Reflecting On The 160,470 Words Checked by Grammarly Last Week
It seems that I write quite a bit
I don’t usually pay attention to emails coming in unless it’s from another human. But something made me click on an email titled Grammarly Weekly Insights.
And it turns out I’ve been on a writing streak for the past 18 weeks and had 160,470 words checked by the application. My lifetime total tracks back to January 13th and currently sits at 1,945,567 words.
I’m not kidding.
Here’s the snippet from the email.
And here’s the other one.
Naturally, the number feels surreal. If taken on face value, it means that I generate 22k words approximately every day.
That number doesn’t seem quite right.
Sure, I write a lot. There’s at least an article almost every day for Medium, along with client work. But that’s around 8–10k per day max when combined. I don’t think the browser plugin tracks my coding stuff because that’s in a completely different application and is unrelated to my writing activities.
Facebook comments, social media posts, and private chats most likely add up to about 1–2k each day.
How Grammarly managed to arrive at that number still confuses me. Perhaps they’re double-counting it in some way. There’s no dashboard to break down the stats further — just a series of emails.
The stats, however, did make me reflect on my journey down the writer’s path over the last 12 months.
Am I a writer yet?
I once sat next to a girl in University that wanted to be a writer.
She talked about her book writing dreams, the signings, the fans, the accolades, the movie deals, and all that stuff. But when it came to the task of writing, she hated it.
She waited for inspiration to come. She blamed her homework obligations from crushing her dreams and taking up her time. The last time I talked to her, she complained about her job. To her, the culprit for her lack of written words was because she’s being held back by life.
I used to be like her with my head full of grand dreams — but over time, I’ve come to accept that to be a writer, you actually have to write. Everything else is ancillary.
To be a writer, I’ve discovered that you have to enjoy the process, even on days when you don’t feel divinely inspired — when your muses have left you dry and high and your brain refuses to work. That happened to me a lot around mid this year. The toddler kept bringing home various sicknesses from the other kids. She had fevers and snotty noses.
I write anyway — even on nights where the clock is almost past midnight and I’ve done nothing else but held the child. I’ve balanced her on my lap with the laptop in front of me while she slept.
I write because it’s my thing and I’ve carved out a pathway that’s allowed me to write as part of my income creation process.
I write because it’s become part of a routine, interwoven into the fabric of my day and other income-generating activities.
I write for the love of writing — even if I’m just throwing digital ink against the wall, when words come out as jumbled thoughts and sounds merge into a cacophony of randomness inside my head.
I write to untangle, to understand, to imagine, to muse, and keep amused.
Where’s your voice?
Maybe it’s just me but growing up, I would switch my voice to portray different versions of myself. How I presented myself depended on my audience. My thought processes, ideas, beliefs and everything else would be in agreement with my parents, my friends, my teachers, the media, bosses, managers and anyone else I encountered.
No one really knew what my true voice sounded like. Not even me.
I was but a shell that struggled to establish my own sense of identity — and it showed in my writing.
I started writing again in January 2018, a few months after I had my baby. Looking back at my old work, I was a jumbled mess of thoughts, ideas and conflicting voices. In January 2019, I decided to figure out myself and made my pledge. I started writing properly — in my own words.
When I stopped trying to mimic and please everyone, I grew an identity for myself. My following on Medium rapidly grew from 10 followers to 1,000. Within a few months, I hit the 5k following mark and crossed the 200k views milestone on Medium.
Naturally, others started to copy my voice, ideas, content, and structure — and as a result, I started to feel unoriginal. Because when you start something new and everyone jumps on it, it makes you feel like you’re just following the herd — even when you were the one that started it.
I didn’t want to feel like that. I wanted to remain independent and be as original in thought as I can be. I didn’t want to be just another voice on the Internet.
I wanted to be me.
So I evolved my voice. And the more I wrote, the faster and better I got at it. the more I remained independent and unique, the more people stay as readers and fans.
And that’s one thing my copycats fail at.
They try and mimic my topics but they can never mimic my voice — resulting in generic pieces that melt into the masses of quickly produced stories. People might read them but they’re not hooked on the journey and thought processes I take my readers on.
Time-blocks = Internet gold
Having an established routine can make or break a writing schedule. It takes discipline to write consistently. It takes commitment to make Internet gold through digital ink.
You don’t need an entire day to write. You just need a good solid block. That block might be 30 minutes or a few hours. However long you’ve got, all you need is a solid one.
Before the toddler toddled off to daycare, my solid block would be in between nap times. She now spends about 6 hours a day being a social butterfly playing in a sandpit with the other kids. This means I have about 4 hours after attending to life-related things to do my writing during day time.
It sounds like a lot but time can quickly trickle away if you’re not watchful.
One YouTube video can lead to a few hours’ worths of searching for inspiration. It’s the same with social media and talking to people online. Everything takes time and active prioritization matters more than anyone realizes.
Yes. I write a lot.
I also think a lot, too.
It’s the way I marinate my words to give it flavor and personality. When I get stuck, I start with one sentence. It doesn’t matter if it’s good or not. I just start writing. By the time I have an introduction completed, the rest of the content will follow — if not naturally, then by brute force until something right comes out.
Because the brain is a funny thing and it doesn’t always run at 100 miles an hour. Sometimes it slows down and tries to meander. Sometimes this happens at the most inconvenient time.
But when you’re committed to writing, it doesn’t matter what your brain is doing — what matters is training it up to be resilient against the lack of words.
It took me a good 12 months of dedicated training to get to where I am — 160,470 words “checked” by Grammarly last week and 10k followers later.
Here I am — nearly at the end of a year-long marathon, with the next one ready to go in about 10-ish days.