Five Hundred: Part 1

I don’t use this blog nearly enough, do I?

For the last 4 months, I have been writing 500 words a day, every day. They’re in the form of journal entries, just collections of writing about what my day was like, and as of last night, I wrote the 120th entry. It seemed like a nice round number to make a blog post about the whole experiment, so here it is. When it comes to what this experiment has given me, it’s a lot. At the risk of sounding like a click-bait article, it’s changed my life in immeasurable ways. However, it is important to keep in mind that it hasn’t revolutionized who I am as a person, or whatever, it’s simply been a highly effective tool.

The whole concept of writing 500 words a day has been around in some form or another for decades, but I first found it on some website. It offered to analyse the contents of your daily writing to determine patterns in your life and essentially gamify your general well-being, but that’s not important. I found the idea intriguing, but the price tag put me off the idea, especially with the site not saying it was a paid service when you signed up. A few years later, or however long it’s been, I decided to visit the idea again. I realised I didn’t need any service or tool to do it, just a text editor and a directory to save things in. So I thought to myself, “Why not?” There are differing opinions as to how long your 500-word streak should last. Some say a month, some say a few months, but personally, I went for a year.

A long time ago I heard a quote that has since stuck with me forever. I could never find the exact original again, but it went along the lines of “You have a million bad words in your fingers before you get to the good ones.” The idea itself is an obvious simplification, but it gets the point across. Namely, that no matter how bad your writing happens to be, you have to just keep writing and never stop. This is true of everything, really. Everyone has to power through an era of terrible work before they can ever hope to make something good.

The most important consequence of this quote, is that it’s imbued me with an endless urge to write. A drive to, no matter how bad it gets, keep pushing forward, and never stop. At a guess, I’ve written maybe 150k words of literature in my life. I’m proud of small portions of it, but as a whole, it’s all meant to push me forward to my true goal of perfecting my art. Being bad at writing has gone from being discouraging to being motivational.

And that’s where this experiment comes in. Writing 500 words a day, about whatever I want. The content doesn’t matter at all, I just have to write 500 words, each and every day. So, I began.

The thing about starting any kind of routine, is that the first step is the hardest part. No matter what it is, and how much energy it takes, getting into the flow will always be most difficult hurdle to face. You’re in unfamiliar territory, you have no idea what you’re doing, and you have no idea if any of it will even be worth it. All you can do is hope that it goes well.

So, what has this exercise offered me in return for all my hard work? Well, the first thing is obvious. The second is more nebulous in nature; I have a lot more practice with casual writing than I did before. I know how I talk to myself, down to the precise wording I use. I can engage in fruitful conversations with myself, and discover things I would otherwise never know. In a word, introspection. Thanks to this experiment, I am in a sense my own therapist.

In preparation of writing this blog post, I read back through the first entries I wrote. As I read through the precise jotting downs of my day, I came to the sudden realisation that in no other point in my life was this possible. I can know exactly what my day has been like on every single day since I’ve started doing this. For someone who has memory problems, this is incredible. I can learn from mistakes I made long ago, find out who I was even when if I forgot, and simply see how far I’ve come.

This experiment isn’t over. I’m a third of the way in, and I have an image of how it’s been going, but I don’t know where I’ll be in 8 months, or where this experiment will be. One thing I can say for certain is, that it’s been worth it. I think I’ll write another blog post in 4 months, and see how things have changed. For now, I have no plans of stopping.