Lessons after 100 Days.

I have been wrestling with this post for a while now. I want to know what is next, I want to know what it is I did, and I don't know those things. I want a clear and tidy answer, but instead I have lots of meandering paths.

Let's go back to why this whole thing started.

A few months before I considered this project, some tumblers inside my heart clicked into place and I was able to admit to myself (and to other people!) that I want to write. I've admitted this before, but it's always been a fly caught in the web of self-doubt. I stopped worrying about whether too many other people wanted this, or about what I would write, or about whether I would make money at it, or if it was boring, or what. (Even now as I write this, I feel those fears coming back up: This is too indulgent to share). I let go of the shape I wanted for that life and committed to finding the shape that is right for me. I could squint and see a vague path laid in front of me, and it was enough.

When I started this project, I felt a whole lot of confusion about what kinds of things I wanted to write, if anybody wanted to read them, etc. I felt keenly the great weight of going public--every time you hit publish, you have to battle through the voices of self-doubt and anxiety. (I mean, ugh, you can read evidence of this same exact problem from January 2014). But I knew that publishing every day would break something loose and I hoped I would like whatever came next.

I wouldn't say I solved that, but I did stop treading water and start swimming. I moved in directions--not always the same direction, but movement nonetheless! I wrote 81 blog posts in 100 days! I still hear the self-doubt voices, but if I listen closely, there are new voices--voices who told me they are reading, who said they appreciate what I am doing. It helps.

As the end approached, it became incredibly difficult to write.

A few theories on why:
I had less of a backlog. Earlier in the project I had old unpublished-but-relevant stuff. Later, I looked at all my drafts and found myself uninspired. So days when I didn't write something new worth publishing? Nothing got published.

I got bored with myself. This is a reaaaaallly long time to keep up this kind of pressure and focus, and though I don't think I'm all out of stuff to say, I'm pretty tired of my voice, the way my mind works, and what I create under time pressure. I'm pretty sure this is the classic "time to rest and recuperate" speaking.

I stopped evaluating each day and each week. I mentioned earlier that I was drawing inspiration from Erica Midkiff's Explore project, which has a ton of reflection and evaluation built in. I found that when I was keeping up with the reflection, I found ways through the problems. And when I wasn't keeping up, I got stuck in my problem.

I had things on my mind that I didn't feel comfortable publishing. This is such a tricky one. In ye olden times, when my online web journals were anonymous, it was super easy to write about whatever. No clients/employers/whatever were going to find out my anxieties about my work; it was all friends all the time. But now my name is attached, and I am dependent on my name for my income. So as I got more engrossed with things I wanted to keep private, all my writing slowed down and returned, somewhat, to the pre #100Days state: Stuck together, muddy, slow. I don't know how to solve this problem yet.

I read Steven Pressfield's new book (No one wants to read your sh*t) recently.

He lists as one of ten skills needed to work as a writer: "How to self-motivate, self-validate, self-reinforce". This has been and remains the hardest, most important thing. This whole idea is just something I plucked from the muck and decided to breathe life into.

He talked also about breaking the journey down into steps, like a pioneer crossing the great sea of the plains. To devise steps that will reassure you, show you progress, get you there without trouble.

I feel overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by the length of time it will take to become really good at writing. I am behind, whatever that means. I have spent a lot of years doing other things, but the darker the night, the greater the reward. It's how stories work and it's how my story will work. This is when you tell yourself stories about how Vera Wang never designed a dress until she was 40. (self-validate, self-reinforce)

And so here we are, after this big and relatively triumphant project, momentum up but direction lost.

What is my journey? How do I tell my own story to myself? What is the triumphant end I want?

I have a vision of: A house on a big plot of land with books (digital or paper or both) to read and things to do when I am tired of writing (gardening, hiking).

Anyway, to get from here to the house on the land, I have battles to fight:

  • I must become good at writing.
  • I must become diligent at writing.
  • I must make enough money to get out of debt.
  • I must convince Paul this is a good idea.
  • I must learn to share my work.

I have a plan for exactly one of those -- getting out of debt. And that is okay (self-validate).

I will get there. And I will find plans for all the rest. (self-motivate).

I will continue to set intentions and check in on them. This is a bit wobbly: How can that be adapted to an every day situation? When do I set an intention and when does it expire?

The intention for the next five years is to become good at writing and to become known as a writer. Whatever that means, that is the crystal ball image. Writing will be a part of my public persona the way it is part of my internal persona. That is where my wagon is heading.

The meantimes, the waypoints, those are rougher.

Ideas: Journaling everyday while I travel. NaNoWriMo in November. Write guest blogs for other people. Magazine articles. Nonfiction book about....something. My own blog with a larger readership. A writing group. Short stories. Book reviews. Camping reviews. Poems.

Squinting off into the fog and wondering when it will become clear, will it ever become clear, do we ever truly know where we have ended up? Well, it is sort of my obligation to know that, to find and retrace the route, to make it real outside of myself. I don't know where this all leads but it feels closer and clearer than it ever has before. I'm not sure what is but it's coming into being.

Hey! It would be useful to know what you're interested in. So vote for what you like!