100 Killer Words (Pleas Reed Allowed)

Pigeon point lighthouse, with star-like rays emanating from the light.

Writing over 100,000 words in a year has an impact on a lot of things. It affects the way that you think about whatever it is that you’re writing on. It affects the way that you manage your time, because you have to put aside 30-60 minutes a day. It affects the way that you think about your contact with the world because, when you have a daily deadline, you have to find something interesting every single day.

I have always read a lot. I read quickly and I enjoy it a great deal. But, until recently, apart from technical writing, my reading wasn’t important enough to keep track of. I surfed some pages over there? Oh, that’s nice. But now? Now, if I read something and there’s a germ of an idea, I have to keep track of it because I will need that to put together a post, most often late at night or on weekends. My gadgets and browsers are full of half-ideas, links, open pages, sketches. It changes you, writing and thinking this much in such a short time.

Let me, briefly, tell you how I’ve changed this year. I don’t know what to call this year because it’s most certainly not “The Year of Living Dangerously” or “The Year My Voice Broke” and it’s most certainly not “The Year of Living Biblically”. But let’s leave that for the moment. Let me tell you how I’ve changed.

  1. I have never used my brain so much, for such an extended period. My day is now full of stories and influences, connections and images, thinking, analysing, preparing and presenting. This is changing me as a person – giving me depth, making me more able to discuss issues, drawing out a lot of the frustration and anger I’ve wrestled with for years.
  2. I now try to construct working solutions from what I have, rather than excise non-working components. If reading and thinking this much about education has taught me anything, it’s that there is no perfect system and there are no perfect people. Saying that your system would work if only people were better is not achieving anything. You have to build with what you’ve got. People are building amazing systems from ordinary people, inspiration and not much else. No matter how you draw up your standards, setting a perfection bar, which is very different from a quality bar, will just lead to failure, frustration and negativity.
  3. I can see the possibility of improvement. People, governments, companies, systems – they often disappoint me. I have had the luxury of reading across the world and writing a small fraction of it. For every cruel, vicious, and stupid person, there are so many more other people out there. I have long wondered whether our world will outlast me by much. Am I sure that it will? No. Am I more optimistic that it will? Yes.

But it’s not all beer and skittles. I also work far too much. Along the way, my workaholism has been severely re-engaged. I worked a full (long) week last week and yet, here I am, 5 hours work on Saturday and somewhere along the lines of 8-10 hours on Sunday. That’s not a good change and I have to work out how I can keep all the positive aspects – because the positives are magnificent – without getting drawn down into the maelstrom.

I would like to describe this year as “The Year of Living” because, in many ways, I’ve never felt so alive, so aware, so informed and so capable of changing things in a constructive way. But, until I nail the overwork thing, it doesn’t get that title.

For now, because I’ve written 100,000 words or, 100 kiloWords, I’m going to call it “The Year of Killer Words” and hope that, homophones aside, that there’s some truth to that – that some of my words have brought light into the shadows and killed some monsters. Rather idealistically, that’s how I think of the job that we do – we bring light into dark places. Yes, a University can look like an ivory tower sometimes, and sometimes it is, but lighthouses look much the same – it’s the intention and the function that makes one an elitist nightmare and gives the other its worth and nobility.

That image, up the top? That’s what I think we’re doing when we do it right.

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