(This is the FINAL post in the 30 for 30 Challenge.)
The end has come. This marks my 30th blog post in thirty days. I took up the challenge just after the Christmas holiday as a way to try and see if I could create a new habit for writing. Instead of a New Year’s resolution, I had new habit forming activities in mind – things that would take me a month to ingrain, and the whole year to follow through. There are some things I’ve learned from the experience, not only about myself, but about writing and creativity as well.
First, I need to thank the following people and blogs for their inspiration. Their words, wisdom, and advice helped to keep me challenged and persevering throughout these last few months:
Mark Manson, Jeff Goins, David at Raptitude, Mr. Money Mustache, Maria Popova at Brainpickings, and my roommate Mallory, who puts up with all my early morning rummaging around the apartment as I prepare my pot of pre-writing/research coffee.
Creativity needs space to thrive : Writing is a process, and it needs boundaries. It takes as much time away from it as it does sitting at the table, slogging through a bunch of roughly formulated ideas, in order for it to become something . While writing every day was a rewarding challenge, and one that I’m glad I did, I wish in retrospect that I had given myself a little more time in between each post. Also, I realize now that some of the topics I tried to delve into require more than 24-hours of processing time to think about and write.
There will never be “the right time” : As much as I wanted to believe in the idea that I would “feel” when the time was right, I soon discovered there really isn’t such a time. You have to make it the time. You just have to do it. It will likely feel forced and contrived at first as you start to put words to paper (or screen), but the act of letting the ideas flow opens something up after a while. You can worry later about having things make sense. That’s what editing is for.
Writing clarifies ideas and makes them real : I have always been what one might call the overly inquisitive type. For every blog post, magazine, or book I start, there are many more waiting in the wings. In reading all of these things, my mind usually becomes a swirling cloud of thought in search of common connecting points. This writing exercise forced me to organize my thoughts, and in some cases, leave them on the table for another day.
People will listen if you engage them : Putting something out there for people to read is one thing, but finding and engaging readers is another matter entirely. Since starting this challenge, I’ve steadily increased my email subscribers. I am convinced one of the ways this has happened is by acknowledging every comment made, and actively sharing my content on multiple platforms while also engaging with other writers and creators by sharing and commenting on their content. As Jeff Goins says, we all need to develop our own tribe of followers who support us and look forward to receiving our creative output.
I have at least a few books in me : Throughout these thirty days I’ve had a number of book ideas. Most of them are books of non-fiction concerning particular societal phenomenon, but some are purely for entertainment. One idea I have is for an illustrated, tongue-in-cheek coffee table book about the particularly humorous types of people we all have in our lives. These are all nothing more than kernels of thought at this point, but the initial ideas are there, and thus the seeds have been planted.
Always write down ideas as they come : As with the book ideas, I’ve learned that I can’t wait until later to get them out of my head and somewhere tangible. If I wait, they will most likely vanish into the recesses of my brain, never to be heard from again. For that reason, I’m now always ready to capture the fleeting ideas before they pass my conscious mind like butterflies in the jungle. I’ve started carrying a means for documenting these random thoughts. For ease of capture, I prefer the notes feature on my phone, but keeping a small moleskin notebook works too.
Be sensitive to the modern reader’s tendency to scan : There is some debate in the online writing community about whether or not we should promote scanning in our writing styles. Which came first? Was it the scanning reader pushing writers to present content in a more simple way, or did writing and presentation styles change, creating readers who scan? Simply put, I think the answer lies somewhere in the fact of our culture’s demand for more convenience and “on demand” entertainment and information. I for one am inclined to writing in a longer format, admittedly, sometimes too long. I’m trying to find that happy medium between the two. Blogging is inherently a more informal platform than, say, a book or news magazine. However, blogs can still retain their intellectual merit while also being designed with the modern reader in mind. Based on the length of this paragraph, I’m clearly still learning how to find this balance of conciseness and thoroughness. 🙂
This has been quite the ride. What at first felt daunting and scary, has become something I now look forward to each day. The challenge of exploring ideas, both familiar and unfamiliar, has become an activity that I now welcome. The habit I set out to instill has now taken hold. The idea of not writing is now what creates the feelings of angst, as opposed to the other way around.
There will be many posts to come for sure. I am currently exploring a redesign of my platform, as well as purchasing a domain name that is more fitting. In the meantime, I am taking a few days off from posting on the blog, but not from writing. I have a number of future posts in development that I want to take the time to research well, and flesh out. They will be out soon.
I close this post, and thus these last thirty days with a quote by the writer and man with his finger on the pulse of humanity, Joseph Campbell. These words from his book The Power of Myth have become a daily inspiration:
You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.