If you’re trying to start a writing habit, you have to try 750Words.com. It’s a site that gives you a blank canvas to write in, tracking which days you wrote. The implicit goal is to reach 750 words every day, but it also gives you points just for writing. A running tab shows your record for the month: bright green x’s for 750 days, half an “x” for less than 750, and sad empty boxes for days you didn’t write at all.
Seeing those empty boxes sucks. The achiever in me wants to check all the boxes.
750 Words is free to try out, then asks you to become a paying member after 31 days. When my one month anniversary arrived, I didn’t hesitate at all to enter my PayPal creds, whisking $5 a month to Buster and Kelliane who run the site.
I really like 750 Words.
How To Use 750 Words
Prior to 750 Words, I was a fairly longtime patron of Ommwriter, a fantastic desktop app for distraction-free writing. The one-time fee for each major upgrade bought me a gorgeous lush backdrop in which to write. Ommwriter doesn’t have any tracking or motivation features, which is why I was tempted to give 750 Words a try.
Full Screen Mode
The feature I missed most from Ommwriter was the full-screen obliteration of all distractions. 750 Words has a “Full screen writing” option but all it does is hide the top site header. What I really needed to escape from was the clock ticking at the top of my desktop. To get away for reals, I use the full screen mode of my browser (Apple-Shift-F for the Chrome users), gloriously transporting me to a blank field of snow once again.
The other feature I missed from Ommwriter was beautiful soothing writing music, which I had never listened to before while writing. This music is a cross between electronic downtempo, ambient, and spa music – the kind you’re played whilst getting a massage. It gives me the comfort of noise without stealing me from my thoughts. Ommwriter comes with seven built-in soundtracks, all surprisingly well chosen. To mimic this, I found this wonderfully curated “Writing Music” playlist which I listen to on shuffle in a separate tab. The tracks never get tiresome thanks to the “Radio” feature available on most music streaming sites, and I get the added benefit of broadening my music horizons.
You Win! Good Job!
750 Words congratulates me when I hit my 750 word mark, popping up in the top right corner of my screen. There’s exclamation points! This little green notification is enough to keep me writing, especially when I start flagging around 525 words.
When I’m able to push past my blockage, I almost always well surpass 750 words, logging around 1,000-1,500 words by the time I sit back. 750 is enough to get me on a roll, forcing me to dig deep-ish on my topic and therefore tap into a meaning that’s worth excavating. Once I find that second wind, the words fly by.
There’s no grammar nazi or lit police judging your 750 words; the point is just to put words – any words – down onto the canvas. Inevitably with enough repetition, those words begin to better and better resemble the shape you want them to be.
Metadata and Quantified Self Redux
As if the perfect writing environment and auto-save weren’t enough, 750 Words appeals to the geek in me. By entering all-cap labels followed by a colon, I can track various metrics around my writing health. My writing is really a representation of how well my noggin’s functioning, so I like to pay attention to how much I’m sleeping and my own perceived quality of the writing I’m doing (i.e. is it blogworthy). To this end, 750 Words provides a lightweight hack for measuring any metric I want, as long as I can come up with a pithy tag for it. The values are then plotted on a time-based bar graph in my “Metadata” section. Here’s an example of the custom metrics I track:
SLEEP: 7.5 hours
My writing canvas is one of the few repositories I visit consistently every day, so it’s the most fitting place for me to enter metrics about myself. It’s worked so well that I’ve begun to use it for tracking non-writing related stats like job satisfaction.
I’m certain that if 750 Words wasn’t such a joy to use, my writing goal would have suffered quite a bit. Combined with my offline hack to make writing (and getting up early) as enjoyable as possible, I’ve habitually written enough now to believe that this just might stick.
Also published on Medium.