On 13 April 2021, I set myself a challenge, to write 100 articles in 100 days.
I was following Violinist Hilary Hahn, who started a 100 Days of Practice project. She posted a video of her practicing violin on Instagram for 100 days with #100daysofpractice and invited others to join her.
Austin Kleon (the writer of How To Steal Like an Artist) connected Hilary Hahn’s idea with comedian Jerry Seinfeld’s, “put a cross each day when you have achieved your task/habit and don’t break the chain” and created a PRACTICE/ SUCK LESS GRID.
I am halfway through the grid, and I haven’t broken the chain so far.
I wanted to achieve three things with this challenge.
- To get better at article writing.
2. To bring the writing time down from 5–6 hours to 1–2 hours.
3. To build a system to publish every day.
I wanted to write a post to evaluate where I have reached so far.
Did I get better at article writing?
Two years ago, I challenged myself to write 30 articles in 30 days on my website. That single exercise helped me more than anything else. But it was a very demanding challenge, and I couldn’t gather enough courage to start a similar challenge again.
But I knew I have to if I wanted to get better fast.
There is nothing better than concentrating on one activity and doing it every single day to get better at it. The improvement is remarkable.
For one, I do not have the dread of writing an article. When I was writing one or two articles a week, I dreaded the day those were due. I would procrastinate and take a long time to come to the actual task of writing. Now I know I have to write and publish before the day is over. So I get on with the job and do it as quickly as possible.
I am typing much faster. My thoughts are much clearer. And I am writing more and more articles from memory. Writing 1200–1700 words article a day brings clarity to your thought process. You start developing your perspective about things, and you no longer waffle.
I am much more fluent now than I was 50 days ago. I have been writing on varied topics such as Life, Writing, Learning, Travel, Authorpreneurship, Productivity, Self-Improvement, and even Short Stories. As a result, I have a healthy backlist of articles.
Did I manage to bring the article writing time?
I used to take 7- 8 hours to write an article. The day my article was due, I had to clear the whole day. I will start in the morning and sometimes wouldn’t be able to publish till late at night. I would agonize over the topic, second-doubt everything I wrote, spend hours researching and editing used to take even longer than writing.
Now I write the most articles within 2–3 hours. I use a stopwatch and write in 15-minutes sprints. I have developed a distinct voice. Although I would like to get my writing time down to one hour, I am quite happy with a 1–2 hour time frame.
The articles that need research still take longer than the ones I write from memory. This article is mostly written from memory; hence it is written relatively quickly. I have gone back and forth to get some facts from time to time, but most of it is from my head.
Nowadays, I don’t research while writing an article, which used to be a big time-waster. So instead, I either do it beforehand or after writing the article.
When I come up with a topic, I first write down all I know about it. Once I have done that, then I go and do the research. This way I do not get influenced by what other people are saying. I only use research either to strengthen the point I am making or to give an alternate viewpoint.
I can form an outline in my head as I am writing. As soon as I decided to write this article I knew I am assessing myself against what I was set out to achieve when I set this challenge. So three questions became the outline for this article.
I don’t pre-plan topics anymore. I have about 128 drafts sitting in my draft folder, but I rarely use them. Instead, each day, I come up with a topic to write about without much effort. Usually, it is from what I have been reading or something I have already written about, and I have a new take on it.
When I can come up with a new topic, I feel really excited about it. If I leave it for a day or two, there is no guarantee that I will feel the same level of excitement. So I write and publish on the same day. But I do leave the article for a few hours before editing it.
Have I been able to build a system to publish every day?
Definitely yes. And it is straightforward.
In fact, publishing becomes a mindless task once you start doing it every day.
It doesn’t have the kind of dread when you publish once or twice a week.
Initially, I created a small checklist to remind me of the things I must do before publishing.
- Run Grammarly and fix all grammar, punctuation, and readability errors.
- Get Microsoft word to read the article back to me one paragraph at a time and remove any superfluous material, tidy the sentences, and get rid of repetitive words.
- Insert the feature image and make sure all images have credits.
- Insert the footer with CTA (call to action).
- Pick the correct tags.
- Add to a publication or leave it on my profile.
After a while, I didn’t even need this checklist. It has become second nature.
I stopped bothering to send my articles to big publications because they take a long time to respond. Since my aim is to publish every day, I couldn’t wait for them to get back to me.
When I started with Medium last year, getting accepted by a publication was a big thing. But getting into publications was hard. Publications receive far too many submissions than they can publish. Besides, Medium has changed its policy regarding publications, and many big publications are closing down.
It seems like I have almost achieved what I set out to achieve with this challenge. But the icing on the cake is extra achievements. Here is a list of them.
- I won a $500 bonus from Medium in early May.
- Many of my articles are chosen for further distribution.
- I won 300+ new followers.
- Editors of many publications have invited me to submit my articles to their publications.
- Several people subscribed to my newsletter A Whimsical Writer.
- Surprisingly, my most read articles are travel articles.
- I published five fictional stories which were well accepted.
What to expect in the next 50 days?
It will be nice to become a member of the $100-month club. However, I am not holding my breath for it. It will happen in due course, and while I am learning and growing each day, I am happy.
I want to write more series, like the three article series I did on How To Write Stories From Everyday Life. I can provide much more value with these.
I would also like to collaborate with other like-minded writers who are committed like me, to help each other grow.
It will be nice to see my follower numbers grow.
Last but not least…
A big thank you to all those who read my articles and kept cheering for me. Without those claps and helpful comments, it is tough to keep going.
So please keep them coming.