What I Learned Writing Every. Stinking. Day for A Year

A Doc and The Beast in writing repose.

Okay, Loyal Reader. It is day 366–why didn’t anyone tell me that I chose a long year for my quest?–the end of the line.

Quick recap, my 2016 New Year’s Resolution was to write and publish a blog post every (single. stinking.) day for the entire year. I allotted myself no excuses, no blackout days and no get out of jail free cards. I (wisely) made no resolve about quality. It was a production resolution. Daily production, irrespective of word counts or topic areas.

One year later, the results are in. Since January 1, 2016, I published 358 posts, filling in 98% of the year. Per my weak platform-provided analytics, 5,800 visitors read 9,500 pages. The Onion and Vox must be shaking in their boots and looking over their shoulders with competitive concern </sacrcasm>.

But, so what? To what end? In thinking about it–since that’s what I do–I found that this challenge provided a plethora of lessons. I’m breaking down my learnings into four categories: doing, creating, sharing, growing.

Doing: What I learned about process

Publishing every. stinking. day requires alot of process. The ideation process is accelerated to grab any straw of an idea. This sounds harder, and while sometimes it was harder, there were thousands of prompts in front of me all of the time. It’s in the recognition of them. No idea is too weak. I saw dust particles in the sunshine and wrote a post. The comfort of warm blankets was good for a few hundred words as was the initial warm breaths of spring.

I wrote about people I saw walking down the street, making up stories about the man with the cake, the woman in orange, the tuba players, the equine fanciers. Pop and politics were occasionally fertile, but I didn’t want to write “me-too” posts so these were sometimes more challenging.

After a few months I came up with a set of categories to help me understand what I wrote about–it provided a structure that I could pop thinkings into and speed them ahead. 

I had a running notepad of ideas and fragments that I’d mine and I occasionally found an almost completed post, I wrote about that here. Using the notepad was clutch when writing on the subway.

Two more process learnings. 

First, photo editing takes a lot of time. Alot. Speaking of time, if I was very conservative I spent 90 minutes per post (and I know that it was not unusual from start to finish to spend a few hours), I spent weeks writing this year.  

Second, I am so friggin’ lucky for the support of The Spouse. The Spouse would look at me furiously typing and say, “I got dinner,” or “Are you having luck on your post?” and never a disparaging remark about my daily (and frequently nightly) embrace of my keyboard. Total, unequivocal support. That’s how shit happens. 

Creating: What I learned about writing

Writing. Wow. I guess after the more than the one-hundred thousand words that I shared this year, I can call myself a writer. I started to think of myself as a writer after a few weeks. I started thinking about writing itself and in a few more I was thinking about how I wrote.

I enjoyed putting together a post with a clever title–many times I rewrote the title, and I often hoped that you, Loyal Reader, would get my little references in the title. Or in the photo. Or, for those of you who look at code, in the alt-text describing the photo. The post is more than the words and sentences and paragraphs. It’s the wrapper, too.

I would often fight with my inner editor. The editor who knows exactly what a complete sentence looks like. The editor who questions the use of dashes over commas. The editor that battles the writer who might be striving for a specific rhythm or an irregularity in syntax. The hubris of the author can cause confusion for the reader. Or so says The Editor. It’s like my personal version of The Narrator and Tyler Durden.

Most importantly, I learned that my writing takes its own course. Everyone writes differently, and I didn’t know how I wrote. 

Thinking about it, I found that I get an idea, and it drags me along. I realized that I wrote an allegory after I reread it. Sometimes I start with an allegory, but the story takes its own shape. 

I can’t know how a post is going to end until it actually ends. There is no master plan. It’s organic. And, so sometimes, it stinks.

I can get things out of order, because the stream of words switchback and I write something else. So I’ll move a paragraph around. 

Less frequently, I’ll find a few paragraphs at the end that don’t belong. I added something in the middle that diverged from where I was going. I have deleted thousands of words that belonged in a different post, for a different time or a different mood. When a post is done, it’s done. If it needs more it nags me until it’s satisfied that it’s complete.

I know I am the writer. I really do. But I know, too, that what I’m writing is more revealed than reasoned. 

I own it. It’s from me.

Sharing: What I learned about you, my Loyal Reader

Oh, Loyal Reader, you have been a great teacher, too. Sometimes you tell me directly and sometimes I infer.

Bottom line, it’s really is all about you. I mean that in a good way. 

I have learned what you care about, which is humanity and making connections. You like my vignettes much more than I do. You infuse them with life and invest your hearts in my made up characters. I love you for that.

You also really care the most about personal things. Things that really happened. You have given me much love and support, and have turned sometimes to me for support. I like that. We’re here for each other.

Growing: What I learned about me

I realized that being authentic was more important to me than showing off. Showing off is publishing every day and doing what I said, even if I was cheating by posting twice in one day and backdating. 

After a few months in, I decided that missing a day or two (or eight) was better than faking it. I confessed to you, my Loyal Reader, and you, as is your way, didn’t care. Or forgave me. It’s okay either way.

I always said that I was undisciplined. Lazy. Couldn’t stick to anything. But after writing hundreds of posts, writing every day and sometimes forcing myself to hit publish, I can’t say that that is true.I guess this project never bored me. 

Sorry if I bored you.

Finally, and I am really almost done, I learned that I want people to read my work. I would obsessively look at how many people looked at a post, lapping up any likes, and super proud when an editor featured my post.

But, the other thing is, ultimately, I don’t care. I wrote for months before I started telling people my resolution. I wrote every day. And you didn’t know. 

I say that I write for you, my Loyal Reader, but that is a lie. I write for me. Because I am a writer. That’s what I most really and definitely learned.

That’s The Lessons Folks

Phew. I did it. I am proud. And I am taking a little break. Let me know what you think. And I’ll be thinking and sharing and writing more in the New Year!

xoxo
Doc Think

4 thoughts on “What I Learned Writing Every. Stinking. Day for A Year

  1. What an incredible journey. You have my admiration and I look forward to seeing others emulate your success and learn from your missteps. I Look forward to what is next for you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Gwynne, I simply can’t articulate the profound respect, admiration and esteem I hold you in for doing this for a year.

    As you know, I did it for just over a month and got quite consumed by it. Quite what it does over the course of a year I have no idea.

    I love that you’d made rules for this that really only you would have known. Like not backdating. Or scheduling.

    I know I learned lots from putting a toe in the water. It made me think more as well as think things through more and I quite liked that.

    Very, very well done.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Good for you. I’m trying to restart my blog and I’m hoping to not be so lazy this time around. The fact that you were able to write every day for a year (even though you’re lazy and make excuses like I do) gives me hope. Thanks for sharing your lessons and for sharing your writing. I’ve enjoyed reading your blog and look forward to more posts.

    Liked by 1 person

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