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The writer’s best New Year’s habit

Thanksgiving introduces a period of introspection that culminates in New Year’s resolutions.

There’s the resolutions I never keep and in fact, no longer make, such as losing weight.

There are the resolutions I never make because I always keep them unless there’s a good reason not to. For instance, I attend Jazzercise at least three times a week and yoga once a week. These activities provide a laudable excuse for postponing the real work I should be doing.

And then there’s all the other things I should do but don’t resolve to do because frankly, I have given up on the whole thing of resolutions.

However, I do have a practice that I am trying to establish as a habit. A habit that I am trying to practice without fail, both now and after the New Year.

This habit is to save everything I write as I write it in a Word or Notepad file on my computer.

There are two reasons for this practice. The first is so that everything that may be rewritten or expanded as an article or blog post is preserved in a handy place. Sometimes something I write as a comment on someone else’s blog or as an answer to a LinkedIn question or as part of a LinkedIn discussion or even an email turns out meatier than I had anticipated at the start.

While I could retrieve this from wherever I posted it and then save it, I seldom actually do this as I move on to my next task. And if I think about looking for it later on, I can’t remember where it is and to search through the websites of others is a slow and tedious job.

So if I don’t save it right now, I never will.

I have a system for saving. I put each piece in the same computer folder. My current folder is named “2011 contributions and correspondence.” Each article is saved under a long and helpful file name, starting with the name of the website (or whatever) originally posted to, followed by a few words to indicate the content and the date of writing.

I scroll back through past files to remember topics I have already partially developed.

If I print off what I have written, I insert a footer with the name and path of the file, the date and time of printing, and the page number. This ensures that if I pick it up and later want to work with it, I’ll be able to track it down on my computer easily.

Disciplining myself to save past writing where it is readily accessible has paid off many a time.

However, this practice of saving what I’m working on early in its production has a second benefit as well.

Sometimes I’ll be posting copy in the template made available on other people’s blogs for content or whatever. Or I’ll be posting to databases similar in how they work to resume databases. Sometimes I’ll do a lot of work, send it and it will disappear.

If I have saved my new content in My Documents, I can readily retrieve it and resend rather than trying to remember what I’ve written and give it another shot.

In practice, I seldom rewrite. I simply get frustrated and go to bed.

So that’s why I’m working at establishing this habit of saving content as its own file as early in the writing as possible, even before I complete a full draft and evaluate it.


Originally posted 11-28-11

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