Quantified Awesome: Blogging, WPM, and the speed of reflection

Posted: - Modified: | kaizen, quantified, reflection, writing

The combination that I use to write most of my blog posts (Emacs, Org Mode, and org2blog) automatically keeps track of the time that it takes me to write a post, making it easy to calculate my actual words per minute rate. I created a table with data from 32 of my previous posts, discarding posts that didn’t have any time data.

It turns out that my median is actually around 16 wpm when writing blog posts, far lower than the 110wpm that I clock during typing tests and the 180wpm that I speak at when excited. This accounts for thinking, writing, research, and editing. For example, this post has 388 words and was written in 23 minutes – a rate of around 16wpm (hah!), including a little bit of research but excluding the tabulation of data (which I did before starting the blog post).

I talk slower in my head when I’m writing than when I speak, testing the words out and trying to figure out where I’m going to go. There are a number of ways I can write faster. I can experiment with outlining more of my posts, like the way a list of blog ideas helps me sit down and write a lot without idling between thoughts. I can try out dictation using Dragon NaturallySpeaking and my new headset, to see whether the shift from from writing to speaking also changes my baseline speed.

And then there’s accepting that I write a lot already, and decently quickly too, so I could focus on other improvements. Organizing or illustrating my notes, for example, or revising old posts.

This is good, though. I want to write and explore and share as much as I can. I think the bottleneck isn’t:

  • having enough writing time
  • being able to type fast enough
  • knowing the tools well enough
  • being able to express myself through words

The bottleneck is probably more about my own speed of understanding and learning. That’s an entirely different area of hacking – and it looks like there are ways to tweak that, too. The visualization and peg techniques from memory books will help me absorb and retain more. Experience will help me get better at making sense of what’s going on. I wonder how I can come up with comparable numbers.

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