Today marks the final day of the month, and in turn, the end of a resolution to post daily on this blog through the month of January. I write this post in Bonn, Germany, a few hours before heading to a work meeting. This is one of the few occasions in the past thirty days during which I did not write from the desk in my bedroom, my little silver french press beside me, the Latin church beaming at me from across the street, and my fingers racing across the keyboard to beat the rising sun. It feels strange to end this endeavor nearly an ocean away from where I started it. Perhaps there is something metaphorical about this, with the crossing of physical space representing the crossing of new thresholds.
Some days, these posts took me three hours to write. I was so intent on telling the whole story that I would wake up at 5 a.m., determined to finish before going to work. Other days, posts came together in an hour with no need to extend beyond 800 words. On a couple exceptional days like yesterday, time was not on my side, and I put together whatever I could in twenty minutes. Every day, regardless of word count and time taken to complete the post, was instructive. I shared mid-month reflections on my process a couple weeks ago. Today, I would like to share a couple more lessons I learned along the way.
– Writing what you know is as liberating as it is limiting. Publishing a post everyday helps build a habit but prevents you from exploring unfamiliar themes and new writing formats. I chose to focus this month on life stories that I know like the back of my hand, and books that I have read so recently that their plots and lessons remained on the tip of my tongue. This choice was strategic: We are the experts of our own lives. It does not require much research to write what you know, especially when you write about knowledge that comes from your experiences. I wanted to focus on the act of writing this month, and doing so daily. I therefore stuck to topics that were readily accessible to me. It was liberating to take away the pressure (and additional step) of imagining an alternate reality, and then bringing it to life on a page. My sole responsibility was to render reality as I knew it into poignant stories and aesthetically pleasing images painted from words.
Yet, I started feeling confined toward the end of the month by the task of producing yet another episode of my life. Sometimes, it felt as though I was mining the depths of my memory to find a stone that was beautiful enough to justify the effort of polishing dust from its surface. The strategy of posting daily worked for thirty-one days, enough to get me into the habit of writing every morning. I am looking forward to both continuing my habit of writing everyday, and not having the pressure of posting what I wrote that day on the blog. The latter will allow me the space I need to take time researching topics outside of my experience and to experiment with long-form writing and perhaps even fiction.
– When developing a habit and trying something new, kindly ask your inner critic to please take a vacation. There were certainly moments in the past four weeks when I wondered if my writing was good enough to bother sharing with the world. It was new for me to produce words with so much frequency. I also experimented with poetry for the first time, and I somehow mustered enough courage to perform at a spoken word slam. My posts this month has been far from perfect. The piece of poetry I recited a couple nights ago resonated deeply with me, but was perhaps opaque to the crowd of strangers in the audience. None of this matters. My goal for the month was to try, in earnest, to develop a writing practice. I could not have done that if I let my inner critic silence me.
The days came when I compared my work to that of more established writers and felt wholly inadequate in their shadows. But I reminded myself that nobody begins as an expert in their craft. Innate talent can only take one so far, and after a short while, practice begins to make the difference between good and not-as-good writing. So I sent my inner critic packing. She would have never allowed me the audacity of confidence and faith required to keep practicing. I will let the inner critic back into my life now that I feel more comfortable with myself and my writing. This time, though, I will limit the self-critique to healthy doses that refine my voice, not stifle it.
* * *
For those of you who made it this far, thank you for joining me! You kept me going and held me accountable whenever I felt tired or uninspired. These posts have been selfishly for me, to satisfy my hunger and to feed my development. I can only hope that you got something out of your efforts as a reader.