Freewriting in Linux

Freewriting in Linux

One of the most influential websites in my life was   It is a site that encourages you to write every single day, about any thing really.  Freewriting.  I noticed that it helped me focus the rest of the day on my priorities.   Even though there was a lot of junk words, after about 20 minutes I’d almost always have at least one genuine insight about something I wanted to do.  So I started writing those down in lists of daily, monthly, and annual goals.  This has since snowballed in to a personal development methodology of its own.

Anyways, it’s a great site and I still recommend it to people who are looking for inspiration, motivation, or mental clarity.  For myself however, I’m a bit paranoid about hosting deeply personal content online.  Most of what I wrote I didn’t care about and it was fine.  But sometimes I wanted to write about something I felt never should be seen by others.  It’s way too personal.  I found that I would end filtering those thoughts, not writing them down for fear they’d be out there some place beyond my control.  So I decided to move my daily freewriting to my own computer and use some simple shell scripts to mimic the bare essentials of the idea.

The first thing I did was come up with a script that would create a file with a writing prompt in it:


if [ ! -f ~/writings/$(date +"%Y-%m-%d".txt) ]; then
echo "What are you gonna do today Napoleon?" >> ~/writings/$(date +"%Y-%m-%d".txt)

vim ~/writings/$(date +"%Y-%m-%d".txt)


You can change this to whatever text editor or writing prompt you want, as you may not use vi as a text editor and Napoleon Dynamite might not be that inspiring to you(gosh!).  Save the file someplace, such as ~/bin/

Next you can use some aliases to trigger the script as well as count all the words you’ve written so far.

Place these commands in ~/.bash_aliases

alias f='~/bin/'
alias c='wc -w ~/writings/$(date +"%Y-%m-%d".txt);'
alias ca='wc -w ~/writings/*'

After that, either restart your shell or source .bash_aliases and they should work. Typing “f” (short for “freewrite”) will open a file with your writing prompt.  When you are done journaling, typing “c” will give you a word count for your day’s wrting.  Typing “ca”, short for “count all” will count all the words you’ve written so far.  Each day’s work will be in a separate file with the date as the filename.



And finally the other thing that inspires me is the yellow text on blue background.  It harkens back to my MS-DOS days and the creative writing I used to do on Wordperfect.  It’s funny how so much of our inspiration always comes back to earlier days of our lives (like sands through the hourglass).


To set up Blue / Yellow open Terminal and go to Edit -> Preferences -> Colors:



There you have it, folks.


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