’ve got to forget about the length. No words coming to you? Draw what comes to mind. Some days I drew pictures and then words, and then whatever came. Some days I never hit 3 pages, other days I did. Let go and let those thoughts out.
2. Don’t read them. Seriously. We were specifically told not to censor ourselves, not to let anyone else read them, and to not go back over our entries for at least eight weeks. It’s a freeing experience, what you write will probably make no sense even to yourself later, and it just clears the mind.
3. Write in the morning. This is hard for a lot of people (myself included) because it messes with the routine we have for ourselves, but I got more out of writing in the morning (writing in the evening felt like a diary, not a through stream and that didn’t help me). Do experiment for what works best for you.
While the app doesn’t work for me (I like streaming onto paper), I think anything that helps increase the creative spark in people is a good thing!
Great tips, thank you Justin!
Is there a text editor that can count the words (in real time) while we are typing?
i keep getting this error when trying to go to 750words.com
any idea what’s up?
You don’t have permission to access / on this server.
Additionally, a 403 Forbidden error was encountered while trying to use an ErrorDocument to handle the request.
@Erik – Write Room (Mac) does this. If you take it out of the full screen view it will count automatically, and if left full screen you’ll see the count by moving your cursor to the bottom of the screen.
I just went to 750 Words and I’m getting a 403 Forbidden error. Did Smarterware+Lifehacker crash it?
@Alex – Yes, Buster had some tweets last night to the effect of the server’s broken and he’s working on work-arounds and/or dedicated servers. Definitely got crashed by the mad rush from Smarterware/Lifehacker/Twitter yesterday afternoon – he said his traffic increased by at least 10x before it went down.
Looks like you broke their site, Gina – way to go!
Looking forward to it coming back up so I can check it out…
@alex: Write Room is cool but I don’t have Mac. 🙂
Apparently 750words did`t expect this much traffic. I got “New signups temporarily turned off” when I tried singup.