A Go Programming Notebook

Tips for Setting Writing Goals — A Stack of Twenty

How are we to write well, and consistently? There are days when writing is simplicity itself, when ideas and connections seem to grow in natural abundance, when we feel the only limitation of human eloquence is our typing speed. Then there are days when we must write through the dense stickiness of our own stupidity.

This is writing’s horror and its beauty: only your mind sits between your contribution to the world and the void from which it springs.

Can we trick our minds into performing better? I believe we can.

I blundered into this Monday knowing I wasn’t wearing my big brain. It’s the week I finally finish up my taxes and get them to my accountant. It’s the week I pay my insurance bill. It’s a week so full of dullness that wearing my small brain is a form of prosaic justice. It’s a week that would put my big brain to sleep.

Small brain or not, though, I still have to write.

So this week I’m trying on a new trick to keep my small brain from hurting itself while running with sharpened pencils. The trick is the stack of twenty. Here’s the trick if you want to try it out yourself. Take out twenty file cards, and plan your week into twenty tasks. In my case this worked out to be nineteen cards with either a blog post or online article per card, plus a card for the remaining tax work. Planning out the week took about fifteen minutes.

The idea is that as you complete a task or article, you put a big checkbox on the card and move it to the done stack. If something unforeseen comes up and you handle it, write a quick card for it with a big check mark and put it in the done pile. If you have any cards left over, you can always recycle them into next week, and if you get through the whole stack, your small brain will delight in its accomplishment.

All of this is a way to make your small brain feel good about itself. You need this if you’re having a small brain week.

Your big brain doesn’t need such a simple trick as this, but if you’re anything like me, you can’t always wear your big brain to work.

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