Warning: This post is about writing (and so are the two posts that will follow this one). If that’s not for you, I understand. I guess this one’s for me. 😉 I wanted to document all the cool connections I’ve made this month in relation to the writing process. Okay, maybe it’s for you, too. You be the judge.
We were told to leave work. To go home and wait for directions on how we would teach from a distance. “Shelter in place,” they said. Everything turned upside down because of the arrival of COVID-19. However, not long after that crazy first week, I saw a post on the Higher Purpose Writers Facebook page that read, “There are 4 weeks until April 20. Every day, can we check in and write at least a little?”. It was just what I needed to shake me out of my shock. It gave me something to do when, at the time, everything seemed out of my control. It sounded like something fun.
Being able to check in nearly every day just to say, “I’m writing! Are you writing?” was so helpful, and honestly I would not have been so unusually committed without that continuity of encouragement. Many thanks to Mick Silva, who is the encourager extraordinaire behind the posts on the Higher Purpose Writers page. It is a thoughtful place, where one can find insight on the mind of a writer and be reminded of why we write.
Now here we are on Day 30! I can hardly believe it. I don’t want to forget this last month of writing, and I’m actually sad that the challenge has come to an end. It has been one of the few bright spots in a COVID-19-ruled world. It’s not like I will stop writing on Day 31, but I have enjoyed the check-ins, the countdowns, and the daily reflections shared which helped me know I wasn’t alone in the struggles and joys of writing.
Startlingly, I’ve written more in the last 30 days than I’ve written in the last two years. Even though there were days this last month when my writing made me feel like a lost kitten stranded on a remote island, overall I found a steady joy begin to grow inside of me like no other. Just as the reliable daily watering of a plant, along with necessary sunshine, will cause it to reach toward the sky as it flourishes due to routine care, I believe that I’ve grown in much the same way because of the frequency of the writing. Before, I just wrote when I felt like it. Now, I’ve been writing consistently. It has really made a big difference for me in such a relatively short time.
As each day passed, I slowly discovered an eager anticipation when arriving at the keyboard, even when I had no idea what I would produce that day. I found myself feeling satisfied instead of petrified when I accomplished either a blog post or a brainstorming session or—something I’d seldom ever done–an attempt to edit something I wrote. So the more I wrote, the more of that enthusiasm and fulfillment I experienced…even when what I wrote wasn’t that great.
So for the next three days, to commemorate Day 30 of the 30-Day Writing Challenge inspired by Higher Purpose Writers, I’m sharing 30 things I learned about writing during that time…and, more so, what I learned about myself in the process. Yes, 30. I know…it’s a lot. I’m breaking all the rules. This should be a series or something. Okay, actually, it will be. I’ll break it up into three parts for you.
Here we go:
30 Things I Learned While Writing for 30 Days (Part I)
#1) I’ve learned that I’m a night writer and that will probably never change, no matter how hard I try. Yep. For this lady, mornings are for slow wake-ups. The brain just isn’t ready for writing when the sun makes her daily debut. Unless it’s a Saturday and there is a cappuccino involved. In a real mug. With a chocolate croissant.
#2) I’ve learned that when I’m going through deep emotions, those are the days I am too numb to write. These past 30 days have been tough. I’ve experienced loss on many levels. Loss of my proximity to my students and colleagues, whom I enjoy. Loss of my ability to go wherever I choose. Loss of scheduled events I was so looking forward to. Loss of hearing my friends’ laughter as we gather in the same room. Add to that the increased technology, which is a blessing and a curse. Unfortunately, I happened to see something this week that I never ever thought I would see…because of evil people lurking the internet. I was wrecked by it. I couldn’t write for two days. I just couldn’t. When we have days like that, when our hearts are troubled more than we can bear…when we need some time to recover…it’s okay to step back from the writing and take a break.
#3) I’ve learned that I can separate work time from writing time. I write at night, so it doesn’t interfere with my work. I used to tell myself that I was too exhausted after work to write. That there was no way by the time dinner was done and darkness had come that I would ever have the stamina to switch my brain from work mode to writing mode. But I see now, that is an excuse. During the quarantine, I’ve been just as exhausted (if not more, because of the added emotional stress) and just as busy. The difference has been that, in writing each evening, I’ve been so desperate to get my mind off of the news and the worry and the heartbreak that writing has actually become my getaway from it all. Now that it’s been established as such, it’s something I believe I will continue to look forward to.
#4) I’ve learned that physical movement is a catalyst for inspiration. I cannot even begin to tell you what walking each day has done for me in regards to writing. It is the most amazing thing. Before a walk I will feel stuck and stagnant, my thoughts a three-day-old broken washing machine with water still in the drum. But once I get to walking, my mind starts to get moving, too, and my imagination kicks back into the spin cycle. It is the coolest phenomenon.
#5) I’ve learned that it’s okay if I don’t write every single day at the same time. I used to think that if I were to write every day, then I would have to write at the same time each day. If I didn’t do that, then forget it. It’s all over. I’m not sure where I got that in my head, but it stuck. Maybe it’s the perfectionism. I have also realized that it is likely impossible to write every single day without missing one or two days (or even three or four) here and there. Life happens, emotions happen. Missing days are just….going to happen! We need to give ourselves some grace and just get back to it ASAP. But the key IS getting back to it…ASAP!
#6) I’ve learned that when I walk away from my writing, it will still be there when I return to it. As you can guess from #5, I used to be all or nothing. I’d start writing a blog post and spend hours at a time on it. I would make myself finish and publish it in one sitting. Because I am a forgetful person, I would have a terrible fear that if I were to stop and go do something else or—heaven forbid, wait until the next day to continue—then I would lose all my momentum and flow and it just wouldn’t be the same the next time I returned to it. I’ve been playing around with that this month and to my relief that just hasn’t happened the way I thought it would. I think I’ve found that sometimes, because I’ve taken time to let my thoughts simmer, it’s actually a good thing to wait or stretch the process out.
#7) I’ve learned that I’m starting to be more open-minded when it comes to editing. Ugh, this part. I hate this part. I’ve been so stubborn, just wanting to leave sentences and paragraphs as they are. I think I’m just being a) lazy or b) overwhelmed because I start thinking, Just how much change are we talking about here? But since I am walking away more from it and giving things time, I find myself cutting sentences or rearranging words with more relish when I do revisit what I’ve left undone. Even in this post series, which I’ve been working on for a few days. Shocking, I know. You’d probably never guess I’d edited any of it. It’s as long as Les Miserables. Yet my printed pages bleed with my earnest little editing attempts.
#8) All that to say, I’ve learned that less is more. As writing becomes a part of my regular daily routine, I’ve been realizing a lot of things in regard to this such as 1) most people don’t have time to sift through a bunch of sentences that could be left out in order to get to the heart of the topic, 2) I sometimes go off on tangents and need to reign them in, and 3) I’m wanting to play with fewer words rather than long wordy sentences to see if that makes more of an impact.
#9) I’ve learned to start letting go of perfection when it comes to writing. Well, almost. The actual writing part and wanting the page to be perfect is something I definitely still struggle with. Perfectionism strikes in other areas of writing, too. For example, I was afraid to hire a writing coach in the past, thinking I wasn’t good enough or hadn’t written enough. Hello! The very definition of a coach is “to train or instruct”. In writing more consistently, I’ve realized that I don’t want to let perfectionism derail me from my writing goals.
#10) I’ve learned that I still have so much on my heart to share in the hopes of helping others find light out of darkness. I pray that I will become more equipped to do so. It’s such a risk to share your whole heart…especially the broken parts. I love my life. But no matter how “good” a person’s life may seem, we all have a little bit of broken in there, don’t we? Or a lot. It depends on who we are. Sharing that helps others. But we have to be brave. I want the best for everyone. I’m a fixer. I can’t help it. I just need to remember there is a Fixer who is better at that than I will ever be.
So that’s my first ten! Come back next time for the next ten…and then the next! The best is yet to come.