So, 50,000 words might have been a bit more difficult to achieve than initially thought, and I initially thought it would be pretty damn hard.
My first reaction is to talk about how I would have have nailed it, and in fact was nailing it, having over 1,000 words in reserve at one point, only for that momentum to be stopped dead by things getting in the way. That I was robbed by happenstance, and that I would have otherwise made it and done so easily.
Of course, that would be the point. You have any sort of goal to be achieved over a certain timeframe, the difficulty isn't just the deadline it's the things that life throws at you along the way. In my case, it was several work arguments, long and draining days for both myself and my wife, and my grandad having a stroke.
The idea that a thing would be easy were I not hassled by life is obvious, but aside from retiring to a mountain for 30 days, that's not happening.
I have, however, learned a fair bit through doing this for the last 30 days (today included). Somethings I already knew but needed drumming back in my head, somethings that should have been obvious but ignored, and somethings I didn't want to acknowledge.
Let's start with a big one.
I won't be doing this again on this blog (at least, in this format)
The goal of 50,000 words became more of a limit than I would have thought. There were days the words poured out completely unbidden, others were it was a complete slog to get more than 50 out. Mostly it was about teasing a few hundred words out and building enough momentum to crack out another 1,000 or so, but that goal was always at the forefront of my mind.
With NaNoWriMo, the online writing event that I based this off, the goal is made easier by the fact that no-one will read your work unless you show them. It's your private work, your private goal, and so if you write 50,000 words of trash through November who cares? No-one will ever read it unless you let them.
Publishing a post everyday took that shield away though. I never got more than 10 reads per day really, so it's not like they were read by thousands to be ridiculed, but it's still public. It's still readable. And so, post writing became about finding a topic I could write 1,667 words around without obviously phoning it in and churning out crap.
As a result, I don't think I produced the best version of some those posts. Several read to me as incomplete even by the next day. Six Things I Should Have Learned By Now is an example of a post limited by the day I had to write it, because boy are there a lot more things I could have written. Several I felt I didn't quite stick the landing, or nail my point, whereas if I took the week to write them I might have.
That could well be the perfectionist in me, as it so often is, but sometimes it make a valid point, even if it is a little bit of an asshole.
Outside of the post quality, there's also the practical aspects of the posts that get ignored almost instantly because there's no time to reflect on them. My Morning Routine for example, partially implemented but largely overshadowed by focusing on the next post, and the next post, and so on. Meal planning and my calendar, both things I wrote about doing and using more, both things fallen into the gutter.
The fact is by making it a goal to hit quite a lot of words each day, I wasn't allowing any of the posts to really breathe and have an effect. The became like yesterday's dreams; faintly rememberable in the background, but relegated to the past in the face of today. When the idea for the blog is about my personal growth, about being a better version of myself, seeing what works for myself and others, not allowing ideas to ferment and take effect is pretty counterproductive.
Then there's the unavoidable feedback from others that the daily posts got a bit too much. I shifted back to week mailing list updates, but lost a few subscribers along the way. Too much content, and too much long form content in particular, gets a bit overwhelming.
So, the goal created an unnecessary limit and restraint on my posts and ideas, which in turn meant that the ideas and thoughts couldn't really breath and take hold on me, which meant that they lost their intent, and above all else it was alienating early readers. I may return to a daily posting challenge at some point, but 50,000 words in 30 blog posts is a challenge that I won't be revisiting.
Now for the good bits.
I like writing, actually
Writing has long since been one of those things I see over in the green, green grass on the other side, enticing me with a creative freedom from the 9 to 5, living in an imaginary world where I get to make stuff up and get paid for it, living the life of an artist.
The problem has always been that I don't live in that imaginary world, and because of live getting in the way, I spent hardly any time at all on writing in any fashion. Because of this, I would ask myself whether I even enjoyed writing, this thing that I never do, or if it was just a pipe dream, a way to escape the drudgeries of daily life.
Turns out I like writing. Actually, I love it.
It was a frustrating 30 days, and I'm left with the feeling of half finished work here and there, but the process was incredibly freeing. Like love in general, it's quite hard to define the 'why', other than I loved putting the words together. I loved the feeling of words not quite fitting, and the search for what I really meant to use, of how I really felt about a thing. I loved the feeling of minutes flying by as I wrote with clarity what was in my head, and I loved that clarity.
Most of all, I loved that freedom, the self-imposed shackles falling off as I finally let myself do what I wanted to do and write. It goes back to a phrase I've been thinking about for a week or so now: what else can I do if I just got out of my own way?
Turns out I can can make the time.
This is one I've suspected for a while but ignored because accepting it would mean that I was fundamentally wrong about how I can/should spend my time, and therefore robbed myself some of the simple pleases of life.
One of the justifications I always made for the shackles was 'How will I find the time?' Between work, my wife, my dog, my physical health, my mental health, trying to hold on to some semblance of a social life and any hobbies that I had (which I would then also further limit by 'time'), how was I going to put aside enough time for writing?
As it turns out, it wasn't quite as difficult as I thought.
Even allowing for those days where I absolutely couldn't spend more than 15/20 minutes due to either brain drain, family stuff, or prioritising my wife and health, I averaged around an hour and a half of post writing per day. That does include an allowance for some distractions, but that's still an hour and a half of sitting in front of my iPad or MacBook Pro with the intent of churning out a post by hook or by crook.
And that's just the average. Some days it was closer to two hours, with one day hitting two and a half, although that was a weekend and so was substantially easier but that's beside the point.
It does make me kind of sad to think that I have been limiting myself for so long, stopping myself from enjoying things I actually love on the grounds of imagined practicality, but that's not helpful now and it won't be tomorrow.
Instead, it's better to focus intently on those two points. I love writing, and I can (most days) absolutely make the time to do it. Just like I can with most of my hobbies and interests.
The Middle Ground is a much, much nicer place to be
Lastly, there's the conclusion to a good few of my posts. Acceptance of the middle ground.
I've long hated this concept. Humility leaves a bitter taste in my mouth, and the acceptance of how wrong and damaging the idea that anything less than perfection and complete success is has just fuelled my anger over the years. I hate it, perhaps more than I hate myself at my worst.
I could do more. I could be more. Always, always more.
The realisation that I probably wasn't going to hit my word goal came around day 21. I kept trying regardless, but it was A Quick One that really solidified that the goal was screwed. That was when a reader reached out to me and pointed out that the word goal might be out of reach, but I'd still posted something daily. I was still on for 30 posts in 30 days.
I wouldn't get everything, but I would hit something, and that was enough.
If there's a thing I've learned the most through these 30 days, it's that. As much as I want to the live in the beautiful grass on the other side, achieving my perfect ideal scenario, the middle ground can be just as beautiful. More so, in fact, because it's actually real.
I have everything that I need here, and while it's good to aim higher, it shouldn't detract from what I have. I have enough.
I expect perfectionism, and the concept of the middle ground, to pop up frequently in my writings. Out of everything in my life, my limitations are probably the hardest to accept, whether that's the limitations of my abilities, or the practical ones (can't go back and change the past, can't go back and fix that mistake). But I'd like to think I'm going to get better at accepting it, as I have the last month.
As frustrating and as difficult as this challenge has been, I've learned a lot through it, both in not meeting the ultimate aim and in the effort I put regardless. While I won't be doing it again, I'm glad I did it, and think I chose just the right time do so.
One of the reasons for starting this challenge was a feeling of being a bit aimless here. Coasting along, seeing what came, rushing out a post by deadline day most weeks. Shackling myself and telling myself not to really put the time in.
But the shackles have been thrown off, and I'm determined not to put them back on. Instead, I'm going to take a couple of weeks out, both to recharge and to take stock. There's a lot to reflect on, a lot of half formed ideas to explore.
I want to use what I've learned to see where this could go. I want to use this to further stoke the flames of my love for writing, for exploring new ideas, and ultimately for life and the people and things I have in it. I want to see just how far I can take this, and how I could use this build other ideas on.
And I want to hang those shackles on the wall of my mind's library, as a reminder, and as a image to that fire in me.
But first, I need to rest. This has been a pretty taxing endeavour to do out of pretty much nowhere. I need to breathe, rest my mind a little, but not for too long though.
Thanks to the few of you who followed along this month, and thanks again to those who reached out and sent feedback along the way. It was much needed and appreciated.
I'll be back to my weekly schedule May 14th, but for now, and for the final time...
Words - 2,074 Running total - 39,993 (79.9%, 10,007 words behind target)
Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this post and want to read more of the same, you can subscribe via email or RSS. I'll be back to my regular posting schedule May 14th.