Learnings from 18,074 words in 31 days
My friend, the talented (and now prolific) Orisirisi, set out in 2016 to achieve (what was, to me at least) a feat—and achieved it, and inspired by her example, I decided to do something I’ve wanted to do for years…
Write every single day.
Actually, what she did in 2016, and what I’m doing this year, is PUBLISH every day: by which I mean, not just write something, but make it public. (Chosen publishing medium being, well…Medium.)
Not that I was about to kid myself it’d be easy, mind you. So, although the overall goal was to publish every day of 2017, I decided it’d be smart to start off with a rather more modest goal:
Publish everyday of January 2017.
Well, I’m excited to announce that today marks my 31st day of straight daily publishing, totalling 14,000 words!
About halfway through my writing journey, I came across a really great and very encouraging article by Tony Stubblebine, in which he described his own similar journey on day 75 (if you’re on a daily discipline of your own you should check it out). I loved the article (even saved it), but then I noticed among the responses, this one by Alexander Rodionov:
Everyday writing is meaningless words and putting water in your articles.
Strong words, but I understood how he felt. It’s a familiar fear, one people often raise when you say you or they should write more frequently. So in my response to his, I sought metaphors to illustrate the value of daily disciplines, and cooking came most powerfully to mind, and the seed of this post was sown. (Not that I’m renowned for my cooking — we’ll call my present interest a perk of being married.)
6 lessons from the art of cooking
Since a dear friend often accuses me of comparing incongruous ideas (although I think it’s more him downplaying less-than-obvious connections), I should probably start by laying out what cooking has in common with writing.
The main commonality in my mind when I wrote that response was this: to insist that writing daily must mean churning out watery and meaningless trash, felt about as right as insisting that anyone cooking everyday must be eating junk.
It’s definitely a possible scenario, but far from perforce. (One might argue, in fact, that the chances of daily junk are greater in someone not cooking — or writing — everyday. But let’s not go there.)
Looking at it from this angle, however (and this is the power of analogy), shows up the problem with the idea: a wrong assumption. The assumption that only the best is good enough.
Or to extend our cooking metaphor:
The idea that you should only cook gourmet food.
As if to say, you haven’t cooked until you turn out a three-course meal, with the full works.
But there are six problems with that line of thinking.
- It’s simply impractical (except you’re a chef in a ritzy hotel). And heck, even chefs have to have their bad days. If you insist on that, you’re basically saying you don’t plan to eat—or write—every single day. Good luck with that.
- It creates (and this is perhaps the biggest problem with thinking like this) a false binary, in which the only possible categories are “the best” and “rubbish.” The reality, however, is that the two are on a spectrum, and good enough is, well…good enough.
- It also overlooks that fact that your need to eat (or to write) is too important to insist on “the best.” Most people, in real life, don’t insist on “the best” for anything they need to do daily. And the good thing about daily is you do get a chance to reset. Every. Single. Day.
- It teaches you the importance of always having raw foodstuffs—or draft ideas—on hand. You know how sometimes you just buy some things that you don’t need now, because you think you’ll need it someday? Since I’ve been writing everyday, my idea antenna has gone up in much the same way. Anything could be a potential recipe—or writing idea.
- The idea doesn’t take into account the people you’re cooking — or writing — for. If it’s just up to you, you can choose to skip lunch if you feel tired. But if you’ve publicly committed to putting stuff out, you can’t just do that now, can you?
- And finally, it ignores the role of practice at getting better at cooking stuff that’s good enough to want to eat—or writing pieces good enough for people to want to read. Even if neither is the best you’ve ever had, you’re increasing the chances that it will be.
And if you’re thinking, this isn’t just writing, it applies to basically any daily discipline? You’re dead right. It does.
If it matters to you, consider doing it everyday.
And whatever you’re doing everyday, just focus on being good enough.