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200 Words a Day

Different Reasons for Streaking -- featuring Jerry Seinfeld 2020-12-16 20:24:24

The other day I listened to Jerry Seinfeld on Tim Ferriss.

Internet Makers often refer to Seinfeld is often as an advocate for consistent practice. Just go search don't break the chain and see how much content shows up. So when he started talking about consistency I didn't expect to be impacted that much.

In the conversation he states all the usual truths of writing that I'd already associated with him. The kinds of truths that are hard to accept such as: the best just do it a ton; there's nothing special to it; it's a game of tonnage.

I was kind of just listening until at one point I became allured. It's when Seinfeld began talking about how difficult writing is. He says it's one of the hardest things you can try to do and that you're crazy to try.

I remember the old tagline for 200WAD being something like 

All it takes it 200 words a day.

200WAD's main value proposition was gamifying consistency via the streaking feature. Streaking is synonymous with the chain-maintaining strategy above. And so you might think 200WAD's messaging is synonymous with Seinfeld's, but listening to the conversation the two felt world's apart.

200WAD's messaging framed writing as this thing that anyone could do. All it took was just 200 words a day right? And this messaging focused on framing the act and habit as easy.

The main difference with Seinfeld's messaging is that writing is so difficult that it's impossible for you to write the things you want without tricking/rewarding yourself. You can't just declare that you will write your book and then yank it out of your head. The only way is to trick/reward yourself. 

His example of tricks/reward was streaking and setting a designated time each day where you show up. The former you already understand... you just gamify the act of consistency so that your monkey brain is more primed to want to play the game. The latter is where you decide on an amount of time and a time of day you're willing to do the thing. If you can't agree to show up for an hour then just do 30 minutes. If you can't do it for 30 do it for 15. The point is to carve out a space where you're current self is comfortable enough to show up in. So if you decide to write everyday for half an hour at noon, then during that slot you don't get to do anything else. You might not have anything to write, and that's okay, you then just get to sit there.

I mentioned the aspect of reward above and you might think I'm forgetting about that part. Hilariously Seinfeld says that the reward in this case is that you get to stop doing the thing. Your reward is that when you show up at noon, you know that you get to stop at 12:30 instead of what most of us do to ourselves, which is tell ourselves we're going to write all day. If we tell ourselves we're going to write all day, when it comes time to start our brains are going to rebel oh no we are not going to write all day. go on Twitter! Now!!!!

What differentiates Seinfeld's messaging about streaking and writing from 200WAD is that he emphasizes the difficulty of writing and thus advocates for the trick of streaking. Whereas 200WAD emphasized the easiness of writing 200 words daily.

I think both messages can be more effective to different audiences. I think Seinfeld's messaging would be more effective for people who have been trying to write for awhile now since they already have first hand experience with how difficult it is. 200WAD's messaging might be better for someone who's never learned how difficult it is.

More from Abraham Kim

200 Words a Day

Different Reasons for Streaking -- featuring Jerry Seinfeld
I saw that Tim interviewed him and have that episode in the queue. I'll listen to it first before commenting further.
2020-12-16 20:37:49
I finally listened to the episode. I was surprised by Jerry's statement that writing is one of the hardest things to do. It's hard to know whether he was talking specifically about comedy writing or all writing. I don't find writing to be as difficult and arduous as he characterized it. I do find working out to be incredibly difficult, and I despise it every step of the way. I am going to look into the book he mentioned to see if I can take a different approach.
2020-12-20 16:00:41