to become a better writer, write
self-expression is a learned skill.
On August 1st, I stumbled across a website called 750words.com. I’ve always heard that to become a better writer, you need to write. And that by becoming a better writer, you become a better reader (of more, and more relevant, content). I thought, I’ll give this a shot. 750 words = 3 pages, as it’s explained:
Morning pages are three pages of writing done every day, typically encouraged to be in “long hand”, typically done in the morning, that can be about anything and everything that comes into your head. It’s about getting it all out of your head, and is not supposed to be edited or censored in any way. The idea is that if you can get in the habit of writing three pages a day, that it will help clear your mind and get the ideas flowing for the rest of the day.
For 48 days, I wrote religiously, almost exclusively in the morning, often before going for a run at 6 AM. Eventually, I got into a rhythm, writing first my personal mission statement verbatim, then letting myself run wild on my thoughts and reactions to where I was. Then I always concluded with a thought for the day, a goal, an inspiration. For 48 days, despite my travel schedule, availability of internet connection (or laptop!), meetings, appointments, and all the other craziness that the past few months have brought, I wrote no matter what, sometimes finishing the day’s thoughts on my iPhone. I wanted to make sure I hit every date, could continue my “streak”, meet my challenge. Some days were harder than others; some days more open, some with more thoughts to share. I expected to feel a surge of creativity, an undiscovered side of myself that would point me in a new direction. And above all, I wanted to check my box and say that I had done my time and completed the day’s words.
And then yesterday, I woke up at 4 AM to a sick puppy. Sawra had vomited in her crate, and both her fur and her den needed cleaning. It wasn’t a task I particularly felt like doing, especially on my day to sleep in after weeks of 5-AM-wakeups. So an hour later, as I pulled my laptop into the bed and opened up the site, my mind was as blank as the white space in front of me. I just didn’t want to write.
Creativity can’t be forced. Creativity isn’t about checking the box, about scoring points when you write just to write. There is a lot of value in pushing yourself through things that most people won’t (link is a .pdf), even when you don’t want to. But there is more value in realizing when you need to do that… and when you don’t. I’ve learned a lot by waking up every morning and writing 3 pages. One of the things that I’ve learned, is that sometimes you have to let yourself deviate from the schedule you’ve set. That your idea of what should happen in your life, and when it should happen, isn’t always the way that it will happen. And you have to be ok with that.
I’ve learned that you don’t always learn what you think you’re going to. I’ve learned that I write very quickly, that my thoughts center on religion and success. I learned that I am consistently and privately introverted (and, although many of you won’t believe me, that my extrovertedness is a learned skill). I learned that I am unfailingly positive, more certain of myself than most of the world, and toeing the line between thinking and feeling. I am learning that I filter my words unconsciously, that I’m not often completely open with the thoughts in my head, and that to be self-expressive is difficult for me (which makes blogging scary, at times). I’ve learned that despite my background in design and engineering, my creativity has always been primarily in words, and that I have an uncanny ability to describe every situation in life through song lyrics (and am I reminded now of the Anna Nalick song “Breathe”):
two am and i’m still awake writing a song
if i get it all down on paper it’s no longer inside of me,
threatening the life it belongs to
and i feel like i’m naked in front of the crowd
cause these words are my diary, screaming out loud
and i know that you’ll use them however you want to.
I learned (well, confirmed) that I like metrics and complete datasets. I learned that I view my life in the third person more often than I’d like, and that maybe there have to be changes in the way that I think in order to create the changes that I want. I learned that I am capable of thinking big thoughts and taking big chances.
I broke my streak at 48 yesterday. I have already lost the September Challenge. I have to start my quest to 100 days from the first step again. But I’m finally ok with that. This morning, I came back from my run and started my words.