750words.com – a writing environment for a daily writing exercise

This system has you writing 750 words each day.

I've already written 750 words today, a long essay on blogging, forgetting, and remembrance. It was pretty good, and I was pretty happy with it. At one point it was 830 words but I cut it down to size, removing a paragraph and tightening up a few phrases.

The goal of the 750 words site is to get you into a habit of writing that many words each and every day. It's not necessary to publish them, but simply to get them down onto the screen. The technique is similar to the "morning pages" of The Artist's Way, but instead of pen and paper you type. By typing for long enough you get over the initial hurdle of getting anything down and instead start to get into a groove of reflection, introspection, creativity and insight. Or so that's the thought.

I'm not certain that I can keep up with this over the long haul, but it's an appealing construct to have a simple-minded goal that's more productive than the alternative of playing solitaire, Flood It, or Sudoku. A Sudoku game eats up 20 minutes, which should be enough time to crank out most of a 750 word essay.

Hitting a precise word count improves my prose. I write something that's too long, and then use some extra time to omit needless words until the total is the correct size. "Fill the input box exactly" is the mantra, and it serves two masters. First, it allows you to write quickly knowing full well that there will be words to cut when you're done. Second, it keeps the editorial role in abeyance until the whole piece has been worked to the end. It's better to cut words only when there are too many of them.

The 750 Words writing environment is spare. There's no formatting, no linking, no permalinks to worry about and no readers. It's just you on the page, typing away madly with the word count goal at the bottom right hand corner. Writer's block is the only barrier, and since there's no expectation of publication it doesn't even have to come out precisely right. Just keep typing until you are done with filling up the box.

I started to try to write an index to Vacuum as an exercise in organization, and what I found was that the tools I have for rereading the that text are too weak. What I really want to do is download the whole stinking mess and put it into some kind of file system that I can grep through. What words did I use, and when? Have I usefully repeated myself? Is there some clever phrase that gets used too much? All of that is easy enough to construct with the right text analysis environment, but very hard with just Google's searching tools at my disposal.

Organizing a word hoard, especially an exceptionally varied one, is very hard work. I have a shelf full of paper notebooks dating back to the 1990s with words in them that perhaps deserve to be unearthed and reanimated for the net, but it's so hard to know without a very laborious process of reading through them one page at a time, puzzling out the inscriptions and deciding which would have been better forgotten. I know there's interesting work there mixed in with the sketches and the odd lists of people to call.

Twenty words to go.

In conclusion, 750 words is a system which encourages you to write 750 words of disposable throwaway prose every day. If it turns out that you can reuse some of it, so much the better! I think this essay might have about 400 useful words in it, and I'll try to pull them out for Vacuum.

I ended up throwing away two whole paragraphs from the original edit of this essay, so the word count is only about 650. The time to edit the whole thing was almost as long as the time to write it.


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One thought on “750words.com – a writing environment for a daily writing exercise

  1. wanderingstan

    I’m a big fan of 750words.com and have used it for two and a half years. But to be honest, it was only in 2012 that I managed to actually make a habit of it.
    It’s interesting to me that you find it important to reach *exactly* 750 words. I never took that to be a goal. If I have the time and motivation to write more, then all the better!
    For me it’s always been about “warming up the brain to keyboard” connection. That is, it’s just to get the motor running, and a safe place where I can write literally *anything* and it’s okay. I’m not going for quality–I’m not even going to judge it.
    At first I too thought that I could “double-dip” and occasionally use it as both my warm up and first-draft essay writing. But this never worked for more than a few days. Once I let go of that, I was able to get in a real groove and am proud to say that I missed only 4 days last year.


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