Earlier in the year I completed a content writing course. Run by Karen, owner of Untamed Writing, it contained all the information I needed to build my writing business. Along with tips on how to structure my website, figure out my prices and find my ideal clients, it also lit a fire under my ass and made me punch the air – Team America stylee.
Unfortunately, life got in the way. Being busy with my printing business and preparing to call time on my photography business, my writing ended up falling by the wayside, and so did my confidence. But then, fate came calling. Just as I was starting to feel restless, and my fingers were itching to caress the keyboard again, Karen popped up in my inbox announcing a 28-day writing challenge. BOOM! It was just what I needed to get myself back on track. For 28-days, I sat at my desk and wrote. Sometimes in the morning, sometimes late at night, and sometimes into a journal, emptying my head and making space for things I didn’t even know needed space. Not wanting to set myself up for failure by drowning in a sea of overwhelm, I set myself the very modest challenge of writing 500 words a day, and it worked.
Some days, the words tumbled effortlessly onto the page as my fingers danced across the keyboard, producing up to 1000 words with ease. Daydreaming about what my ideal working day would soon look like, I smugly sipped my coffee and told myself I was a writer. Other days, I scraped through by the skin of my teeth, berating myself for having the nerve to even think I possessed the appropriate skills. I wanted to bang my head repeatedly on the desk in the hope I might knock myself unconscious, no longer having to deal with the living hell I had created. But through the highs and the lows, I kept going. I made it to the end of the challenge, and over the space of 28-days, I managed to write 6 weeks’ worth of material for my blog, proving that all I needed to do, was give myself the permission to sit down and write.
It’s hard not to take some valuable lessons away from something like this. So, looking back over the 28-days, what did I learn?
Accountability is important
Each day, Karen would add a post to the private Facebook group, asking people to leave a comment once they’d completed their writing. We could leave as little or as much information as we wanted, but knowing that for 28-days I was being held accountable for my 500 words, was something that spurred me on. Another driving force was reading the comments from everybody else. I enjoyed seeing what other participants were up to, the challenge they’d set themselves, and how they dealt with it on a day-to-day basis.
I write best in the morning
Before I started the challenge, writing was something I would add to the end of my daily to-do list. I would complete everything else first, and only allow myself to write if all the other tasks had been ticked off. At the start of the challenge, I found this habit hard to break. I would automatically tag ‘writing’ onto the very end of my list, but rather than it lying there forgotten, I somehow found the time to make it happen. At first, I found myself writing in the early evening, but then I noticed it getting pushed back later, and later. I’m an early riser. I get up at 5.30am either to go to the gym, or out for a run, so when I found myself still writing at nearly 10pm, I knew something had to change. My head was fuzzy, I couldn’t think straight, and I wasn’t getting the down-time I needed before falling into bed. So, I tried to make writing a priority earlier in the day. It didn’t happen every day, but, on the days I wrote either in the morning or in the afternoon, I found I wrote with more clarity and my head felt clearer for the rest of the day. Knowing that my 500 words were already complete, I didn’t have to worry about trying to squeeze them in during my downtime before bed.
‘I don’t have time’, is not a valid excuse
Running a printing business is time-consuming. I realise it’s not working 9-5pm for somebody else, but I’m still running my own business and have a schedule to work to. My dad’s been ill, my cat’s been ill, and I’ve just been through 3 weeks of hell due to an online account being hacked. We’re also in the middle of buying/selling a house, not to mention all the other stuff that life throws at us on a day-to-day basis. But, somehow, early in the morning or late at night, whether it was 500 words or 1000 words, I carved out some time and sat myself down to write. Sometimes I ended up with a blog post, other times I just let my head explode across the pages of my journal; either way, I don’t have time to write, soon became an excuse that was no longer valid.
I enjoyed it
Even on the days where I struggled, and it looked like my cat had walked across my keyboard, I came away with a sense of satisfaction, knowing I’d given myself the permission to write. I’d allowed myself to do something that was important to me, and 9 times out of 10, once I’d had a break and come back to what I’d written, almost all of it was usable.
My confidence increased
The further into the challenge I got, the more I felt my confidence growing. I found myself posting links in the Facebook group and sharing some of the blog posts I’d written during the challenge. And when Karen posted a link asking for writers in a certain field, instead of telling myself I wouldn’t be able to do it, my reaction was disappointment because I didn’t have enough writing samples in that area. Rather than berate myself, I made a mental note to start writing more blog posts related to the areas I want to write in. It also gave me the confidence boost I needed to decide that in the new year, I’m going to update my website and start taking on clients.
Gaining confidence in my writing abilities and realising that I do have time to write, are probably my two biggest take-aways from the challenge.
I’ve signed up to many challenges over the years, but no matter how good my intentions were, I’ve never completed one until now. The fact I’ve followed this one through to the end tells me that writing is something I’m ready to explore further, and even though it’s only been 3-days since the challenge ended, I’ve still been making time for my 500 words each day.
I feel quite smug that I completed the whole 28-days, and I’m looking forward to seeing where this new creative journey takes me.
I hope you’ll come along for the ride.