Journalling Tools Reviewed: 750 Words

750 words (http://750words.com) is an online journalling tool created by developer Buster Benson.The concept is simple: every day you write 750 stream-of-consciousness words. It’s based on an idea in ‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron, a workbook to encourage creativity. One of the exercises in the book is called morning pages. These are three pages of stream-of-consciousness writing that are supposed to be done long-hand every morning to get the thoughts flowing.750 words takes the idea and moves it online. Why 750 words? Apparently 250 words is the average number of words per page, so 750 words = 3 pages.The layout of the site is reassuringly simple – there are no complex instructions to follow, once you’re logged in all you have to do is write. There’s even an auto-save function which saves your words every 10 seconds.Of course, you're not limited to the 750 and can write as much as you want. A handy little word counter at the bottom of the screen lets you know how far you’ve progressed and turns green when you’ve hit the 750 word target. At that point you might think you’re done, but that’s where this site’s quirkiness sets it apart from other computer-based journalling applications.Interesting statistics and Funky BadgesOnce you’ve hit the target and saved your entry, you’re taken to a statistics page. These range from how many words you’ve written and how long it took, to pie charts showing how you were feeling and what you were most concerned about while writing. There is also a movie-style rating of the content (G, PG etc.), a section on your mindset while writing and a list of frequently used words.These statistics and the badge rewards (such as a penguin for a 5 -day writing streak and a leopard/hamster for being a speedy typist) are strangely motivational. There is also a points-based system, which uses a complex algorithm to calculate a score for that month so far.I could just use my good old word processor to write 750 words every day, except there is far more reward when you can start to analyse your writing afterwards. True, the ‘what you were most concerned about while writing’ section can produce slightly dubious results sometimes but overall, it's usually quite revealing.The best thing about 750 words is that it makes journalling easy. With past journalling, I’ve inevitably reached the point where I have to really motivate myself to sit down and do it. With 750 words, the site takes the task of motivation into its own hands, and I’ll totally admit that I’ve fallen for its tricks. The semi-competitive nature (how many days in a row can you go without breaking your streak?), with the points and badges rewards systems had me stumbling over to my computer each morning, coffee in hand, way before I realised that the act of putting my thoughts down on paper itself was incredibly cathartic.SecurityThe one aspect of the site that leaves me feeling slightly uneasy is the security. There is no separate sign-up; instead, users log in through Facebook, Google or Yahoo, which raises a few questions about privacy. The reason for using this login method is that users don’t have to create new accounts. However, even after you’re signed in, there is the ability to put a timed ‘lock’ your account, which needs a secret word or phrase for access, avoiding awkward situations with shared computers.Although I know intellectually that no one is going to be reading my 750 words (after all, why would they?) emotionally this association with email and social networking sites is a bit of a sticking point. I come from a background where there was very little privacy; it’s been a real challenge so far to un-censor myself so the idea that my writing might not be totally secure provokes some anxiety. For journallers who have similar backgrounds or thoughts, a downloadable app might be better suited to help overcome self-censorship.In SummaryPROS:

  • Free*
  • Simple and easy to use
  • Motivational rewards system
  • Email reminders
  • Interesting statistics
  • Ability to choose between keeping entries private or uploading them to blogs etc.
  • Everything stored online so if your computer meets an untimely end, your words will still be waiting for you

CONS:

  • Some users might not like the idea of storing very personal information online

PERFECT FOR PEOPLE WHO:

  • Want to get on with the writing without having to spend hours working out how to use the site
  • Sometimes need an extra little push to sit down and journal
  • Enjoy a ‘community’ feel to their daily journalling
  • Are interested in statistics on their mood/mindset/topics etc.
  • Like cute animal badges

Coming up tomorrow: an interview with 750 words creator, Buster Benson. Check back then for more information about the site! *New members signing up after 1st May 2013 now get a 30-day free trial and are required to sign up to a $5 per month subscription to continue writing beyond that. Anyone who signed up before 1st May 2013 has a free lifetime account.


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