The club that’s write or die.

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.

– Stephen King, “On Writing”

In 2022, I made a Ulysses pact to force myself to write—either write or feel the white-hot shame of (temporary) banishment.

And it worked.

I wrote more blog posts in 2022 than in any previous year—more than the last three years combined.

I eked out two blog posts a month, every month, for the whole of last year. And I owe much of my success to my write-or-die crew—the writing raft.

⛵ What is a writing raft?

First proposed by Hrvoje Šimić, a writing raft is a club that forces you to write.

The rules are simple:

  1. You must publish a blog post by the end of the month.
  2. If you do not publish on time, you’re out of the club (for a month).
  3. The club is limited to 5 members.

Željko Filipin conceived of our little Junto towards the end of 2020.

Today we have three members: Me, Željko, and Kosta Harlan. And as of December 2022, the three of us have managed to stay on our raft for one. full. year.

In honor of this milestone, we’re all posting about lessons we learned over the past 12 months.

🍎 Lessons from a year of writing

Blogs should be easy to read. In 1997, Jakob Nielsen succinctly summarized “How Users Read on the Web”: “They don’t.” I use short sentences and omit needless words. And I try to make my blogs look easy to read to keep readers moving.

Get to the point. Nobody has time for throat-clearing—start with your point. If you need more details, add them later.

Your unconscious mind is a better writer than you. Writing and publishing on the same day used to be my habit. Now, I let my rough drafts sit for a day. And I often wake up with a better idea, clearer point, or different direction—even if nobody gives me feedback. My unconscious mind was working on my writing the whole time.

The core question is not how you do math but how does the unconscious do it. How is it that it’s demonstrably better at it than you are?

– Cormac McCarthy, “Stella Maris”

Practice in public. It’s the fastest way to improve. Another deal I made with myself this year is that after I publish a post, I must link it somewhere online.

Internet strangers are a fickle crowd, which makes them a great litmus test for your writing. If a post generates nothing but silence—why not tweak it?

Figure out how to say it better and try again. And try to learn something for next time.

Peer pressure is a tool. The writing raft has shown me: I need someone to notice if I skip a month of writing. Writing the first draft is painful. Knowing I have a deadline keeps me moving through the pain.

And conclusions. I’m so bad at conclusions. But I’m working on it ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.