No Lessons From Not Writing 750 Words a Day for 365 Days (and Why I Won’t Be Writing About You Either)

I find it quite ironic that my first attempt at beginning to write 750 words a day begun shortly after reading Ben Nesvig’s piece “10 Lessons From Writing 750 Words a Day for 365 Days”. Though I wouldn’t say that it sparked my (hopefully) forthcoming “writing adventure”, it was nonetheless interesting to absorb the thoughts of someone who had undertaken such an endeavour for a whole year. Personally, I think those lessons he has collected are worth a few reflections. Though my reflections are of a different angle, an angle of friendly criticism in order to better create a “writing dogma” for myself as a I too attempt this written journey.

What I mean by this is many-folded, but the Reader’s Digest version of the following goes something like this: I will try as hard as humanly possible to not ever address the reader (you) in any way, since in this particular context I simply don’t believe in doing that. Endless blog posts, articles and essays out there point fingers at the mighty reader, the “you out there”, that person who needs to be informed, enlightened, amused, provoked or infuriated. But not me. Not these writings. Not in a million years.

And here’s why (told through shamelessly abusing Nesvig’s lessons).

1. I don’t judge what I publish, I just publish

I find Nesvig’s logic about not judging his work as an effort to avoid becoming a “psychotic egomaniac” funny. I find any such attempt in any situation favorable. Seriously, who wouldn’t want to avoid that? Being Narcissus on a cocktail of ‘roids and crystal meth just doesn’t sound that super awesome to me. But still, I don’t want to judge what I write, even how hard it might (and could) be to restrain myself from doing so.

Frankly, I just want to write about whatever is in my head, regardless of what it might be, without worrying about a reader’s opinion, whether my blog gets on Hacker News or if it’s popular or not. I just want to do something I’ve been wanting to do for many years; just write whatever my mind commands my fingers to produce. As simple as that. If that makes me a psychotic egomaniac then wow, much special doge.

2. I both know and don’t know why I’m writing, and that’s a good thing

Trust me, I’m a fan of Simon Sinek and all that “starting with why”-stuff as a creator, but I’m also a believer of opposites. Backsides of medals and all that jazz. I don’t believe that I should always have a reason or a why for doing something. I believe that I can do something for no reason at all AND for a reason, at the same time and not. But I also believe in honesty, and the honest thing to say is that I do have a reason for writing. A reason I find simple enough to commit to: I have thoughts, these thoughts want to get out, I help them to do so. Nothing more, nothing less.

My intentions are not to train a writing muscle, publish books or articles, to get discovered or to do anything for anyone. The consequences of my writings might prove otherwise. I might never know, but what I do know is my reason for writing.

3. Planning helps, but not planning helps me just as much

I find this to be one of the greater ironies, because it leads me to question the very foundation of this concept. Write (at least) 750 words every day? Why? Why 750 and not whatever I want? Why every day and not whenever I feel the need for writing? This is one of the main reasons why I find rules, frames, boxes, frameworks, bureaucracies even to be so amazing and ridiculous at the same time.

I have experienced quotes no more than a few words explaining much more than the heaviest of academic articles and the very opposite to be true to me aswell. I could write a million words or write just two and feel equally satisfied or disatisfied.

This leads me to write about what makes it possible for me to write; my mind is an automagically self-replenishing well of thoughts that can be emptied, but never completely drained. Well that’s a lie, it will when I die, obviously, but I’ll let that one slip for now. My point is that I go against the notion of writing every day, since I want to write whenever my well is close to overflowing. Whenever I feel the urge to empty it to keep my sanity.

4. There might be good and bad first drafts, but I don’t really care

"Publish worthy". That’s… that’s heavy stuff. As if there is some special person out there that only wants to read written words if they have been prepared. Well-seasoned and correctly spiced. Polished and maybe even filtered? Luckily, I’m a lousy chef and everything I’m going to write in this particular context is worthy of publish. Because the only person I’m publishing to is myself. And I’m not that picky. I find most mistakes and errors cute. Things to be embraced as much as to be destroyed. The same goes with distractions.

5. I love distractions and hate them just as much

Avoiding distractions have never really boosted my “thoughts to words”-proces as much as numerous productivity techniques and articles have preached to me that it would. In some situations it helps me to shut out the outside world, but in just as many situations it helps me to go on those almost never-ending, serendipitous journeys conversations with a friend or the Interwebz offer; solitude and crowdiness equally fill my before-mentioned well of thoughts.

And I love that.

All in all, I have begun an adventure. Treaded the first steps of a path that I’ve longed to tread for a long time and I’m very excited about that. Especially now that I’ve gotten my intentions out in the open. And it doesn’t make me feel vulnerable at all. Quite the contrary, in fact. It feels invigorating, empowering even. Like the badge of a superhero.

And while some might argue that good writing is mostly good editing, my writing won’t be. It will just be writing. Abathur once said: “Never perfect. Perfection goal that changes. Never stops moving. Can chase, cannot catch.” I believe the same goes for words such as “good”, “great” and so forth. To me they are simply subjective labels that narrow and expand endlessly from person to person. Therefore I don’t seek good writing nor good editing. I just seek to use my body as a vessel for my mind to transport my thoughts from my well to my fingers and onto this medium of my online journal.

Ah, I feel much better already. Next time, I might even write why I believe that my succes in life is as fleeting as perfection and why I don’t have to work 40 hours a week to feel happy. Or maybe I’ll just write about my death anxiety. One or two.

The Entrepreneurial Sweeper

After accomplishing the daunting task of putting together yet another “easy-to-do” office chair, I realized how long it’s been since I wrote something here. That’s going to change with some of my latest thoughts on my (and the future) generation of “designers who code and do entrepreneurship as if it were their second nature”. Who are we? What will we become? With no futher ado, I’ll talk a little about “The Entrepreneurial Sweeper”.

The Entrepreneurial Whaaaa…?

It’s no secret that I’m notorious for conjuring up ideas and acting on them, whether be it to spin up some startup concept, code some solution for a tech-related problem or create some design proposal. I won’t run from that. But I’ve always had an itch with all of this that has become sort of second nature and a distinct part of my identity; “I’m actually more than pretty decent at all these things, actually I can do all three of these things quite fluently at an age of 23. But at the same time I can’t for the sake of it figure out what that type of professional is. What is my role?”

I think I’ve locked horns with this dilemma since I was 18-19’ish, but it had to take quite a few more years (and a random encounter with 37Signals’ book “Getting Real”) before I could crack this nut. At least for myself.

Get real, Jack

A while back I discussed this with a few people, and inevitably ended in the typical “Well isn’t it just a matter of being a Jack of all Trades, master of none kind of thing?”; a thought I personally subscribed to myself for several years, yet the more people I met and follow online hollowed this statement dramatically. Let’s take a step to the side for a moment.

Currently, specialization is both looked at as something admirable and something dangerous. You can devote your life to designing interfaces, and this reaps several benefits and drawbacks. You post something on Dribbble and get instant gratification because what you do is ahead of the pack, yet everything around you revolves solely on user interface design leaving an eerie impression of your work being the thing defining you and not you defining your work.

On the other hand, generalization is somewhat also looked upon with the same perspectives though leaning more towards the negative since “If you don’t specialize, you’ll just be average at a lot of things”, right? On the positive side, you show that you can span multiple areas and by doing a bit of code here, a bit of design there, maybe a dash of business model canvas too, you suddenly find yourself being able to talk with most people on (and outside) your team.

So are we still talking about generalization versus specialization? Actually no. To be honest I think that discussion is dying a slow death, withering naturally because of it being a part of a previous paradigm, or “world view”. What’s much more interesting is where this paradigm is shifting towards. And I feel that this shift is currently being pushed by our current generation of kids, teens and young adults where the “Jack of all Trades” label feels hollow and imprecise.

This generation contains its share of specialists and generalists (and that’s good!), but as I see it, it contains an even greater number of people who are both great at designing, great at coding, great at starting things up, great at creating business models and great networkers. They are not “masters of none”, but rather I see them as “Jacks of all Trades, Great at Some, Masters of Few”. In hindsight, this title is way too tough to use in the real world (and no, abbrevating it to JoaTGaSMoF will not help here), so instead let me introduce you to a great term coined by the 37Signals team in their “Getting Real” book found in the “The Three Musketeers” chapter.

Sweep away Sweeper

In “Getting Real”, 37Signals dwelves into what the perfect team should be for the version 1.0 of a web application (the magic number is three); one designer, one developer and, here it comes, one “sweeper”. To quote the book, a sweeper is “someone who can roam between two worlds”; someone who knows the tongue of code-speak as well as the lingo of the design world. And this term finally made my puzzle fall into place (even though it led to a much larger, unfinished puzzle!). If we adjust the Sweeper terms a little bit, I think that we’re well on our way to define a part of both my and the future generation of people who code, design and start up.

What I’m getting at is to elaborate on 37Signals’ Sweeper term and make it more in tune with the people of my generation I’ve encountered so far; people who were brought up in an age of computers, only a few steps away from Photoshop, code editors and have had entrepreneurship introduced in and around their teens. This becomes even more so with the younger part of my generation who was born into the “Internet Age” and has never experienced what it was like without “being connected all the time beyond time and space”. And finally, it becomes even further so with the coming generation of people who will experience a world where learning to code, design and entrepreneurship is so easily accessible (just think of, CodeCademy, CodeSchool, heck my cousin who’s around 12 years old is learning Cinema4D on!) that anyone at some point will at least be exposed to the very basics of these skills.

Many of my generation started to learn either the language of code or design around their early teens (Kalle, my business partner-in-crime, started coding around 11, I began designing when I was around 13), but think about it; at such an early age there will be a point where they will become fluent at either one of these and naturally flow over into the other, eventually also to become fluent in that area. Suddenly you have people who both are fluent in code and design, mastering one of these along with several others skills. How is this so? I can only speak for myself, but through my work with many other talented individuals, the simple combination of time (loads of years ahead of you), passion in a particular field, dedication to said passion and an aspiration to become great creates people who are what I define as Sweepers.

This leads to something I find quite interesting. You see, the funny thing about 37Signals’ recommendation of two seemingly specialized individual bound together by one generalized individual is that if you run this scenario with three Sweepers as per defined above, those “Three Musketeers” suddenly two can code quite well (assisting the developer for a stronger development proces), two can design quite well (assisting the designer in spinning a proper designproces) and finally all three can sweep nicely between each other. If this is the startup teams of tomorrow, I’m going to be spending a lot of money on the top-notch stuff they’ll be churning out!

So where does this leave the “old” sweeper-type 37Signals describe? This is where the “entrepreneurial” thingamajig comes into play. Globally, especially in Denmark aswell we see a rise (though not as big as I’d want it to be) in entrepreneurshup in many layers of society; because many of these initiatives often revolve around software this results in exposing these Sweepers to the thoughts of sustainable businesses, “real-idealistic” business models and innovative ways of going from idea to action. And similar to a generation with coders becoming great designers and designers becoming great coders, Sweepers have enough time on their hand to also venture into starting up businesses based on stuff they make; and they have the skillset to do so!

Wizards of Tomorrow

Some, not all, will take a great passion for entrepreneurship and go deeper down that road in a way that they become very fluent in that area aswell. These Sweepers will, in my opinion, be the “Wizards” of tomorrow; they specialize in either code or design, are very good at the thing they don’t specialize in and they can convert their ideas and expertise into solutions that help society while in return gives them revenue that allow them to continue evolving; these are what I call the “Entrepreneurial Sweepers” (E-Sweepers if you must). Keep a close eye on these, as they can go from nothing to a testable prototype (and business model) completely independent of others, team up with one or two specialized Sweepers through their networking skills and before you know it they’re disrupting markets at a pace we are yet to understand. Prophetic? Absolutely! Realistic? Totally.

In closing, it’s not a secret that I find myself fitting into the E-Sweeper type (which is great, since now I can finally stop pondering about this), and just to make it things crystal clear; it has nothing to do with being better than specialists or generalists, not at all. We’re one, big happy family. It’s just a new role, a new generation of makers with a different skillset, and I’m looking forward to see how both Sweepers and E-Sweepers (hopefully) are going to push the industries they operate into even better ones over the next couple of decades.