February 7th, 2020 – 499

One year ago today, I made a short post on a site that, I believed, I’d abandon by the end of the month. My initial expectations were not high, and amounted to ‘I’ll try this, it won’t work, it’s never worked.’ I have talked in various places about my oldest mantra in life, but to understand this blog I have to signpost it:

“Try something, and if it doesn’t work, try something else.”

One of my earliest posts was a rant against the word ‘something’, a word I am a little better at using now than I used to be. That’s funny, because the mantra above wouldn’t work without it. The flexibility of trying vague ideas and letting them take form if they’re going to work is the backbone of 1K. 1K itself was a vague notion of ‘how many days can I write a thousand words in a row’ idea once. This blog as envisioned at the start wasn’t even guranteed to be daily.

I’ve talked about my ‘Action, Accountability and Reflection’ model a few times here. I keep saying I’ll write an essay on it, so no time like the present. Not an essay, but a goog way to understand why this blog succeeded where so many I’ve tried in the past failed. For the purposes of this, Action is my thousand words. Reflection is my private journal, and this is my accountability. 

Action is the act we want to do. In my case, it was write more, but despite me saying vague is no sin above, the Action has to be more specific. This is because we have to be able to measure it, hold it accountable, keep it reasonable, and timebound it. Sound familiar? That should, because what I’ve described is a SMART Target. These are the bedrock of any long term change, lifestyle or otherwise. They give you a “quick(er) win”, that can build into something larger. 1K is at its core a series of SMART Targets, but with a twist.

A traditional SMART Target has relfection and accountability built into it. Depending on the acronym you’re using, ‘Accountability’ is a 5th of the point. But this reflection then flows into setting a ‘next step’ target. You do the thing, and then you do the next thing. This is good when it comes to developing skills, learning and habits. But it’s the part I subverted. I instead declared right from the start, that these goalposts would never move. ‘1K is Enough’ became my guiding view. On my best day sure, I can sail over that if I let myself. But on my worst? I can always meet it.

Reflection used to be the third step, but now had moved more often to be the second for me, so I will put it second here. This is where I take some time to reflect on where my head is at in relation to 1K. I do this as a journal entry, which I never said didn’t count towards my thousand words, but I always write after. That way, if I miscounted and wrote 997 words, I hit target either way. Given my problems in the past with paranoia this is a godesend. I use this step, written in a place 100% private, to be honest with myself. There is no point lying in there. I don’t make a habit of lying anywhere, but self censorship is its own form of lying. Some things you can’t write on a blog.

I use my reflective step to take stock. Here, I adjust course if my current habits – of which writing is central – have me on the ropes or the rocks. Then I can leverage this into new ideas. I have to fill a page of my journal, and I give each entry a tile to give it more direction. I show these writings to nobody, and to be blunt, I have no intention to either. There’s nothing that exciting in there, but it means I can write what I want to, or importantly, need to.

And then there’s my Accountability. In the past when I have tried to manufacture habits, I have fallen short because a looming, terrifying, existential question looms:

“Who cares?”

No really, who cares if I don’t write a thousand words a day? Even my closest loved ones don’t get why I do it, because it’s a personal and in its way, private experience. I try to explain to people that building your life around a central habit is the best way to live. I’m not a lone voice on that either, that’s mainstream scientific consensus too. I’ve said this before, but Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit is the best resource on this out there. But keeping that going is tough, because when you’re in a rut, a little voice will say those two words again and again and again and again and again. There’s no escaping low points; you can’t always be ok, and trying is self defeating. But with accountability, you can embrace not being ok, and defy it.

No one reads this blog. I’ve been putting these posts up for a year now, and the engagement statistics are abysmal. I’ve never cared. The reason I’ve never cared is because I know psychology, and I know how to subvert it. If you post something on the internet, you will think people are reading it. This is in spite of what simple facts say otherwise. Call it the arrogant human mind. We are the centre of our own worlds, and if we make something and put it out there, of course people will see it. It’s why people post to places like WattPad week after week in spite of having zero reads, and don’t appear to notice. If you want fame, this is your greatest curse. If like me you want a free source of consiquence free accountability, this is your greatest asset.

I post an entry every day on here, and by doing so even if I don’t out and out say it, I am saying “I wrote a thousand words yesterday”. Sometimes I’m saying “I wrote a thousand yesterday and have already written a thousand today.” The point is in my mind, people are watching me to make sure I stick to this, and will notice if I have a gap in my posting on here. Nobody is, but to my brian that appears to be an afterthought. And that is so important I cannot emphasise it enough: I hold myself accountable to imaginary readers. If you want to be successful at anything in life, you have to hold yourself accountable to something. I hold myself accountable to you, even if you don’t exist.

Here’s to a whole year of fantasy accountability, and all the wonders it has done for me. I lost weight. I improved my performance at work. I wrote more. I got more efficiant at writing novels. I socialised more. I recognised faster when I wasn’t doing ok, and reached out sooner. So yes, my imaginary reader, you do not exist. And yet, I owe you everything I have. So thank you. Here’s to many more years ahead.

…Oh and, yes, I wrote 1,000 words of WHT this morning.