One of the pieces of advice given to aspiring writers is “write every day”. I think most serious writers do this — they take it as their job, and sit down and write each and every day whether they feel like writing or not. Many of us who don’t find work as writers feel that writing must be the product of a strike of inspiration… which isn’t the case at all. Writing is just language, put down on paper, and the Internet gives us a larger array of contexts to use our written language, including casual settings. Writing can be a gateway into a stream of consciousness, allowing us to form scattered thoughts into a coherent idea.
Think about it — with all of the writing you do on Twitter, e-mail, Facebook, chat, Instant Messenger, how many words do you write per day? We do a lot of writing nowadays, moreso than people ever have.
The problem is that our writing is fragmented, in pieces, scattered across mediums. It’s not focused, and a lot of us have trouble getting a coherent thought out of our many mediums. (I know that I, personally, struggle with this issue.) To this end, I discovered — with the help of some folks on Twitter — 750words.com. The point of this site is to give people a space to write every day, and to keep track of these writings. It’s different from a blog, even one like LiveJournal which can be protected, in that the writing is visible only to you. The site archives all of your past writing, and you can even look at statistics about your writing. Beyond looking at your average word count, or the number of days that you have met the goal of 750 words, the site also uses the Regressive Imagery Dictionary to analyze the emotions present in your words. You can see whether you are happy, sad, distressed, or affectionate, and the site can judge your overall “maturity” level based on factors like swearing, sexual content, and violence. It also analyzes content, topics, and outlook using the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count text analysis system.
All of these text analysis options are really interesting, but for me, the draw of the site is the running count at the top of how many days in a row I have hit my 750 word goal. I’m currently at 15, because I missed one day two weeks ago. It gives me a goal, and a recurring one, and I get a nice gratification with a popup window when I reach 750 words every day. The analytics are nice to play around with (especially when they tell me I’m more mature than most of the users), and I am sure they can be an interesting tool for people to gain a greater understanding of their concerns and preoccupations in life.
For students and academics, this site is a great resource for getting your thoughts in order on your research or whatever paper you’re currently working on. I’ve used it to start a flow of ideas on my second qualifying paper every day, which provides a nice frame for the writing that I need to do that day or the analyses I am performing on my data. I highly recommend it for all academics, just to get in the practice of writing. Especially as graduate students, we don’t get in the habit of writing often — we spend a lot more time reading and discussing, and not writing down the things that we think. This site is a great tool for getting used to putting our scholarly thoughts into words, and provides a canvas for experimenting with ideas.