James Eaton

March 31, 2021

Daily Blogging Challenge - Day 31 - reflect

There is power in reflection. As a society, we are conditioned to just push forward to the next thing. We don’t have time to celebrate Thanksgiving because Christmas is coming! Don’t enjoy 5th grade because middle school is almost here. There is great pressure to continue forward with the next project and not take any time to reflect on what has happened during a section of time. Today is a good time to reflect.

This is the last day of the blogging challenge for the month of March and I wanted to offer some thoughts on the process and what I have learned over the last month. This has been a progression for me this year, and I wanted to share my thoughts on the process that 2021 has become for me and my writing.

I started the year in the same way that I finished 2020 by writing every day in my journal. I spent January and February writing privately and then in March I started sharing some of those thoughts each day in the form of this blogging challenge. There were prompts for each day, and it was great to sit down and write about something specific. Constraints can be your friend if you work in the system that you create. Here are are thoughts and reflections about the process of sharing my writing each day. These are not in order of importance, they are just coming out as I think of them.

First - Writing every day takes dedication. If I had not been writing every day privately for months, I don’t think I could have finished this challenge. Staring at a blank page is scary; it’s easy to get stuck with that blink cursor staring back at you. The only way to face that fear is to do the work and just start. Steven Pressfield talks about this very idea in his book The War of Art. If you have not read The War of Art, go get a copy today and read it. His thoughts on creativity and the resistance that seeks to hold us back changed my life. I would not be doing any of the work I am doing today without that book. Facing that fear each day gets a little easier over time, but honestly there is always some fear each day. Sometimes the hardest days to write are after you did something good the day before. The dopamine hit of a good writing session is powerful and it can be tempting to just sit out and wait for inspiration. In those moments, I have to remind myself that inspiration will find me working. My work is to just sit down and do the act of writing.

Second - It does not take as long as you think. Writing regularly feels like a magical practice reserved for the few who qualify for such high honors. In reality, I really only spent minutes (not hours) a day writing. Sometimes those sessions were longer and led to all kinds of other writing and creative work, but many times it was 15-30 minutes of writing a day. I spend way more time on Twitter and Instagram than that, so it’s not crazy think that I could take a few minutes of social media time and put it toward writing. Do you feel like you don’t have time to write? Just take a few minutes and think about a time where you sat on the couch or at the table browsing your phone only to look up 20 minutes later without realizing what time it was. You could have written a blog post and started another project in that time. It takes more focus and determination than actual time.

Third - Do it early. There are different kinds of writing. Journaling, creative writing, ideation and planning all take up different mental space (at least they do for me). This kind of writing (personal journaling / blogging) works best for me in the morning. If I put off writing these posts till later in the day, it became harder and harder to focus and get it finished. I do my best introspection with a cup of fresh pour over coffee and a hoodie on. If I’m dressed for the day or already out in public, it’s harder for me to get in the zone for personal writing. This month has really solidified the need for a schedule of sorts when it comes to accomplishing what I want with different types of writing.

Fourth - Be honest with yourself. There were several days where I was behind on writing and I thought I could sneak in some late-night writing to get caught up. This rarely worked out in any positive way. In fact, most of the time it was a mess. I know what I need to do, but I need to be honest with myself about how to actually accomplish those goals. If you are struggling with doing anything on a regular basis, take a few minutes and make a plan for how to tackle that project. Don’t wait till everything is perfect to start, just take a step tomorrow that will put you in a better place than you are today. I am working on another fiction novel, but I know that I don’t have hours a day to work on it; I need to just write for 30 minutes a day next month. I have the bones of the idea and now I just need to spend time putting the pieces together one at a time. That’s how books get written, one word at a time.

Fifth - Writing is awful until it’s done, then it feels great. Writing is not fun, having written something is amazing. That delta is the real hurdle every day. I don’t have a hard and fast word goal each day. I have a weekly word count count goal, but I am not going to beat myself up if I don’t get it. I also will not just up it the next week if I blow past the word count another week. My focus is this (it’s kind of a mantra at this point): I want to be a person who writes every day. Some days that means that I literally write about how much I don’t want to write or how sad I am feeling. But my goal is to be a person who writes every day, so that totally counts. I am not Seth Godin or Steven King. I am a dad of two who writes for fun. That perspective is helpful when I feel the pressure to become famous. Becoming famous is not the goal, writing is the goal. When I finish writing something for the day, I feel better. 

I am planning to continue this journey into next month. I am still decided how often I will publish any work (maybe every weekday?), but I want to set up a good routine that is going to fit my schedule and add value to my writing goals. At the end of the day, I am going to invest in a process that will get me closer to my personal and professional goals. 

If you want to write more frequently, here are my suggestions. Make an actionable goal that you can check off every single day. Decide what you want to do with the words you write, and then find someone to help keep you accountable for the goal you have set. I have a friend who wanted to write more so we are texting each other our word counts each day. It’s a little step, but knowing that someone is going to be expecting a number has been the motivation bump I needed on several occasions. 

I am so glad that I participated in the challenge. It was the perfect next step to accomplish my goals this year, and it gave me an east on-ramp to share my writing publicly. I switched to this page a few days into the process, so I am going to go back and add the posts from my Wordpress site at some point so they will all live on my HEY World site. If you want to see when I publish a post, you can subscribe via RSS or via email with a link at the top of this page. 

Thanks for following along. More to come in 2021!