An Interview with 750 Words Creator Buster Benson

Yesterday I posted a review of 750 words, an online journalling tool. Its creator, Buster Benson was super kind and gave up his time to answer some questions about the project.What gave you the idea for 750 words?I was a very enthusiastic reader of The Artist's Way in college, and picked it up again this last year to try to get my head in order to start a new business. I remember loving the Morning Pages, but have never been good about doing it in a notebook. So I tried a bunch of different tools for a while at a time, but it never felt right. Since building web apps is my passion, it felt like a good little project to do in my spare time (yes, I have a full-time job building other web apps that are not yet launched).How long have you been running the site?It launched to myself and a couple friends in December, and grew slowly during January and February, and then exploded in March (relatively).How many people use 750 words at the moment?About 1,500 people completed 750 words yesterday, up from about 425 a week ago and 45 2 weeks ago. About 11,000 people have signed up.Do you have much experience with journalling or therapy?I was a creative writing major in college and have had an online journal since 1998. Before that I was a big writer of letters. So I have a lot of experience there. No experience with therapy, but I've read a lot of self-help books. :)You mention you collect certain statistics from users who sign in through Facebook. Why do you do this?I like the idea of using information that doesn't require any work on the user's side. Or at least, not intentional effort. There's so much information lying around, that I think we have barely tapped the interesting connections we can find between, say, the weather and how fast you type, or your gender and the tendency to get distracted. I use Facebook's information because it's there.Using the stream of consciousness technique means people are going to be writing about a lot of personal things. How can we be sure they stay private?Well, I have promised that it will, of course. There's also no reason why it wouldn't be. We have so much of our lives public, and online, that it's part of my vision to create a safe, private, and friendly place for people to be their real selves to themselves.How did you come up with the idea for the entry statistics? Also, can you tell us more about the Regressive Imagery Dictionary?I have a background in data visualization and am a somewhat obsessive self-tracker (tracking mood, number of drinks, hours of sleep, etc). I've been working on finding ways to visualize what's happening behind the scenes for years, and think that it's a great way to learn about ourselves.The Regressive Imagery Dictionary (and the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count) systems both have ways of going through words and pulling out things like the primary emotion, the primary concern, the themes, and the mindset of the writer. They're rather crude, and far from perfect, but they're better than nothing, and are often surprising in their conclusions.You mentioned that you’d read The Artist’s Way. Are there any other books or resources that focus on releasing thoughts and creativity that you’d recommend?Flow is a good one. So is The War of Art, which I just read and was very useful and helpful in focusing me on what I really want to use writing for.You can find Buster’s website here, or alternatively follow him on Twitter @busterbenson

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