07 September 2011

that's the way you spell success

Earlier this summer, I decided I needed a challenge, something to liven up my days, keep my mind churning and productive.

Faced with the heat and the feeling that said heat was mushing my brain, I needed something that would be the equivalent of sticking my head in a freezer.

Or something that would be like having multiple mojitos every afternoon on the verandah, which sounds refreshing but also slightly bordering on alcoholism.

In short, I needed a challenge that would keep me writing and wouldn't make me turn to drink. {Contrary to Hemingway and Fitzgerald, we don't all need to drink for creativity and memorable prose.}

Enter the 41 Day Challenge: Post every business day on my blog for 41 days. This had a lot to do with the number of followers I had at the beginning of the summer, and a somewhat desperate plea for more.

You can read the thinly-veiled desperation here.

And you can see me throwing down the gauntlet as a challenge to myself here.
That's what knights did to issue a challenge, right? They threw down a gauntlet? Or maybe they hit somebody with it? Or poked somehow with a spear? Also, I thought the gauntlet was an obstacle course that could kill you: as in "run the gauntlet." I should move on from showcasing my appalling lack of Medieval knowledge {and I should consider re-watching First Knight, I say: any excuse for Sean Connery!}.

Here as summer is turning to fall—I refuse to acknowledge your presence, Indian Summer, should you come—my challenge is over.

And I won.

I didn't really think through the prize thing, so if you have any suggestions, I'll take them. I just got a new car, so don't suggest that; I won't go allWheel of Fortune jumping up and down on you for that as a prize.

I made it through all 41 days, and like any self-respecting person who sets seasonal goals for herself, I've thought through the lessons of this challenge. I need to come up with a catchy phrase for this: Self-reflection after achieving a goal is crucial to making better goals next time. See? That's not catchy at all.

Lessons I Learned Over Summer "Vacation"
  1. There is always something worth noting in a day. When you have to come up with a blog post every day, you start to pay better attention to what's swirling around you. Suddenly, an interaction at Walgreen's with the photo desk clerk can enlarge into a story.
  2. I don't always have something to say. Even if there's something special about every day, which sounds decidedly like an Anne of Green Gable's sort of idea, that doesn't mean that I'll be able to come up with something just right—or even halfway right—to say about it.
  3. And it's okay to not always know what to say.
  4. When you don't know what to say, poetry is usually a good fallback. Please note, though, that this lesson may apply only in the writing world; it might not work to go about quoting Mary Oliver when you're not sure what to say on a conference call. I'll try it out and let you know.
  5. People actually read what I write. And sometimes, they even feel compelled to share something from their life with me. This continues to astound me and make me grateful. Thank you for reading.
  6. You can always find time to do something that interests you. This has the ring to it of something your mother would say to you, but it's true, which is why it sounds mother-like. There were days when I didn't know where I'd find the time—for this silly, self-set challenge that maybe no one cared about but me—and I'd think, 'So what? It doesn't matter if I miss one day! Who would point that out? Who would notice?' {More on those questions in a moment.} But I'd find the time, little slices here and there, to get something out. To meet the challenge.
  7. Personal challenges are more personally rewarding. Lack of a self-set prize aside, this 41 Day Challenge was worth it—if simply to test my commitment to writing.

    Those whiny questions in my lesson above have a deeper, less whiny root: Why do I do what I do? Why do any of us do what we do? Is it to win accolades from others? Is it to scratch and grab our 15 minutes of fame? How much of what we do is focused on gaining attention? If a blogger posts and no one comments, does that mean the post {and the time writing it} were in vain?

    I will admit an un-pretty side of me: when one of my best friends didn't know that I was doing this 41 Day Challenge, I was saddened. Offended a little. Hurt for sure. I don't talk about my blog too much in my outside-the-computer life, but I think I needed this summer's challenge to help me face an expectation I had and wasn't even aware of: I wanted people to become hooked on my writing, and there were certain people in my life that I expected/internally demanded to become hooked.

    But that's unfair—to me and to them. It means that I'm writing just to get attention, and it means that I've put some sort of blog reading requirement on friendship, which doesn't sound like a fun friendship to me, nor does it sound like a fun blog.

    Writing that's focused on accolades and notice and people fawning is more likely to be writing that doesn't ring true and right. It's more likely to come off sounding like an infomercial for a product no one would buy unless it was 3am and they couldn't get to sleep.

    So I had days when I wondered if it was worth it, this self-set challenge.

    And I realized that yes, it was worth it: it was worth doing for me. Not for anyone else. Once I fessed up to that expectation of accolades, I could more easily squash it and put it in its place.

    Don't you find that that's true? That if you try to ignore an emotion or a thought or some part of you that you'd rather not admit, then you suddenly find that that's all you can think about. If only you'd face it, full on and with gusto, then you could say to it, "You're not right, and you don't get to control me."

    The 41 Day Challenge was worth it for me. I proved to myself that I could keep up a steady stream of writing, even when I didn't feel like it. I broke down that desire for attention {for right now—attention tends to be a life-long problem}, and I wrote.

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts with Thumbnails