Narrative image, path to work (Madrid 08.04.2015)

I’ve been writing 750 words every morning now for the past three months, using the web page 750words.com, going on 98 days, counting today! The page was set up by a quantifed selfer and his wife, Buster and Kellianne. I first listened to Buster in 2012 on a video available at the quantifiedself.org web site (http://quantifiedself.com/2012/12/buster-benson-why-i-track/), talking about why he tracks and the evolution of his meaningful metrics. An amazing talk.

In 2013 I saw Buster give the last keynote speech of the QSEU13 conference in Amsterdam, and was almost in tears by the end (but then again my wife says I cry at everything). Buster’s point, or at least what I re-recall looking at my notebook summary, struck a nerve: the value of not curating, the value of collecting data that is not part of a story, and for that very reason remains rich in meaning, i.e., the value of moments. One of his efforts of “non-curating data collection” is taking a picture with his phone every day at 8h36 pm and tweeting it (see http://busterbenson.com/). The touching part was at the end, when he talked about his family and those fleeting moments.

After QSEU2013, I duly went onto 750words.com, signed up and wrote 147 words on April 17th…, then did not use it again until December that same year. My main concern at the time was the privacy, could I write anything on a page that was online? I also noticed there was no spell checker… (see reason for this below). But I would tell some friends about it and always thought it would be a good idea to use more. Then I started more in earnest with the new year in 2014, every day in January, writing for 59 days straight until February 19th, against all odds, long trips with time changes, time conflicts with family etc. And then I completely forgot to do it one day, and woke up in horror at 1h00 the day after, it felt like I had broken some sacred chain. After that, the game was damaged somehow, the competition with myself to write everyday was over. I went on, writing a bit less, feeling less motivated, skipped Feb 28th, then missed 9 days in March, and then started to write less than 750 words on some days (you only get half a slash for that). Almost nothing from April to September, then 5 days in October, 3 days in November and 11 days in December, 2014, to finally make a come back in 2015, again with the new year, and have been writing non-stop since then. All that makes for about 159,434 words since April 2013 (see Figure 1).


What learned?

I like Buster’s own description of how he uses 750words as meditation (https://medium.com/better-humans/better-than-meditation-12532d29f6cd) . Just sit and write what comes out of your head, as if mesmerized by the screen, just a flow of words and don’t worry about correcting errors, don’t worry about misspelling (that’s why there’s not spell check), just let anything and everything flow out. So I flow, and ooze, but can’t always meditate. I tend to write early in the morning, no stress, spouse asleep, kids asleep, some spare time before breakfast. If I don’t feel like the mezmerization, I kick start with other tactics. I went through each entry in 2015 and found I can classify them in one of seven categories: daily journal, blog work, writing a letter, assessing writing, book reviews, running summary, narrative thoughts (see Figure 2). The first four are self-explanatory, the latter three can be further explained (just a note that 750 words will actually analyse your writing and tell you more about it, but I’m not going to go into that now).

-Book reviews: Normally when I take in new information, even films or songs sometimes, I take notes, so 750 words just allows me to put it all into the computer. Its nice and I can always add my own thoughts as I go along.

-Narrative thoughts: I review the 1800 photos taken the previous day with my narrative camera (that I’ve talked about before..) and write down feelings, thoughts.

-Running summary: this has to do with writing about a certain topic over several days, and brings out the usefulness of repetition and rewriting. If only used for a meditation, the morning pages type of exercise can be relaxing but I always feel like I need to get more out of it. Re-reading the more meditative stuff is also not that great, not that interesting. It gives you a flavour of what was going on but you wouldn’t really want to share it. Re-writing however allows you to carry over ideas from one day to another, and improve them slowly. I can pick out themes and work on them, and add the current jumble of ideas to them. That first step, to choose to copy and rewrite, is difficult at times, but then the mind flows and things usually take care of themselves. Time to write more words!